It's so hard to begin to convey it to someone who has never been there, let alone served. I don't say that to try and be arrogant or belittle anyone who hasn't, but there is so much more to the lifestyle and entirety of the situation. From the time you enter boot camp you are conditioned to fight. Every night before we went to sleep in boot we'd recite article 1 of the armed forces code of conduct. "I am an American, fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense." Eventually, it all just seems like a good idea. As an infantryman, we don't have a 9-5. We don't go work on trucks, we typically disappear out into the woods 5 days a week and spend the time preparing for combat. Patrols, rushes, drills, marksmanship, communications, land nav, and a myriad of other skills you will need to get you through (hopefully) alive. You spend every waking moment living, breathing and eating topics that relate to combat in some way shape or form. It becomes a part of you. It always remains a part of you.
I remember one of our guys didn't every perform so well during drills and ended up being left behind to pull guard duty when we went into Fallujah. He was very upset by this and felt as though he was less of a man for it, if that gives you an idea of how your mind is operating at the time. When you get there, you've done it some much, you WANT to go. You NEED to go. You spent so much time, blood, and sweat preparing for this, training as hard as you can it just seems natural. But you don't know, you have no idea, and nothing will ever prepare you.
To this day I still can't believe I was there. Felt like watching a movie through my own eyes. 7 weeks in that city. 7 weeks of grinding through streets, clearing hundreds of houses a day "SWAT" style, or whatever amounts to it wearing 70-130 pounds of gear depending on your MOS. Smoke, explosions, death, blood, yelling, cursing, screaming, sweaty, hungry, scared, exhausted, cold, hot, miserable, exuberant, numb inside but full of life. It's overload on every level. Emotional, physical, mental, you are just overwhelmed beyond what you had ever dreamed, but you keep your shit on lock down. You have to, you trained for this, and your buddies depend on you doing your job. You can't quit. I remember one time in the middle of a firefight I almost lost my shit. It was out of no where, my brain just started repeating "I want to go home. I just want to go home." Luckily I had enough of whatever it was to reign myself back in and remind my brain that's its either on my own to feet or a bag. Got my head straight quick and got back to doing my job.
Its surreal. The video games aren't anything close. You shoot people, they just stop. Like they chose right then and there to take a hard nap, but they never wake up. Sometimes they don't go so quickly. I don't want to talk about that.
It's almost like your higher brain functions just turn off. You aren't thinking anymore. You can't think. Its just like on the range. See the man shaped target pop up, put the man shaped target back down. Bodies just in the street where they fell. Some not so neat.
Strange behavior, for the first couple of days it wasn't real. We'd wax one of the enemy, and we'd laugh, we'd high five. You may think we're terrible for it but its the only thing you CAN do. If you really stopped to realize what you were doing you'd never make it. Once we took our first KIA it wasn't funny anymore. It was real, very real. No more smiles. Just grim set jaws and eyes burning with hatred for that they did to our friend. You soul goes black and you want to burn down the entire country. Your buddies are of the utmost importance. You're all alone in a hostile country, and there's not a lot of people wearing the same clothes anymore.
For all the negativity, and this may sound strange, there is some good in it. You witness acts of heroism, acts of courage and sacrifice. What men do for each other under fire is a kind of love you will never experience anywhere in your life again. It isn't a question, it isn't a thought, you just run out into fire to get them. I didn't do that, that's not what I'm trying to say. I'm no hero, I just did my job. I just wanted to get home to my mom.
You just react. That's it. Its high strung instant reflexes. We got told as a squad to rush across a 6 lane highway in the city once, all that open ground. I don't know why I stepped off and started going, I just did. My body did it for me.
I don't know what else to say. I'm kind of at a loss for words. I feel like the above was my best explanation, but I still feel like it doesn't come close. I'm open to questions though. If ou have anything specific you want to know, or have some kind of guidelines I could follow for answering it would make it easier.
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