This post is one I have put off for years, but decided that people need to know about. I can happily say that in all my years on this planet, I have only run into a few people who were like the one in the story to follow. It is a very small percentage… very, very small.
August 2005, Mosul, Iraq: The gravel of the company housing area crunched loudly with each step. I walked down the aisles of small buildings towards the sheet metal “hootch” I was staying in. My 3 roommates were getting weapons torn down and cleaned after the day’s mission and were getting ready to go eat. I had been trying to find my platoon sergeant to get some information about my scope that had been in the shop for many weeks; there was no conceivable reason it should take so long to get it.
I was the designated marksman (SDM) in my squad and was the only one in the company without a scope. I had a bone-stock M4 carbine, where the rest of the SDMs had free-floated barrels, match-grade triggers and specialty gear costing thousands of taxpayer dollars; mine was $383 dollars according to the accountability form. At this time in my life, I was unafraid to tell others what I felt about my abilities and that sometimes landed me in hot water; having a big mouth and the ability to back it up only pisses people off. I was a master at pissing people off.
Well, now that the situation is set, here is the actual part that’s interesting: While taking a lap one row down from my usual digs, I passed the room of a former squad-mate. As I passed, he yelled loudly for me. “Jack, come here man!”. Whirled around at the familiar voice of the Staff Sergeant and ran back to his room. I snapped to parade rest and sounded off with “Yes, Sergeant?” looking straight forward to the rear wall of the small hut. He waved his hand at me saying “Relax brother, come in and shut the door”. I relaxed and did as directed.
I walked into the dim room, lit by only the light let in from the slightly-ajar blinds. The strong man who called me was like a brother to me at many times, but we had been apart for several months since he moved to another platoon. He had taught me so many things about saving lives over the years. He was the only Infantryman who knew more about emergency medical procedures than our medics; we all trusted him implicitly. This conversation took a dark turn immediately, though as the look in his eyes were unfamiliar to me.
“It’s me and you, brother. We have the most confirmed kills in the battalion. It’s a contest now.” he started, gesturing to a pair of bloodied gloves and a large Stryder knife hanging on a wall. He had, only days earlier, been involved in an ambush where he stabbed an enemy with that knife. The gruesome trophy on the wall hung there as a reminder of his devotion to his job. We had been fighting the forces of (insert your preferred term for other humans who resist invaders here) in Mosul for months and he and I were the most prolific of the soldiers making a dent in enemy forces.
I raised my hands up in a manner to show I was not enthusiastic about it and told him “I’m not here for blood, man”. I really only wanted to go home, but that was not on the list of options. He pressed me for my compliance and insisted that we have to compete for the most kills. I was actually fearful at that moment. I was in a room with a man who was a hunter like me, but his resolve was overriding his morality. I am not without sin in that respect, but I was certainly not looking for a contest counted in human lives.
The horror was that his eyes told me there was no exaggeration in his statements and that there was a genuine bloodlust. Only the previous week, he and I were on separate ends of the same ambush where two of the original four enemy were killed in the initial contact and the other two were dispatched by myself and the Staff Sergeant at opposite ends of the city after a chase. The man in front of me was killed where he stood out of necessity to protect my life and those of my peers. The man he gunned down had his body violated as an entire magazine was fired into the corpse as to make the point stronger or to make him even more dead (?). It begs the question: Is it more wrong to kill someone and then continue to shoot the body out of anger or rage than it is to kill them and do nothing?
This whole mess of words I managed to throw together only illustrates that there are a select few people who really want to take humans’ lives and that is sad. We need more people who resist war or learn to resist it so that we as a nation can thrive.