Military Life: Killing

So this may be kind of a touchy subject for many people reading this or at least skimming the headline and judging too quickly. I can’t speak for every branch of the military, and I really couldn’t tell what some drill sergeant is going to saw to a new private entering basic training nowadays, but back in 2005, you heard from the moment you got off the bus that you were a piece of shit nobody that was going to become a fucking killer.

I’ll talk about basic training later, but you should know that, while everyone is technically infantry, I was a mechanic. It was not my job to kill, my job was to make sure that military vehicles would get you from point A to point B, and on weekends to point C. But every day, for four years, I heard how I was a killer and that it was my duty to personally escort any and every enemy of the United States to the gates of Hell. And full transparency, there was a little while where that was all I wanted to do. I felt like it was my job to put a bullet in someone before I ever picked up a wrench, and every day that that didn’t happen, was a day wasted.

Honestly, I hope you believe me when I tell you this, but I never did kill anyone. Hell, I don’t even play Halo, and I can only think of one time when I was actually holding my rifle with the intent on hurting anyone and I never, ever pulled the trigger outside of a firing range. But nothing could ever prepare me for the reaction that would garner from people that weren’t in the military. While I was enlisted, I came home twice on leave, that’s three weeks out of four years. And whenever it came up that I was in the military, everyone (well, mostly guys) would ask me if I had ever killed anyone.

I was in a bar once when someone found out that I had never taken a life and thankfully they did everything they could to hide their disappointment when they heard the bad news. I guess I wasn’t man enough for them to be seen with. My father, a former Marine who spent three years in Vietnam, was overjoyed when he found out that I had once fired my weapon, and looking back on it, so am I. While many people look at films like Black Hawk Down or Saving Private Ryan and “know” that soldiers kill, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It’s not easy hearing every morning, noon and night that you’re a born killer that was sent to this Earth to rid it of evil, but it became white noise to me the longer I was in. I knew I was supposed to turn a wrench, not take part in some Tom Clancy-style mission.

I had more in common with Beetle Baily than I did John Rambo and thank God for that. I am a nervous, anxious wreck of a human being, I do not need to know what it’s like to take someone’s life. But if you know a soldier or veteran of any branch that has taken a life, do them a favor and keep your question to yourself. Some shit doesn’t need to be brought up. And any bald-headed E-4 that has a kill count that rivals Doom-Guy, they’re probably lying to you.

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