It Should Have Been Me


My name is Mark Schimmelpfennig. For the last 5 ½ years, I have been part of the care team at the Road Home Program. We help veterans and active duty service men and women who are experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, suicide ideation, and issues related to military sexual trauma, moral injury, substance use and sleep disorders. There is a spiritual side to healing from these issues and as a Chaplain, I am here to discuss and advise on injuries to the soul with anyone who wants to address these injuries.

Many veterans harbor an immense sense of guilt. Thoughts such as, “It should have been me” or “I should have done this instead” often create mental roadblocks. As a result, veterans tend to place blame on themselves for traumatic experiences during their military service.

It is important to remember that our moral compass is imprinted within each and every one of us. In the military, we reference the emotion of guilt as Moral Injury. When one’s moral compass is shattered and wounded by war, a veteran’s moral injury becomes a spiritual wound. Being able to normalize feelings of guilt is essential as the first step in the moral injury repair process.

Guilt is a complex and deep human emotion with ramifications that impact one’s present mental state. Like war itself, guilt is deeply entrenched. If not properly addressed and processed in therapy, feelings of guilt can jeopardize one’s future for a stable mental health recovery. Families of veterans are often not quite sure how to address this guilt. Education is powerful and empowering for loved ones in supporting veterans.

One component of the holistic therapeutic approach we use at the Road Home Program addresses the importance of avoiding “should” or “should have” statements in our thought processing. Until a veteran can process his or her moral injury struggles in a non-judgmental way, mental health progress will be difficult. 

This goes hand-in-hand with acceptance and acknowledging that many things, including loss of life in war, are out of a veteran’s control. Accept that there are dragons in your life that will never go away. Understand your dragons. Even become friends with your dragons. As Chaplain, I use the phrase, “Name it to tame it.” By practicing this motto, one can identify it and then own it. Only then are you able to heal it.

Mark Schimmelpfennig
Chaplain, Spiritual Care

The Road Home Program provides mental health care and wellness to veterans of all eras, service members, and their families at no cost and regardless of discharge status. If you or a loved one needs help, call us at (312) 942-8387 (VETS) or fill out the Get Care form.