Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. In Thanks to Those Who’ve Killed for Their Country

 

Seventy years ago today, my father and his buddies hit the beaches on Iwo Jima. They had been told that the battle would last a handful of days. The Army Air Corps had bombarded the island for weeks. The Navy, which had amassed an enormous armada, had pounded Iwo with the big guns. The Marines were told that, although it would be a tough fight, the Japanese were so outnumbered that the worst part would be over quickly.

It didn’t go down as predicted. Instead, the 22,000 Japanese defenders had spent years building a honeycombed fortress beneath the rock, which offered not only protection from the bombs and shells but a means by which to attack the Marines up top, then disappear back into the underground safe haven. There was little cover for the advancing Marines. As my dad explained to me, Iwo was black with volcanic ash. There was almost no vegetation and the ash on the beach made it nearly impossible to dig in. The rocks that could have provided cover were far away and to venture out into the open was a deadly business. I remember pop telling me that those first hours “were something else.” My dad was a master of understatement.

Iwo Jima would soon become the bloodiest battle in the history of the Marine Corps. Before it ended, nearly 7,000 Marines were dead and nearly three times as many were wounded. The promised swift victory took 40 horrible days.

My dad was uninjured. Indeed, he made it through all four of the battles waged by the 4th Marine Division — Roi-Namur, Tinian, Saipan, and Iwo Jima — without a bodily scratch.

But there are other wounds.

In those days, no one spoke of PTSD. There were cases of “shell shock” and “battle fatigue”. My dad spoke once of a young Marine on Saipan who simply stopped. He had reached the point where he could no longer make sense of any of it. He wasn’t a coward. He showed no signs of intending to desert. He just could no longer move. And, as pop put it, they had to get him out of there quickly because battle fatigue is contagious. There were many such casualties, although none are listed on the rosters for the Purple Heart.

Bodily wounds, combat fatigue, shell shock: those are the visible signs of the sacrifices we call upon out troops to make. Also, of course, the last full measure. When flag-draped coffins arrive from a war zone, we all turn and lower our heads while choking back tears. We do this even when we stand far away. Television pictures of the dead, or video of a warrior’s funeral, trigger that deepest level of sorrow because we the living know in our hearts that the soldier, sailor, marine, or airman now enclosed inside that box has given his life for his country — for us.

But sitting here tonight, remembering my father and thinking about the battle he was waging as a 21-year-old on a rock in the middle of a Pacific nowhere, I wonder if we perhaps ask for an even greater sacrifice from our warriors. One we rarely ask of ourselves. We boast that “I will give my life for my country,” a boast we probably will never have to prove.

But what of the other question? The one about which we dare not boast. How would any of us answer the question “will you kill for your country?”

That, it seems to me, is the most humbling and terrifying question. It is, as Clint Eastwood’s William Munny said in Unforgiven, “a hell of a thing to kill a man…you take away everything he’s got, and everything he’s ever going to have.” That means his wife, his mother, and his children, together with all his hopes and dreams. The burden of killing a man must be overwhelming.

I do not know for certain whether my dad ever killed an enemy soldier. Now that I think about it, the odds are high that, at one time or another, he ended a life. He fought through four tough battles against an enemy joyfully willing to die for the emperor. At some point, in one of those battles, pop probably shot a Japanese soldier.

It was a question I never asked, partly because I didn’t want to know the answer and also because I understood at some visceral level that pop would never admit to his children that he had taken a life. Now, however, on this 70th anniversary of the battle, the idea that my dad, a quiet and gentle man, might have killed someone haunts me.

The truth is that I’ve been hiding from the answer since I was a kid. Although pop never spoke of it to us kids, one night while we were out hunting, I overheard him and my uncle whispering about a bonzai raid on Saipan during which pop’s rifle jammed. He turned his weapon over and smashed the butt, baseball bat style, into the face of a Japanese attacker. From the hushed voices I knew that my father had killed a man.

I haven’t thought about this in decades. A repressed memory. I feel a sadness now — not for me, but for my father, who, for 55 years, carried the burden of taking at least one man’s life. I think that I’d have given my life if I had ever been called. I hope that I would have possessed the strength to carry any wounds with courage. But sitting in front of this computer screen, I have no confidence that I would kill. Or that I could bear the cross of taking a life.

That’s the real, gritty, grim, and awful question: “I know you will die for your country, but will you kill for your country?”

