Category: Veterans Making Comebacks

When Moral Injury Holds you Back

by Dr. David Dyson and Col. Stretch Dunn (USA Ret)

david_goliath__When people set resolutions at New Years or other times of inspiration or decision, the solutions usually require action though often we overlook the requirement to address our beliefs that either support or sabotage our success. “Moral injury” is one of the sources of setback for many people, perhaps most, especially for veterans of war.

When people seek to “be, know, or do” better we often have to face barriers that hold us back. If you have been setting the same New Year Resolution for years, you likely have a barrier holding you back from following through or even starting. Sometimes, between us and our goal stands a “Goliath” threatening us and those influenced by us. Some Goliaths we created and some happened to us, though in either case we can achieve breakthroughs by facing our barriers and deciding how our best-selves can make the best of situations and grow from challenges.

An example of a big barrier is when a veteran of combat faces feelings and beliefs from “moral injury” created having to kill another human being. Many veterans who return home face challenges to re-enter society. Some feel sad. Some feel guilty. Some feel they do not deserve better than their despair. They have been morally injured and need healing.

Some stay in their despair. Some “hold it in” and “others talk about it” with their buddies. Time might help to process and heal, though this often is a slow approach and there is no guarantee of recovery.

Those who act with intentionality are more likely to achieve not only recovery to a state prior to the trauma or injury but also “post traumatic growth.” For more on PTG, read Dr.Seligman’s work.

I asked Col. Stretch Dunn (USA Retired), West Point graduate, combat leader in Vietnam, founder of the Veterans Leadership Ministry, and co-author with me of Professionalism Under Stress, to provide his answer to the question from veterans struggling with psychological wounds of warfare.

Question: What can I do if I feel shame from killing that holds me back?

I was asked recently by a vet suffering the pain of “moral injury” a question tied to his feeling of shame. He still struggled with the commandment to “not kill” and his having to do so back in Vietnam.  My response was one that has worked for me since I faced that dilemma in 1968.stretchs-army-picture-stretch-only

Captain Dunn 1968, Vietnam

I never forget the capacity of our minds to rationalize anything. The treasure of being able to think is truly amazing.

That said, I live with my past by listening to the intent of the heart. Matthew 15:19 reminds me, murder comes from “evil in the heart.” While there is a moral imperative to not kill unlawfully, there is also the soldier’s duty to protect. The noble warrior punishes in proportion to the gravity of the offense.

So I told him I sought to “put on the whole armor of God” and do what had to be done to protect the innocent or my buddies in keeping with the oath I took in 1966 and the heart of a Noble Warrior.

Col. C.H. “Stretch” Dunn (USA Retired)

Veterans Leadership Ministry

Veterans Making Comebacks Program

When writing the book, Professionalism Under Stress, with Col. Dunn, he introduced me to the meaning of a “least-worst option.” As the name suggests, all the options seem bad; the best option is the “least-worst.”

Killing the enemy is bad; the enemy killing your buddies or U.S. civilians is worse. Choices like these, tough choices, can stay with you for years in a negative way unless you process them in to your “best possible” way.

Callings and Choices are a key to a best-self leader.

Asking, God, what would you have me do? following by asking myself, Now, what would my best-self do? helps me move from thinking of bad memories to thinking of potential good solutions. The thoughts and actions that must follow can heal, inspire, and make you stronger than before your moral injury. May your thoughts carry you upward, David`


Earn Empowerment Seminar September 10 by Dr. David Dyson presented by Life Leaders Birmingham Area

Freedom to Flourish: Earning Empowerment

Dyson Empowerment Model Gold

in support of YOU and Empowerment Week in Birmingham

This program offers tangible concepts and best practices for how to earn empowerment. Starting September 11, events of service and commemoration are sponsored by the City of Birmingham.

Thursday, September 10, 2015
5:30 Refreshments & Networking; 6-7 Seminar & Announcements

Summary Schedule

5:30-6 p.m. Refreshments, Networking, Seating

6-7 p.m. Seminar plus Announcements
7-7:30 Social and/or Discussion (Optional)

Birmingham Area / 201 Office Park
3rd Floor, 1st Financial Group Seminar Room
Use outside stairs or elevator to entrance, left after Life Leaders Sign
Hosted by Melvin Carrington Smith, Sr. / 205.276.2333

No charge for tickets thanks to membership donations, grants, sponsorships.
Life Leaders America is a 501 (c)(3) based in Alabama.
Donations optional for refreshments, materials, public programs.

 Get Tickets for You and Guests Reserved and Sent by Email

Attend Web Page at Life Leaders

Concepts, Benefits, and Contents of the Seminar

Earning Empowerment is key to taking action as a true patriot and true professional to act on our freedom to flourish. 

In this seminar, we will provide a handout and instruction to provide you a tool to know better how to earn and delegate empowerment based on level of trust in attitude and ability.

Emerging leaders may benefit most. For mature leaders, they likely understand the concept, though this model will provide a tool to state intent with others for you choose when to delegate and when to direct. Intent and instincts should improve. Cooperation can increase and conflict decrease.

We will summarize the empowerment model that has 7 levels. We will provide an updated workbook with improved content and a new cover. The full seminar is core professional and leadership training highly recommended for organizations.

The event is free thanks to support of members and grants we receive from foundations and other sponsors. If you wish, you have the option to donate for your consumption of refreshments, for membership if you wish to join, or for a a project you value. No pressure. It is mission over money. We seek to serve and look forward to your attendance.


