People at war


Death by drowning, vehicle-collision, murder, suicide, accidental self-destruction, aircraft crash, heart-attack, embolism, illness, fall, non-hostile gunshot, other.

Death by hostile small arms, mortar, artillery, rocket, bomb, mine, improvised-explosive-device, grenade or fragmentation, stabbing.

Killed attacking enemy position, walking or driving into ambush or detonating mine. Killed while asleep by indirect fire: mortar, rocket or artillery. Killed while walking, talking or using latrine by indirect fire or suicide bomber. Killed by ‘friendly-fire;’ short-rounds, blue-on-blue, mistaken targeting, confusion, fog-of-war.

Injuries or wounds:

Orthopedic, neurological, psychological, traumatic, extensive tissue or organ damage. Loss of limbs, hands, feet, facial disfigurement. Loss of reproductive organs, eyes, jaw. Purple heart. Evacuation, triage, medical retirement. Stepping on mine, I.E.D. booby-trap. Twisting knee playing basketball. Concussion from blast or collision during baseball game. Equipment malfunction, accidental shooting, vehicle accident. Altercation, robbery, grab-ass. Tripping and falling. Too close to ‘controlled’ explosion.

Boredom, ennui, anxiety, worry, alcoholism, depression, psychosis. Chemical or radiological poisoning.

Sometimes decorations are awarded, sometimes recorded information is incorrect. Some people turn against themselves, others re-enlist. Some people think they defended freedom others think they wasted their time. Some would do it again, others can’t bear to remember. New people are eager to try. No body knows everything. Time moves on, similar situations repeat, eventually all is forgotten. Sometimes life is war, people shot or stabbed, slip in front of trains, fall off scaffolding; everybody dies in the end.

The Sergeant came within a half-minute of death-by-drowning; was hit by an automobile and pulled from under front-bumper; was beaten up; stabbed an assailant with a knife; was shot in the right leg below knee by accident leaving metal fragments; was swept across beach by rip-tide, swam to shore exhausted; raced cars foolishly; experienced motorcycle contact with panel truck; was awoken by 122mm Katyusha rocket impact at 02:22 hrs; was nervous and then sleepy on perimeter guard; killed poisonous serpent with tennis-shoe in bare-hand to save someone he didn't know or like; sustained injury on extended work-detail; had four surgeries under general-anesthetic and several procedures without, considering himself lucky afterward; was satisfied to lead a largely uneventful life.

The Sergeant’s father [also a Sergeant] experienced four wars; three as a non-combatant; was in numerous gun-battles against superior enemy forces; scrambled like a monkey through a tossing aircraft trying to open frozen bomb-bay doors while under anti-aircraft fire without falling out; flew through fog, ice and jet-stream with uncertain directions; crash-landed almost at sea and unable to swim; was decorated and lucky; returned home to rarely and grudgingly discuss any of it; worked hard; got angry; had heart attack; dedicated to family, baseball on TV and the quiet-life.

The relative of the Sergeant, a pilot and officer had been ‘mentioned in dispatches’ for his dedication in pressing aerial attack against ground targets despite bad weather and enemy fire. On the fourth pass during his last mission aircraft took hit from ground fire making “a small hole about one foot to the left of the aft end of the centerline fuel tank;” made one more pass then headed to base; over coast an explosion “blew a hole two feet in diameter just forward of the vertical stabilizer” caused evacuation of aircraft; weapons officer [guy-in-back or GIB] got out. Pilot may have sustained severe injury during ejection; may have become wedded to ejection seat; chute did not completely deploy; hit water; may have keyed radio; then sank and drowned. Worked hard, played hard, well-liked by all; never an advocate of monotony.