Pop has been gone for 14 years. I am not concerned for his soul. He was, in all events, a servant of God and if he killed it was in fighting evil. Nonetheless, I wonder what St. Peter said when dad approached the Gates. I wonder what dad said to Peter. I am certain of this much: Pop entered heaven humbly, aware of his sins and seeking mercy.

I am quite sure that the first thing my old man did as he walked into paradise was to go looking for the man he’d killed to ask for his forgiveness.

As we pause for a moment to remember the fallen on this 70th anniversary of bloody Iwo, we ought to also remember the living who killed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, and all those little battles about which we may not even know. We owe them thanks and respect for all they’ve given up — peace of mind and soul — as they are weighed down while living with the awful knowledge that another human being has died at their hands. We need be ever mindful of those who had the courage to do what many of us would find unthinkable. We might even say a little prayer today for those blessed men and women who had the guts to kill in the service of freedom and goodness.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons (public domain).

 

There are 33 comments.

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  1. Arahant Member

    Profound, Mike. And this is exactly why I did not go into the military in my youth. I wasn’t sure I could have killed another person.

    Thank you to those who did what needed to be done.

    • #1
    • February 19, 2015, at 3:26 AM PST
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  2. Mike Rapkoch Member
    Mike Rapkoch Post author

    Arahant:Profound, Mike. And this is exactly why I did not go into the military in my youth. I wasn’t sure I could have killed another person.

    What is it Orwell said? Something to the effect that we owe a great debt to the brutal men who do this work in defense of freedom and justice. It’s why we send young men into battle. They are fearless and ruthless. But they have to keep living after it’s over, and few, I would think, celebrate the killing of other men. I think it was Lao Tse who said that we should never celebrate victory in war because to do so would be to celebrate the deaths of men.

    This is just another reason why I oppose sending women into combat. I think that only a very few could survive the burden of killing someone.

    • #2
    • February 19, 2015, at 3:41 AM PST
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  3. Profile Photo Member

    Wonderful tribute and interesting questions. Thank you.

    Isn’t it also despicable in a way to make your enemy kill you, which many of the Japanese did? If they were indoctrinated into the death-cult, then they gave up their individuality, and thus their will, and it could be argued, their souls.

    Unforgiven is one of the greatest films ever made and it explored justice, death and violence from all angles so eloquently that I can watch it over and over.

    I see man as an element of nature. Civilization and culture is a construct that elevates man above nature, but it does not fully protect man from his individual or collective nature. In nature man has had to kill to survive for hundreds of thousands of years. Humans predators threatened survival of the very thing that allows for mercy, civilization. Predators can kill hundreds and thousands of innocents. They must be stopped. Yes, it’s a helluva thing to kill a man. But it’s part of life, like it or not. And paradoxically it’s a part of civilization.

    Will Munny: Hell of a thing, killin’ a man. You take away all he’s got and all he’s ever gonna have.

    The Schofield Kid: Yeah, well, I guess they had it comin’.

    Will Munny: We all have it comin’, kid.

    The Schofield Kid: I ain’t never killed no one before that, Will.

    Will Munny: Well you sure killed the hell outta this one today.

    The Schofield Kid: That was the first one… first one I ever killed. You know how I said I shot five men? It weren’t true. That Mexican that come at me with a knife, I just busted his leg with a shovel. I didn’t kill him or nothing, neither.

    • #3
    • February 19, 2015, at 4:23 AM PST
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  4. Doug Watt Member

    Here are two of my favorite quotes from Admiral Chester Nimitz. The first quote is for your father. The second quote is for my father.

    “By their victory, the 3rd, 4th and 5th Marine Divisions and other units of the Fifth Amphibious Corps have made an accounting to their country which only history will be able to value fully. Among the Americans serving on Iwo island, uncommon valor was a common virtue.”

    “When I assumed command of the Pacific Fleet in 31 December, 1941; our submarines were already operating against the enemy, the only units of the Fleet that could come to grips with the Japanese for months to come.
    It was to the Submarine Force that I looked to carry the load until our great industrial activity could produce the weapons we so sorely needed to carry the war to the enemy. It is to the everlasting honor and glory of our submarine personnel that they never failed us in our days of peril.”

    • #4
    • February 19, 2015, at 5:56 AM PST
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  5. tabula rasa Member

    Great post. I have two stories.

    My wife’s uncle was an American airman flying on a bomber crew based in England or Scotland. On a mission over Germany (he’d flown many before), his plane was badly hit and its pilot attempted to limp it back to safety. As it slowly flew over the North Sea, the plane could make it no further and it fell into the sea. All aboard were killed including Airman Karl Taylor, native of Loa, Utah. Engaged to be married. 21 years old.

    If you’ve seen the movie Memphis Belle, it’s that story without the happy ending.

    By all accounts, Karl was a good and honorable young man. Even after hearing that he was missing, his mother wrote him a weekly letter for several months. One sad story among thousands of others.

    Second story is about a comrade of my Dad. Dad was a tank driver in the Second Armored (“Hell of Wheels”) Division, he landed on Omaha (day 4). They moved inland and were thrust immediately into the slogging Normandy campaign. After the allies won the Normandy campaign, his unit went to an area near the Belgian/German border. On the first day of the Aachen campaign (October 1944), his tank was hit by cannon fire. My dad’s shoulder and upper arm was shattered, another man’s leg was taken off at the knee, and a third man was killed (sadly, I do not know his name, but I do know he was from Pennsylvania). My father lived for 64 years with a seriously disabled arm and never once complained. He was grateful that, bad arm and all, he had lived. He always was emotional when he spoke of his fallen mate: he always honored his memory.

    Here’s a picture of my dad sitting on his tank (we believe this was taken in Normandy in June or July 1944). He was 19 then, and had turned 20 ten days before his tank was hit.

    Scan 89

    I don’t buy all the “Greatest Generation” stuff, but Karl Taylor and my Dad’s comrade were young men who, for the most part, knew their duty and did it. We should honor them for their sacrifice.

    • #5
    • February 19, 2015, at 7:46 AM PST
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  6. GrannyDude Member

    This is wonderful, Mike. Truly. Is there a way (other than stealing it with cut-and-paste) to share it with some friends?

    My father was a Marine and was badly wounded in combat in Korea: He came close to dying for his country then. He also, presumably killed people or ordered others to do so.

    My father was 68 when he died, and though combat stress doubtless played a role in the heart disease that eventually killed him, his grave doesn’t evoke the same bewildered sadness as the graves of the dead from Iraq and Afghanistan (the dates of birth and death so heartbreakingly close together.) Still, my father would know more about the brave, young dead than I do: He would know, intimately, what we asked of them: Not only that they died for their country, but killed for it too.

    I thought about this a lot when my son joined the Marines in 2004. Two morally ambiguous and not-very-promising wars were going on at the time: For what was my boy going to risk not just his life, but his sweet heart and soul? (He survived without a scratch, but it was a long eight years for his mom!)

    My husband, a State Trooper, was 34 when he was killed in the line of duty—young, yes, and he just gets younger and younger…

    It will never be okay with me that he is gone… but at least I don’t have to stand in the middle of the Law Enforcement Memorial in Judiciary Square, the way I stood amid the graves at Arlington Cemetery and wonder whether my good, young husband risked not only death but deep moral wounds for something worth his sacrifice?

    I sometimes think we get more service than we know, and maybe more even than we deserve from men like your father, my father, husband and my son, and from women too.

    Bless your Dad, and bless you.

    • #6
    • February 19, 2015, at 8:09 AM PST
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  7. tabula rasa Member

    Here’s what Dad said when I asked if he’d killed anyone.

    He said he was sure shells from his tank had knocked out German tanks and other German positions and that he felt that Germans had been killed. Dad did not shoot the cannon, but he did fire a machine gun when the other driver was driving. He said it was very hard to know if you were hitting anyone with your machine gun fire, but he felt it likely he had been the instrument of the death of young German soldiers. He did say he had it a lot better that infantry GIs, whose killing was often up-front and personal.

    He was not angst-ridden about the possibility of having killed someone who was trying to kill him.

    By the way, my father felt no animus to the common German soldier. He saw a lot of prisoners and said, as only he could say, “They were a bunch of little scared bastards. Just like us.”

    • #7
    • February 19, 2015, at 8:10 AM PST
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  8. Jim Beck Member

    Morning Mike,

    My favorite book on the war in the Pacific is “With the Old Breed” by E.B. Sledge. It has some tough scenes of fighting on Peleliu and Okinawa.

    I think that our soldiers don’t kill for our country or for freedom as much as the will kill those who threaten their brothers in arms. When Chris Kyle says that his only regret is that there were soldiers whose lives he could not protect, I think this reflects a common heart felt feeling our American warriors have had maybe since the founding of our country.