5-5:30 Team Meeting: Events updates and decisions October – December, other chairs can host meetings

5:30-6 Refreshments and Networking

6-7 Seminarby Dr. David Dyson

with open and call to action by Col. Stretch Dunn (USA Ret)

  • True Professional definition
  • Earn empowerment rather than wait for it (Professionalism Under Stress)
  • 7 Levels of Empowerment
  • 7 Components of Attitude and Ability
  • How to state intent for earning empowerment with a leader/decision-maker
  • Call to action summary

7-7:30 optional social, team meetings, discussion

Thanks to our Members and these Principal Partners providing Grants this Year

Daniel Foundation of Alabama – Protective Life Foundation

Learn more of additional events and services

October 1: Freedom to Flourish

November 5: Personal Leadership for Patriots

November 10: Patriotism in Action Tribute to the Founder of Veterans Day

December 15: Year-End Celebration of Purpose, Progress, People with performance by Roman Street

You can follow Life Leaders and invite others to attend with you

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Life Leaders Year-End Celebration: Save the Date for December 15

Life Leaders Logo Ranch

Life Leaders Year-End Celebration

of purpose, progress, plans, & people
benefiting public programs for teachers,
students, veterans, & the public

Featuring Roman Street Music


Social + Supper + Short Program on Progress & Plans + Concert
Tuesday Evening ♦ December 15, 2015
Moonlight on the Mountain ♦ Hoover, Alabama
Expanding Community Support and Service
You can get Life Leaders announcements and articles first on WordPress
You can follow Life Leaders on Facebook and Twitter to get updates & feeds.

Life Leaders Evening Seminar and Meeting

Life Leaders Logo Ranch

Flourish More Choosing Success and Developing Character and Competence + Progress on Public Programs to Advance Citizens and City…

Thursday, June 4, 5:45-7 PM

201 Office Park (3rd floor), First Financial Group Seminar Room, hosted by Melvin Carrington Smith, Sr.

Register to reserve your spot and handouts (recommended)

No charge for attending–sponsored by members and partners.

Member and Partner Meeting Moved to Thursday, March 12

The weather warnings for tomorrow suggest we likely can have a better meeting in a week, Thursday, March 12—same time, place, and program—instead of tomorrow, March 5. Your safety comes first. I recall we had to postpone a week last year due to weather. We can adapt.

Those of you planning to attend our Life Leaders at Lunch seminar, please reply to me sharing your preferences about whether to postpone that program as well or if to keep both on the same day.

More to follow.

Thank you and warm wishes,


Life Leaders Meeting March 5 for Members, Partners, Guests

Life Leaders Monthly Evening Meeting

For members, partners, and guests interested in our seminars and/or public service programs.

What we plan to do:

5:45-6: Arrive for fellowship, water, coffee (team arrives at 5)
6-6:30: Introductions and Member Sample Plan
Welcome and mission for the meeting: Melvin Carrington Smith, Sr., VP and Trustee
Prayer: Bishop Dr. Bernard Omukubah
Pledge of Allegiance: Chief Oscar Waldheim (US Navy)
Plan Sample: Col. Stretch Dunn (USA Ret)
  • Summarize February Life Leaders at Lunch: A catalyst for Best-Self Planning
  • Show how he stays motivated to be his Best-Self
  • Share his template for Being his Best-Self
  • Offer an example of a Plan/initiative to make a difference:
    • Working with greater Birmingham area clergy/congregations to become Caring Houses of Worship for Veterans, especially those with invisible wounds from Vietnam and War on Terror
6:30-7: Progress and Plans (facilitated by Stretch, chair, Trustee Executive Committee)
  • Veterans Making Comebacks: Oscar Waldheim
  • New Online Services: Kyle Crider
  • Plan for School and Life + Freedom to Flourish for teachers and students: David Dyson
Save the Date/Enroll/Invite:
  • Public Seminars/Life Leaders at Lunch: David
  • Memorial Day at the Alabama National Cemetery
  • Association Membership: Melvin
  • Supper at Taziki’s follows, if you wish
Member Share Table
  • Does your library, book shelves, or desk have extras of valued books you want to swap or donate?
  • You can swap with members or donate for teachers, students, and veterans making comebacks
  • Bring: books, articles, handouts, invitations to events related to our mission.
  • Take: items you or someone you know can use.
  • Donate: for us to provide books and articles.

7:15-8: Supper & Social at Taziki’s discuss plans and progress or just enjoy good food and fellowship.

Meetings provide a good way for members, partners, spouses, and friends to know what we are doing and influence plans and actions. Prospective members and funding partners can learn more to decide how they can learn, plan, and serve. You can give feedback on the seminars, meetings and services we offer.

201 Office Park (3rd floor), First Financial Group Seminar Room, hosted by Melvin Carrington Smith, Sr.
(see Association, Enroll, Subscribe, Programs of interest….)

President Bush and JD Simpson of Three Hots and A Cot

President Bush & JDedited

Life Leaders congratulates Three Hots and A Cot Veterans Center and J.D. Simpson, founder. President Bush and J.D. paused from their recent work in Texas for this photo.

President Bush is leading a national project to improve veterans services nationally. During the conference (2015, Feb), J.D. presented to President Bush a Program Description for our program, Veterans Making Comebacks, along with signed copies of Professionalism Under Stress and Patriotism In Action, also publications of Life Leaders. Attending the conference with J.D. were his wife, Lynette, and chairman of the board for Three Hots Major General David Burford (USA Ret.) –David

For more on Three Hots and A Cot: