The hardest part of being deployed, for me at least, is the moment of separation. It seems that the walk to the bus is the longest walk. “Don’t look back, you will never get on the bus if you see your children.” Eyes cast downward, I pray that the line moves quickly. I suppose it is the same for everyone. It is the inevitable truth that you never come home with all the people you deploy with. From day one, every morning when I shave, I see the guy in the mirror that may get me killed, if I do not pay attention to what is going on around me.
War is the hunting grounds of Death. The black robed villain swings his scythe without mercy in the killing fields. At times it seems random, whereas other times it seems all to personal. I have had many near misses, via encounters with him in different firefights and convoys. Friends that I have loved and cared deeply for have fallen to his reaping. The tools employed range from vehicular homicide, to explosive devices to good old-fashioned bullets.
The adrenaline rush of combat is a high that can’t be found in drugs or alcohol. The moment of life or death, fight or flight, is truly like no other. I can’t speak for others, but for me, time slowed down. Everything is heightened, the sharp crack of rifle fire, the rip of shrapnel tearing through metal and flesh, the smell of black powder and the environment, all of it happens in a solitary moment. Once the moment is over real time resumes. It is addictive, at some point you want to experience it all over again. You live for those moments. It becomes a contest, “can I survive another encounter with the Reaper?”
Each of us has our own appointment with Death. My appointment was not in Iraq, although there were many times that I thought that it was. Death is part of living. You can’t do your job as a soldier without having a healthy respect for the Reaper. Sometimes, you are his business partner, other times you are his business. We shed tears for friends that we have lost, and then we move out and draw fire because the mission continues. It is the sad reality of war.
In the end, all we can do is prepare for our transition into eternity. As long as humanity remains, there will be business for the Reaper. This is the inevitable truth of life.