    • #8
    • February 19, 2015, at 8:12 AM PST
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  9. tabula rasa Member

    Jim Beck:Morning Mike,

    My favorite book on the war in the Pacific is “With the Old Breed” by E.B. Sledge. It has some tough scenes of fighting on Peleliu and Okinawa.

    The Sledge book is superb: best memoir by a common soldier in WWII. Gritty portrayal of the kind of combat no one would want to be part of.

    • #9
    • February 19, 2015, at 8:18 AM PST
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  10. donald todd Inactive

    If there are people who want to kill, they don’t belong in the Marine Corps, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the guard or reserve.

    If there are people who are willing to protect things worthy of being protected, even at the cost of their own lives, those people are trained to kill, especially the Marines, the infantry soldiers, and the small combat team specialists, because now we are talking about the people who do the up close and personal. We see the results of what we do.

    None of the Marines I served with were sadists, sociopaths, or madmen. We did however know which end of the rifle sits against the shoulder and which end points away from the shooter. Everyone of us knew how to take care of that rifle so it would do what it was intended to do.

    Will we go looking for people to apologize to in paradise? Don’t know. Never thought about it. We each were doing what we were expected to do, surprisingly often without any malice, but with great intensity. If someone kills for the sake of killing, one suspects that such a person won’t be in paradise.

    I believe most of us wanted to get it over so we could go home. (We had pictures which had numbers for the days left in country and would fill in that portion of the picture as we counted down the days.)

    In the Marines there was a consideration that we were cleaning up what our fathers had left undone. That seems a bit simplistic now, but it did not then. Patton was not able to attack the Soviet Union. We were not able to save southeast Asia.

    Human nature being what it is, wars will continue.

    Mike, to your father, please extend my ‘semper fi’ from his younger brother in the Marines.

    dt

    • #10
    • February 19, 2015, at 8:46 AM PST
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  11. donald todd Inactive

    tabula rasa: #5 “I don’t buy all the “Greatest Generation” stuff”

    The “Greatest Generation” was a means for a liberal news reader to make money and become more well known.

    The men of that generation did what they had to do. Some volunteered, some were drafted, but it seems that most of them went willingly and did their duty.

    I suspect that the mothers who received the gold stars for their front windows because their sons or husbands died might have been the real ‘great generation’. One can hardly ask a woman to give more than her son, or her husband and the father of her children.

    • #11
    • February 19, 2015, at 8:53 AM PST
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  12. MikeHs Inactive

    I just want to thank Mike for writing his very elegant post, and all of the commenters here who are relating similar stories of their dad’s, family members’ or friends.’

    • #12
    • February 19, 2015, at 9:24 AM PST
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  13. Profile Photo Member

    Very moving thoughts. Thank you.

    Mike Rapkoch: The burden of killing man must be overwhelming.

    I imagine that many relive those moments in the quiet of the mind, perhaps seeking reassurance that their actions were just or playing out the “what ifs?” that inevitably follow decisions or actions of consequence.

    My dad served in Vietnam. He tells of arriving in country and being handed a weapon by a Marine who instructed him, “Watch that hole. If it moves, shoot it.” I’ve never felt that it would be right to ask him if he’d killed anyone. I’ve often felt bad enough about the questions that I have asked, never certain of what kinds of memories the answers would bring back to him. I don’t think I could really go there.

    He is my hero for many reasons, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown to better appreciate how hard it must have been to return home and move on without being buried by the weight of things seen or done.

    • #13
    • February 19, 2015, at 9:25 AM PST
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  14. Dave Carter Contributor

    Poignant and searchingly honest post, beautifully written. Thank you for taking the time and effort to write and share this.

    • #14
    • February 19, 2015, at 9:28 AM PST
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  15. Manny Member

    What a great post. God bless your father. He’s a hero. As for me, the answer to your question would be yes, but God knows how I would react if I had to afterwards. Killing anyone is a horrible thing, but, when I look at those ISIS scum who slaughtered those poor 21 Christians on the Libyan beach the other day, I would say they deserve death.

    • #15
    • February 19, 2015, at 9:34 AM PST
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  16. Manny Member

    Kate Braestrup

    This is wonderful, Mike. Truly. Is there a way (other than stealing it with cut-and-paste) to share it with some friends?

    My father was a Marine and was badly wounded in combat in Korea: He came close to dying for his country then. He also, presumably killed people or ordered others to do so.

