13 Retired Soldiers Reveal Something They Experienced That They've Never Shared Before.
Retired soldiers on Reddit were asked: "What was something that you saw or experienced that you never shared with anyone?" These are some of the best answers.
1/13 I still have nightmares about pointing my weapon at little kids. I'm terrified to have kids because of it.
2/13 The thing that will stick with me forever is this. Back in 2010 north west of Sanguin, Afghanistan I was the Corpsman for my group of 4 Marines, we specialized in JTACs (guys who call in aircraft) and were supporting the Georgian Army in creating a new Patrol base.
We get to the area where the base is going to be build (sand walls FTW) and camp out in our trucks until the bulldozers finish building the walls and filling up HESCO barriers. Around the second day near noon we hear an explosion and see in the distance a large smoke cloud.
We radio to see if there were any friendly forces near that area but no coalition forces were near us. We then mount up to go check it out and as we near the site we see two adult figures running around a van that hit an IED. As we pull up there is a 6 passenger afghan van that looks like it hit an IED, this van was DEMOLISHED, charred and the engine was on fire.
As we dismount the two make adults run to us (this freaked us out cuz they might be Insurgents) but our interpreter was there and told us that they were brothers asking for help cuz one of the brothers had four daughters in the van with them when they hit the IED. We rush to the van and there is still smoke everywhere but we start pulling on the rear driver door and I can hear one of the daughters still screaming inside. As we pry the door open we look inside and I will never forget what I saw.
Inside was all charred, smoke was still coming out of the van and in the seats was what remained of the four daughters. 3 of the daughters were torn apart by the explosion with limbs and body parts everywhere. The fourth was still holding one of her sisters amputated hand while her other hand was pressed on her side. The blast had amputated her lower left leg going up to her pelvis. She was trying to scream but she was already losing too much blood making her lose consciousness.
We pulled her out and I got to work trying to stop her from bleeding out but I could only keep her alive for 15 more min. The father and uncle held her hand as she never woke up from losing consciousness. Me and my Marines started collecting the body parts of the other daughters so the father and brother could bury their remains. Their ages were 4, 4, 5, and 6. F*ck Afghanistan.
3/13 I was assigned to a lot of different cranking duties on my ship, but none of that physical duty compared to my next command. Funeral Detail. I'm an extremely empathetic person. I'm female, and I think they thought they'd like me around for diversity's sake. They told a girl that cries at Budweiser commercials to attend veterans' funerals. I'm torn what killed my heart the most: The mother wailing over the flag-draped casket of her son (younger than me, at the time), or firing rounds for a plot attended by no one but the grave diggers. I know military life is hard. I know it can be bleak. Hell. It can end you in more ways than ten. But those two? Some boy died. Some man died. Each time I spent the van ride back imagining how they got there. I only did 96 funerals in 90 days. I f*cking loathed that time of my life. Every once in a while though, while drinking bourbon and smoking and thinking about where I am now, how my military career is going, I think of those funerals. And I think of what the f*ck I'm doing. I hated having to attend and how it made me feel, but now (three years later) I thank that time for giving me a true sense of mortality and consequence.
4/13 Ok so this is definitely going to make me out to be an asshole but it happened and it's not a story I share to anyone. I was in Iraq for 7 months doing convoy security. We would drive all over the country delivering supplies and personnel wherever we were ordered too. It wasn't uncommon for all the kids of smaller villages to run along and road side asking for muffins or Gatorades or any other thing they could.
At first we would regularly throw snacks to them. It was cool seeing their smiling faces after they caught a chocolate muffin or a fruit punch Gatorade. Wed feel like Santa Clause winning the hearts and minds of the younger generations ensuring they would never turn to terrorism. Winning the war on terror one muffin at a time. But of course things changed.
Another unit had an accident and a couple kids got run over or hurt basically trying to catch snacks being thrown to them. So our new standard of procedure was to not give out anything whatsoever in order to keep the kids from grouping around our vehicles as we'd roll through their towns. This didn't stop them from gathering and it almost made them more desperate in their attempts to get anything from us. Even asking for waters which was something they would actually reject when we were throwing snacks at them.
So we're rolling through this city at a painfully slow speed. Reports of IEDs being found nearby recently couple with all the civilians who lined the road made us extra careful not to drive over anything or anyone that would compromise the safety objective of our mission. As I'm scanning the road and people ahead of me I spot this adorable little Iraqi girl halfway hiding behind her fathers leg as she stared at us with her big green eyes. She must have been around 4 or 5. I knew we weren't supposed to give them anything anymore but my heart melted for her so I handed my gunner a muffin and asked him to toss it to that little girl and he did.
