the silent conflict before a battle
Authored By: Bradley Chapline
Right out of the gate, I'm going to ask this question of every reader. Originally asked by Bill Watterson of the Calvin and Hobbs Sunday Pages before the turn of this century; "How do soldiers killing each other solve the world's problems?"
This commentary is a true account of my thoughts, feelings, actions and or in-actions as a United States Marine.
Particularly, in the moments prior to engaging in an array of military expeditionary operations over a period of several years, each time, a deep momentary conflict arose in my conscience.
In this writing, there shall be NO hypes or chants. As well, NO politics, propaganda, or religions shall be used to bump up this commentary.
So, I was trained at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, South Carolina beginning in July of 1972. People almost always tend to believe the hype that in hostile and or combat engagements, a Marine is an absolute "killing machine". Nothing could be further from the truth.
For me personally, yes, I have fired on the enemy. But, be advised, the facts were, I fired for protection and cover of both my fellow Marines and myself. My fire was certainly never for the specific intent of establishing a "dead body count" of the enemy.
I have proof that I was within the norm of of my fellow Marines.
An author named Dave Grossman once wrote, "When most people talk about killing, they are like virgins talking about sex. You can talk about it all day. You can fully understand the mechanics involved. But when the time comes there is so much more involved than the person ever thought."
For us Marines, moments before the engagement of a dangerous mission, all the so-called "locker room trash-talking" would be long over. Whether on board an amphibious landing craft, or on a Marine Corps helicopter preparing to descend into a hot landing zone, (LZ), each time I sat in silence and had my private thoughts. I knew quite well that these could be my final moments of life.
With, of course, my fellow Marines by my side, I just somehow knew that I was not the exception. For, when I glanced at them, they too sat in silence, and appeared to be in the same deep thought.
Trust me when I say that if 500 Marines were about to be in the midst of a life threatening situation, there wouldn't have been one Marine whose potentially last private thoughts and prayers would have involved any motivational messages and or slogans of the United States Marine Corps.
Truly credible research of America's war in Vietnam has shown some interesting statistics and data:
More than any other war in U.S. history, 95% of American soldiers in Vietnam fired on the enemy. However, it took approximately 52,000 bullets to have killed just one of the North Viet Cong (VC). This would make one wonder just how possibly the body count of the enemy could have been so high. The answer is simple. Ground units have always taken credit for enemy losses caused by mortars, artillery, close air support, and or naval gunfire. I have to assume, in taking credit for enemy losses, us "jarheads" fit right into those exaggerations.
Today, in 2017, if Americans could just lay their propaganda styled hero status of returning veterans from combat down for just a moment, they could see through all the fog. The fact is, the U.S. Marine finds it very traumatic to have to kill another human being. In most cases, their own survival is not likely their primary thought just before going into battle. For, I prayed for the safety of my fellow Marines first, and then I prayed to not be put in a situation where I would have to kill the enemy.
So, as a United States Marine, in dangerous situations, I've always said to God, "If I am ever forced to take a human life, I shall not be proud of myself." For, the truth is, I would have a real rough time living with myself in being a killer, no matter how justified the taking of a human life would be.
Now, in the dangerous situations I was faced with, to kill or not to kill was therefore, never a hard decision for me to reach. But, I was truly one of the lucky Marines to not have to resort to killing.
But, in extreme contrast, in garrison duty, my personal language, and demeanor as a hard-shelled Marine would have me cast easily as a blood thirsty killer.
Unquestionably, the truth is, however, most Marines, when it comes to the "nuts and bolts" of the game are much more subdued then what the advertising and the brainwashing of Marines typically allows. So, in the real world, Marines, as a general rule have always been able to separate sensibility from that of being "psyched".
So, when the opportunity to fire upon the enemy had been authorized, there was not a moment in my silent and private thoughts of the intent to hit a human target unless there would be no other alternative. But again, I was lucky to have those moments of deliberation. For, many of my fellow Marines were not so lucky.
So, I've known many Marine combat veterans who were forced to kill the enemy, with absolutely no time to think at all. They just did what they were trained to do. But, I can honestly tell you, as these Marines age, the more those acts of taking of a human life bothers them. In fact, they suffer severe lifelong traumas in direct relation to this.
The truth about the Marine Corps is, most Marines, like myself, are not experts, and never have been at being blood thirsty killers. But, I could well be identified as a trained expert in posturing. Yes, this blustery smokescreen of sorts certainly worked for me in many situations.
So, my heart truly goes out to those Marines who did not have any other option than to kill the enemy. For, it becomes clear to every Marine as they age that war and all the killing that comes along with it solves really, in most circumstances, absolutely nothing. That must be an absolutely horrific feeling to live with for an entire life.
So, as Americans, on Memorial Day, truly honor the Marines and all our veterans who have given their lives for their country. But, please don't forget the Marines and soldiers who have survived "front-line" war. For, their deepest wounds and scars of having taken human life accompany every breath they take.
They all need our support. They all deserve our backing.
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This is a true story.