    My father was 68 when he died, and though combat stress doubtless played a role in the heart disease that eventually killed him, his grave doesn’t evoke the same bewildered sadness as the graves of the dead from Iraq and Afghanistan (the dates of birth and death so heartbreakingly close together.) Still, my father would know more about the brave, young dead than I do: He would know, intimately, what we asked of them: Not only that they died for their country, but killed for it too.

    I thought about this a lot when my son joined the Marines in 2004. Two morally ambiguous and not-very-promising wars were going on at the time: For what was my boy going to risk not just his life, but his sweet heart and soul? (He survived without a scratch, but it was a long eight years for his mom!)

    My husband, a State Trooper, was 34 when he was killed in the line of duty—young, yes, and he just gets younger and younger…

    It will never be okay with me that he is gone… but at least I don’t have to stand in the middle of the Law Enforcement Memorial in Judiciary Square, the way I stood amid the graves at Arlington Cemetery and wonder whether my good, young husband risked not only death but deep moral wounds for something worth his sacrifice?

    I sometimes think we get more service than we know, and maybe more even than we deserve from men like your father, my father, husband and my son, and from women too.

    Bless your Dad, and bless you.

    Oh Kate, you choked me up on your husband. God rest his soul and may he be in a better place waiting for you.

    • #16
    • February 19, 2015, at 9:40 AM PST
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  17. DocJay Inactive

    God bless your pop.

    I’d have zero problems with taking a life as a soldier. Everyone is wired differently.

    Harming innocents or a comrade by accident would disturb me greatly though.

    • #17
    • February 19, 2015, at 10:17 AM PST
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  18. Mike Rapkoch Member
    Mike Rapkoch Post author

    Kate Braestrup:This is wonderful, Mike. Truly. Is there a way (other than stealing it with cut-and-paste) to share it with some friends?

    My father was a Marine and was badly wounded in combat in Korea: He came close to dying for his country then. He also, presumably killed people or ordered others to do so.

    My father was 68 when he died, and though combat stress doubtless played a role in the heart disease that eventually killed him, his grave doesn’t evoke the same bewildered sadness as the graves of the dead from Iraq and Afghanistan (the dates of birth and death so heartbreakingly close together.) Still, my father would know more about the brave, young dead than I do: He would know, intimately, what we asked of them: Not only that they died for their country, but killed for it too.

    I thought about this a lot when my son joined the Marines in 2004. Two morally ambiguous and not-very-promising wars were going on at the time: For what was my boy going to risk not just his life, but his sweet heart and soul? (He survived without a scratch, but it was a long eight years for his mom!)

    My husband, a State Trooper, was 34 when he was killed in the line of duty—young, yes, and he just gets younger and younger…

    It will never be okay with me that he is gone… but at least I don’t have to stand in the middle of the Law Enforcement Memorial in Judiciary Square, the way I stood amid the graves at Arlington Cemetery and wonder whether my good, young husband risked not only death but deep moral wounds for something worth his sacrifice?

    I sometimes think we get more service than we know, and maybe more even than we deserve from men like your father, my father, husband and my son, and from women too.

    Bless your Dad, and bless you.

    Kate:

    I don’t know how to share this outside of Ricochet, although I think the Main Feed is available to the public. The other way, I think, is to copy and transfer to Word. Of course the best way is to have friends sign up (my way of helping out Rob).

    I am truly touched by the loss of your husband. I wish you all of God’s comforts.

    • #18
    • February 19, 2015, at 10:56 AM PST
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  19. Mike Rapkoch Member
    Mike Rapkoch Post author

    Thank you to all.

    I don’t think Pop had any moral qualms about killing, but since he never spoke of it I don’t know for sure. What I do know is that even after it all he loved the Japanese people. He’s been around during the mopping up of Saipan where many Japanese civilians lived. He was not a man for rancor.

    I’ve had 3 nephews who served in the Corps in Iraq and Afghanistan. Again, I don’t know for sure if they killed anyone, but it seems likely as two were in the infantry and one an artillery officer. One of them left the Corps after one tour and headed for med school. His brother was in for 12 years and did three tours as a platoon and company commander. He slogged his way through Fallujah, among other nasty places. The 3rd served two tours in Afghanistan. His job was to coordinate artillery and air power. I cannot imagine his cannons failed to make their mark. He was awarded several citations for combat efficiency which I gather means he did the job with lethal effect.