Her father got this huge smile as he gave us a thank you wave and the little girl, excited that she got a muffin, ran up the road to show another group of kids her snack when this boy who had to of been at least 12 just shoved the shit out of the little girl and snatches her muffin away. My whole truck was pissed! Little terrorist f*cker shoving a little girl not even half his size!
I was livid as it was a very violent shove and the little girl exploded into tears as she sat there in the dirt muffinless. As we continued to roll towards the group of kids I handed my gunner my piss bottle (a bottle of Gatorade that I would piss into while driving because we didn't stop for piss breaks while on a mission) and told him to toss it to that same kid. It couldn't have been more perfect. As we got closer to the group he turned to the trucks with his mouth full of muffin and started motioning for us to throw him something so we obliged.
He greedily ran away from the rest of the group of kids that we trying to wrestle the bottle from him. Being bigger than all of them it wasn't much of a struggle so as he's jogging away we see him open the bottle then take a huge swig from the bottle before spitting it out and throwing the bottle to the floor. As we drove by him he was still doubled over spitting and dry heaving so we flipped him off.
5/13 I responded to several complex suicide bombings, which resulted in hundreds of casualties, and while they bother me, they weren't the worst thing. There was a guy in my unit. Charles was his name. He had come from a really messed up background, but wore his heart on his sleeve. He got all of us a copy of Halo while we were downrange so that we could have lan parties when we had time. He wasn't my best friend, but he was a good friend, and a battle buddy.
He was going through some rough times, with the deployment and other personal things, and someone caught him with his loaded pistol in his mouth. Instead of sending him home, our u it demoted him, gave him extra duty, and took away his weapons for a few months.
After he was given his weapons back, he resumed missions with us. We used to sit on the blue deck on CNS and smoke and talk about life. He told me that his fiancee had ended things with him, and he was taking it hard. He told me, specifically, that he wrote her a letter, and if she wouldn't take him back, he would kill himself. I hadn't yet been through any kind of suicide prevention training, so I wasn't sure how to respond. I told him that there are better ways to deal with the situation, but I didn't do enough.
The last conversation that we had was about pulling the trigger on combatants. The last thing that he told me was that he didn't mind returning fire if he needed to, but if he ever saw someone killing an innocent person, then he would stop them himself.
That night he put a 3 round burst into his head. Not a day goes by when I don't think about him and think about how I could have helped him, but didn't. We all knew he was suicidal, and none of us did a damn thing about it. Daily I think about him. Why didn't I do more? What could I have done better? I'm sorry for not doing enough, man. I didn't think you would do it.
6/13 There was a dead Iraqi guy on the ground half-way covered with a blanket (after we shot him). I saw a pack of smokes in his shirt pocket and I remember reaching in there and taking them so I could hand them out to the guys. I even gave some to the other Iraqi prisoners we were watching at the time.
It was one of the weird moments. Thinking about it, how strange would it be if your dead body was laying there and some guy came out and took your pack of smokes out of your shirt pocket. That morning, like most mornings, you put your smokes in your jacket and go out to face the day. You die and then some guy from another country casually takes them from you as you rot in the sun. Weird.
7/13 On a motorcade patrol in Afghanistan, our point vehicle struck an IED. My best friend was thrown about ten yards from the wreckage, and impaled through the chest with a piece of metal. His face was blown half off. I'll never forget it. I recognized half of his face, and the other half was charred bone. He died in my arms.
About two years later, I finally got stateside, and went to see his family. They told me he wrote to them every day, and when the letters stopped coming, they knew he was gone. His five year old daughter asked me how her daddy died. I didn't know what to say.
8/13 Marine, here. I've only shared this with one, maybe two people. We were on patrol with another squad in Ramadi, Iraq. We (2nd Sqd) were about 1/2 mile ahead of our other (1st Sqd) squad when we heard the deafening rip of an IED. It was close, too close. Our walkies went off like fireworks, 1st squad was hit, they got the radioman, he was alive, but their "comm" was down.
The radioman from my squad and I just started running towards the location of the blast. I'll never forget feeling so alone. My 22-year-old body running as fast as it could, with a 19-year-old radioman in tow. We weren't even looking for threats. We just NEEDED to get to 1st squad. Absolutely terrifying. I just remember, "if we're too slow, someone dies."
When we finally arrived, the corpsman was already working on 1st Squads radioman, he was a bloody mess. Literally. My radioman was finally able to call in the coords for med-evac. 1st squad eventually grabbed bloody radioman and drug him into a nearby courtyard since we were all sitting ducks.
