“I killed two men today. Through my scope, I saw his head explode as if packed with C4 explosives. I watched his companions instantly get splattered with blood, bone and brain tissue just before they ran for cover as I was thrusting the bolt back for another round. By the time I could regain my sighting, they were gone like the wind.
“This was my first kill. We trained at the sniper school in Phang Rang, Vietnam, for this day and the training was deadly effective. Day and night I learned the art of camouflage, stealth and how to hold my breath at just the right time and squeeze the trigger ever so gently. My sighting partner knew the calculations and fed them to me so I could adjust the scope to deadly accuracy.
“There was one thing that the Army couldn’t teach us. There was no way to teach the human element; exactly how a human being will react after killing is not in the manuals or textbooks. You can be taught how to kill, but no one can teach you how to react after killing.
“Something caught my attention to the right of my crosshairs. It was another enemy peering around a clump of elephant grass. I squeezed off another round and again the ugly scene was repeated. My partner and I knew our position was compromised and we retreated post-haste back into the jungle after we made sure our position was clear of any evidence that we were ever there.
“Later that day, we reveled back at camp at our exploits. There were slaps on the back and we celebrated like we had just won a high school football game. Our first mission was a success and we were proud solders. I was elated and proud to be an Army sniper with two enemy kills under my belt.
“After my tour, I returned to my home town thinking I would be a hero; after all, I had over forty confirmed kills and commendations from my commanding officer. Instead, I returned to jeers and condemnation from young people whom I didn’t even know. The only solace was from other vets I would meet at the V.F.W. during bouts of drinking that could last for days.
“The pictures of exploding human heads and bodies became my nightmare each and every night when I would finally fall asleep from the booze and drugs that I had become addicted to. I was in agony 24/7, not eating well and saddened to the core with guilt and shame. Killing other human beings was not a game to be won at all cost. Killing other human beings was right for country and freedom, but so wrong inside my soul.
“I killed yet another man today – I killed myself so the nightmares would go away.”
This piece is not a condemnation of war that protects the freedom and dignity of nations. Rather, it is a reminder of the sacrifices our fighting men and women make everyday to protect us from the tyranny of mad men who would rule the world.
I salute our troops wherever they may be.