    All three were inspired by my dad.

    Thank you again. Especially you vets.

    • #19
    • February 19, 2015, at 11:22 AM PST
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  20. Brad B. Inactive

    The idea is a myth that soldiers don’t desire or are somehow only reluctantly willing to kill their country’s enemy’s. Some are that way. But many in fact desire just that. And regardless of what they think about the efficacy of this or that war, they would love the opportunity to kill ISIS or the Taliban. This is much more common amongst the combat arms occupations, but it extends even beyond them.

    This is uncomfortable for a lot of people, thinking that only sociopaths desire to kill people. But it’s the truth. Some of my fellow servicemen I’ve lead or befriended fought in Fallujah and other big battles. They cheerily remember killing insurgents and tell stories about it. It was the most exciting time of their life.

    • #20
    • February 19, 2015, at 11:35 AM PST
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  21. GrannyDude Member

    Mike and Manny—thank you so much for your kind words! If you click on this, you can not only get a quick glimpse of who my husband was, but how beautifully and lovingly supported the kids and I have been since his death. http://www.odmp.org/officer/reflections/14750-trooper-james-a-drew-griffith

    Byron Horatio

    I think the experience of soldiers in combat is complicated. I’ve never been in combat (never even been hit!) but I spend a lot of time with guys who have been or might be. I’ve learned that the desire to make someone cease to exist is, at certain moments, inevitable and understandable. (All I have to do to get a tiny taste of that desire is to imagine that someone has threatened to attack my children or, for that matter, any of the officers I serve beside!)

    And I also remember Dad, along with some other, very thoughtful veteran friends, telling me that war provides peak experiences in a way few other things can. Seldom in civilian life are your senses so acute, the skills you hone as incredibly necessary, or your friendships quite so profound and passionate (soldiers love each other!).

    The totality of the experience and the inability of civilians to even come close to understanding it is probably one reason my dad and his comrades don’t talk much about it.

    I can’t resist telling you guys this: My father, who became a newspaper reporter and was a combat correspondent in Vietnam, actually WAS shot down in a helicopter. He didn’t talk much about this either (Brian Williams, are you paying attention here?) but when he did, he talked mostly about how helpless and stupid he felt, having to take cover in the helicopter while the young marines fanned out into the rice paddy to form a perimeter, and the pilot started figuring out how to glue the engine back together so they could get back into the sky. A few details from Dad’s account stick vividly: First, the phrase “Nape of the earth” (or is it “nap of the earth?”)—flying low to avoid enemy fire—second, that enemy bullets could pierce the floor of the helicopter, so marines being transported sat on top of their helmets… and third, that the door gunner was a young black kid with acne, who looked like he was about fifteen, and chewed gum the whole time he was firing at the enemy.

    Since that kid protected my Dad, I think fondly of him. If he survived—and I hope he did— he’s an old guy by now. I hope he has some sweet little grandchildren, and plenty of buddies down at the VFW for him to tell his story to. (“So I was a door gunner on a Huey, flying nape-of-the-earth across Pinkville…”)

    • #21
    • February 19, 2015, at 12:14 PM PST
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  22. donald todd Inactive

    Tonya M: #13 “He is my hero for many reasons, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown to better appreciate how hard it must have been to return home and move on without being buried by the weight of things seen or done.”

    It is a place where some of us went. It is not a place to live at. It is also something which fades with time. The people that dwell there don’t do so well. I never dwelt there. I went. I did what I was supposed to do. I left. Someone else then picked up the work and continued it until we left altogether.

    • #22
    • February 19, 2015, at 12:27 PM PST
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  23. Instugator Thatcher

    I have fond memories of my time flying B-52s from Diego Garcia. The survival gear we wore was pretty confining so once we climbed in the airplane we would take it off. It was a three hour flight from DG to “feet dry” over the Arabian Peninsula, but the last 30 minutes we would be hooked up to the tanker, so about 2 hours after takeoff, each of us would “clear off” from our seat to get dressed. Putting the survival gear on was how I finally got my game face on for the next 7 hours. About 2 hours later we would perform our “fence check” – which is when we prepped the aircraft for emissions control (turning off our lights, some of the navigation equipment, checking and re-checking that our IFF (Identify Friend Foe) was working etc.) The last command/control agency before we entered enemy territory would let us know that IFF was working (or not) by telling us “mode x sweet (or sour)” and then we were “on station” and available for tasking.

