Saturday, January 26, 2013

Living with Death

Trolling through earlier posts looking for one that I wrote but don't exactly remember when, I came across a post about the consciousness of death that stays with the combat veteran.  It's worth repeating:
All luck. Sheer luck. As a kid in the 50's I used to wonder how our fathers had survived the hail of lead and shrapnel that was my image of World War II. I found out when I saw combat on my own. It wasn’t the murderous thunder that I had imagined but rather the random explosion of periodic violence that fortuitously never injured me. But in between was the potential, the always lurking threat, not just from a determined foe but also from my buddies and even myself.  I’m lucky to be alive; 58,000 of my comrades aren’t.

The randomness of death and injury in combat has stayed with me since Vietnam. Shit happens. I saw it. Somehow I survived it. It’s still there, waiting to happen. Just ask anyone who was anywhere near the Pentagon and World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 or in the Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995 or any parent of a murdered child. Perhaps the risks are less in civilian life but I know that I am never totally safe. In that respect I am still on patrol, hoping nothing will happen but entirely aware of the potential.
After combat, nothing can ever be a complete surprise.  After combat, the veteran knows that the worst is always possible, a consciousness that is never lost. 

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