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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Infantry Never Brags: Fear Silences You forever

‘We Were Soldiers’ legend’s record
under review for unearned awards, report says

Inspirational story located at:

My self-serving comment:
I served in the Nam'. Got a couple medals. The only one I “earned” (maybe) was a Purple heart. No one gets a Purple Heart on purpose. As for the others, I never understood why I got them. I was at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Like a cockroach, escaping from someone’s foot, my survival instinct allows me to write this comment today. By pure luck, I darted and dashed in the right direction. They gave me medals for that. It never made any sense.

When a guy died, we made up stories of his deeds and awarded medals he didn't earn in a futile effort to make his parents feel better. I’ll never forget a kid who was sleeping when one of our mortar rounds fired from the center of our perimeter, “hang fired”.

The round came up short, exploded in the treetops above our position and a single piece of shrapnel pierced his back and punctured his heart. Later that night, I sat with my squad in a circle and we all held hands. It wasn't a prayer. We all discovered prayers meant nothing in that place. 

The sadness was so deep among us. I know tears rolled down my cheek in the night. No one could see, so I just trembled and cried. I think we were feeling sorry for ourselves because of the random way in which the kid died. There was no defense from something like that. None of it made any sense.

The others were like me. No one said a word, sitting in the pitch dark, each of us alone with his thoughts.  We were alone in our grief and we were silent. I don’t remember anyone talking about the event later on. I write about this experience for the first time in my life. It just now came back into my memory.

I recommended the Silver Star for the kid. I made up a story about how he sacrificed for all of us. None of it was true. He was killed by our own people, in his sleep, for nothing. Many of us in the Infantry, developed the thousand meter stare after just a short time in country. The futility, depression and horror made you feel small and vulnerable. 

Somewhere in America the kids picture is hanging on a wall along with the Silver Star. I hope it helped his survivors. None of that helped the dead kid. I'll bet whenever a loved one sees his picture on the wall, they ask, "what was that about"? I hope Lyndon Johnson is burning in Hell.

I hope when G.W. Bush dies, he burns in hell. If you were with my squad, in the night, holding hands and crying, you would know what I'm talking about. However, over the years, I have found nobody understands and nobody cares. That's why I spend nights alone in the dark, with just my thoughts. Always alone. Nobody knows. Nobody cares. No one listens, forty seven years later.

I hate when a memory like that comes back after being hidden for so long. I will think about that moment a dozen times a day until the memory just fades away again, hopefully to never come back. My long walks are very lonely these days.

I have always found that people who brag about their medals, are just making up stories. Braggarts never do all the things they claim. Most of the time, when someone does something to earn a medal for valor, they become very quiet about their deeds. The thing that never leaves you is the fear.

All the rest of your life, you remember how afraid you were. All your remaining days, you know what a coward you really are. Knowing this, you don't ever want to speak of such things again. Anyone, experiencing that kind of fear, is so humbled by the knowledge, they just go silent. Have you noticed? Those few people who have experienced full infantry combat, speak little of their ordeal.

I ignore false bravado because I know how afraid those who died felt, when they took their final breath. My fears were small and insignificant compared to those who lost everything. They will always be silent about their deeds. Silence is how I honor them.
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