    On the way back to DG, we would perform the same checks in reverse – turn the stuff on that we’d turned off and start talking to air traffic control. Immediately after “feet wet” we would hit the tanker for our last 100K Lbs of fuel and climb out of the survival equipment.

    When we landed we would collect the arming loops of the weapons we dropped as souvenirs and I would send a short message to my fiancé before getting a shower and hitting the rack. OTGSAS – On the Ground, Safe and Sound.

    I send my wife the same message every time I fly to this day. For some reason, DT’s #22 helped me remember this.

    • #23
    • February 19, 2015, at 1:50 PM PST
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  24. Mark Monaghan Thatcher

    My father too was on Iwo Jima – when he was 18. Also in The 4th Div. He lasted 12 days before the mortar he was crewing exploded as he was heading off for more shells. The entire team was vaporized and he was left with an armful of shrapnel and spent the rest of WWII on Maui recovering, and then prepping for the invasion of Japan. Although we only spoke about his experiences after I had joined the Coast Guard I don’t think he had any qualms. He became a cop in Philly for 27 years and was fairly hardened to the horrors of life, but I have no idea what went on in his head. He did not seem to bear any major emotional scars, leastways not that I could tell. As an added bonus, he appears in ‘The Sands of Iwo Jima’ during the landing sequence where they use actual footage. This was always a big deal in my family and we had to sit thru the movie each time it was shown to see this 2-3 seconds scene. Unfortunately, later versions of the movie cut it out but it’s on the DVD version. 19FEB is always an important day for me and later tonight I will have a scotch and pull out my jar of Iwo Jima sand and some old pics and get misty-eyed before turning in.

    (I had a chance to spend a year on Iwo Jima at the LORAN station, but there was a girl involved and somehow that seemed more important at the time…)

    • #24
    • February 19, 2015, at 2:47 PM PST
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  25. Frozen Chosen Inactive

    I’ve heard that in any infantry action around 70% of the soldiers on both sides shoot to miss (perhaps this was just the Civil War). If this is true it makes those who are willing to kill especially vital to our armed forces since most of their fellows aren’t helping.

    I think it’s hard for anyone to say whether or not they could kill an enemy combatant until they actually do it. I don’t think I’d have a problem shooting an enemy but who knows?

    • #25
    • February 19, 2015, at 4:23 PM PST
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  26. MLH Inactive
    MLH

    Frozen Chosen:I’ve heard that in any infantry action around 70% of the soldiers on both sides shoot to miss (perhaps this was just the Civil War). If this is true it makes those who are willing to kill especially vital to our armed forces since most of their fellows aren’t helping.

    I think it’s hard for anyone to say whether or not they could kill an enemy combatant until they actually do it. I don’t think I’d have a problem shooting an enemy but who knows?

    Given the play on spelling that is your handle, I’d hope you wouldn’t have a problem.

    • #26
    • February 19, 2015, at 4:26 PM PST
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  27. iWe Reagan
    iWe

    Perhaps I lack humanity. I have lost no sleep over the people I have physically harmed in the past (since they earned it). I don’t think I would lose sleep if I had to kill someone who was trying to kill me. Not even a little.

    Nor would I seek their forgiveness; why ask forgiveness when one has not done wrong?

    I conclude from this thread that most people are clearly much nicer and more sensitive than I. This comes as no surprise.

    • #27
    • February 19, 2015, at 4:37 PM PST
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  28. Scott Wilmot Member

    Outstanding story Mike – the best I have ever read on Ricochet. Thanks for sharing it with us. There is a nice photo essay over at NRO that helped me to understand the battle. God bless your father and all his fellow Marines.

    And as you counsel, prayer is indeed warranted for all of our military service members.

    • #28
    • February 19, 2015, at 4:56 PM PST
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  29. Profile Photo Member

    donald todd:It is a place where some of us went. It is not a place to live at. It is also something which fades with time. The people that dwell there don’t do so well. I never dwelt there. I went. I did what I was supposed to do. I left. Someone else then picked up the work and continued it until we left altogether.

    That is really a great way of putting this into words. Thank you for your thoughts. And for your service.

    • #29
    • February 19, 2015, at 5:48 PM PST
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  30. Brad B. Inactive

    I don’t know where that statistic about soldiers deliberately missing comes from, but I find it highly suspect. And I can’t fathom where a reliable figure could be determined on it.

    • #30
    • February 19, 2015, at 7:03 PM PST
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