I Miss the Bullets

It may be hard to imagine that a person who writes a blog on their own philosophies, beliefs, and conclusions isn’t a bit narcissistic. And, you would be correct, as I likely am. But the one thing I have found the hardest to talk about, to almost anyone, is my time in military service. And I use the term military service to represent and honor all those who have served anywhere, from any branch, at any time. As a decorated combat veteran, it is one of the few topics I think I would have providence to speak on with some authority, plus it could be about me (perceived narcissistic itch scratched). But it is still hard to talk about. Not because of any shame, stigma, unprocessed guilt, remorse, regret, or post-traumatic stress. Not at all! If anything, I am just the opposite. I proudly served as a U. S. Marine, earning my scars as a member of Force Recon in the armed conflicts that didn’t have memorable operational names like they do today. Places like Beirut, Libya, Grenada, the Falkland Islands. I feel no shame, bear no stigma, have left nothing unprocessed, and thankfully do not bear the life-long pain of post-stress disorders (or at least I don’t think so, but you don’t know what you don’t know). So, it seems, there is nothing about me that should impede discussion.

Is it fear of retelling or reliving specific events? There may have been a time I truly thought that. But for me, thinking of specifics events or the feelings they created at the time, does not trigger much for me anymore. There are times where a memory of someone who didn’t come home will still have me fighting the tears, but they are always haphazard and rarely associated with talking about them. Part of sharing any real detail about combat is that it is graphically grotesque in nature and virtually impossible to describe to someone who has not seen it. Even most veterans don’t go into much detail when they are talking amongst themselves. The knowledge they have seen the same things is understood and boiled down to short phrases that convey this clearly. No need for great detail. Many great directors and newer technology have created insightful realism in cinematic portrayals. I will not list my favorites here, as I do not believe my experience reflects the myriad and breadth of the experiences of others who have been in harm’s way. But think of and watch or find the one that makes you absolutely shit your pants. Then do your best to not be just a viewer and transport your mind to becoming the person you see on the screen. Then turn the volume up until you can’t talk to the person next to you. Then think of everyone you love and will never see again, if this goes poorly. Then literally shit yourself and go get done what needs to be done anyway, and in any way. See what I mean, it is hard to describe. But if you do, you can begin to have a frame of reference to better understand why “I Miss the Bullets”.

I do not mean to imply I miss being shot at. Are you kidding? Any “combat” veteran who would say that should immediately raise the question, at a minimum in your own mind, about how much “combat” they have seen. No, it is a reference to something more intangible than the blood, guts, or glory of combat. It is reference to the bond, the comradery, the esprit de corps that develops between people who share the same small spaces where all that tangible shit is happening. People just as scared as you are. People just as vulnerable. Just as devoutly committed to giving their life for yours as you are for them. For me that has always been a brotherhood, a fraternity of common survival, that makes every relationship a shadow of what I know a bond can be. It is easy to say what we would do for another in a given situation. And a different thing to watch a friend do it. If you don’t believe me, ask anyone who recently survived a shooting because of the actions of an intended victim. Their love for, and bond with, this selfless person has drastically changed. Add to that the bravery of individuals who did not have the convenience of choosing to be “in the shit”, like I did, and you are talking some real hero stuff. We lose a frame of reference for the intensity of that knowledge. For knowing that someone has your back, no matter what. Seeing it every day in the way they think, the way they train, their work ethic. True warriors. How do you give a frame of reference for that? I only stumbled across this question when asked recently what I missed about the military. It was not the uniform, the flag, or the medals. Or even anything as dark as a job that so readily fed my over-achiever and elitist mentality or reinforced my stereotypical views of being all man, although it did both I am sure. What I honestly missed was, those odd times with the snap and pop of bullets flying, wearing the same dirt and blood, when you were surrounded by people you KNEW you could count on. I have not felt that from another person who wasn’t family, since I was discharged. What I missed was the knowledge that when the bullets start flying, you are staying too.

2 Responses to “I Miss the Bullets”
  1. Someone not having been “in the trenches” will never know the intensity of the situation nor the bond created with others there with you. We can all say, “Yes, I’d give my life for our country”, but we do so with the knowledge that we will not be asked to do so, except if serving in the military. Quite a large difference of what we say we would do and what we actually do. And this is why I choose to acknowledge your service to this country. It takes a special breed to be that brave in action, not just word.

    • Brad Osborne says:

      Combat is hard to imagine, but laying your life down for another is not in this day and age. And it doesn’t take facing combat to be courageous. I appreciate your kind words, but we should also recognize the bravery all around us. People pushing through in spite of their fear. Fighting just as hard in everyday life, minus bullets.

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