Within moments, as we usually did, we took to the roofs. Better vantage. As med-evac came in to collect radioman, BOOM secondary IED goes off right where we were caring for him. Movies depict the "fog of war," but I remember going numb and slamming my M16A4 on that rooftop. I was mad, sad, confused all at once. I instantly picked my rifle back up and began to scan the area. I looked southbound through my ACOG (Advanced Combat Optic Gunsight) and spotted a kid, maybe 11-14, he was holding a phone. Mobile and cordless phones were the triggers of choice for IEDs.
Unconsciously, I snapped the safety off and drew every bit of slack out of that trigger. That sear/hammer was one breath away from sending a 5.56mm through that little f*ckers chest from 150 yards. I remember gasping for breath, and snapping the safety back on. "Did this kid pull the trigger? MAYBE. Will you kill a kid? NO. Is radioman alive? YES. WE NEED TO GET THE F*CK OUT OF HERE." I still hate this story.
9/13 I was a part of a joint task force stateside. Our mission was casualty assistance care. Basically we informed families when their loved ones were killed in action and then helped them with the entire funeral process. A lot of the funerals we performed were for guys younger than me. It was heart wrenching. I've never experienced anything quite like having to inform someone that their son, husband, wife, our daughter was dead. Its truly awful. There is nothing you can say or do that will make it any less worse. You've just shattered their world. I'd never actually been speechless until I had to inform a widow. Im sorry just isn't good enough. There is nothing that sends chills down my spine, and makes my gut drop like the sound of a weeping widow. Its horrifying. I did this service for 479 funerals. I know because I kept a notebook of names. I always felt someone should remember. Some funerals whole towns showed up. Sometimes no one showed up. I have a lot of guilt and anger about it.
10/13 Long story short killed an entire family during the Vietnam war without showing a single emotion, we were insensitive to even the most gut churning things you could ever imagine.
A father, mother. and two daughters....our commander didn't give a shit if it had been nothing but school children in that house, everyone had to die, they were accused of harboring weapons for the Viet Cong. I have nightmares every night.
11/13 I lived in a safe house in the Kabul green zone a couple of years ago, working on ISAF HQ but moving throughout Kabul every day. The street from my compound to ISAF was filled with pedestrian traffic and these kids who would try to sell foreigners whatever trinkets they could. I got to know them since I was there every day. I got them clothes for winter, random snacks from the chow hall and we played angry birds together. They spoke with me, brought me scarves I asked for and little gifts every once in awhile, they also kept the other peddlers away.
One day a kid (12-14 years old) from elsewhere came to the area with a bomb in his backpack. He intended to kill foreigners moving in the area or target one of the compounds. The local kids noticed him and apparently told him to get lost and he detonated his bomb.
Four kids were killed along with the bomber and a couple of adults. A dozen or so injured maybe. I knew each one of the kids, Kushi a little girl who was learning to skate, Nawab, who, in my view of things looked to have a hard crush on one of the other girls who was killed....another boy had a brother a year or so older who looked just like him. I saw the one killed and saw the other a week later, trying to sell things again. It freaked me out.
I was at the site of the bombing not 30 minutes before I felt it while inside ISAF. Seeing the bodies after was a mistake, I didn't need to be there. I walked by the site every day until I left that base. The night of the attack I could still smell blood and the damp smell of wet Kabul dust mixed together. Every day I went by I could see their bodies and the surrounding gore in my head.
I have seen the aftermath of VBIEDs in Iraq where hundreds were killed, but something about knowing those faces so well. Kids that would have done well if not born into such a backwards shithole. It didn't help that right after my ex told me I deserved to see those things since I chose to be there again.
12/13 We were ordered to shoot/bayonet any bodies we came across because the militia had a habit of playing possum only to kill Coalition troops later. Well, in Iraqi summer heat, after a few days of laying there, the bodies will puff up. They get super bloated and just nasty overall. But you can't always tell, especially if they're all covered up.
Well, when you shoot/bayonet/kick a bloated body, they tend to... Pop. And out comes the nastiest smell and a disgusting liquid pus/goo. Jesus, nothing smells that bad, and the goo/puss gets all over your boots, or uniform, or rifle, or God help you, your mouth.
Much vomit was spewn forth, many memories cemented forever.
13/13 I served in the military here in Finland (as required by law) and there was this guy who chain smoked a lot and we called him "Skorsten" (swedish for chimney) his father had killed his mom and then hung himself while Skorsten was young. Skorsten was always depressed but he got along and we were good friends. Then five years after we got out I get a message from an army friend who says that Skorsten had hung himself because his girlfriend had left him for another guy. I've accepted that there was nothing I could have done but it still haunts me.
Sometimes when I go out for a smoke I still remember how he would ask me for a cigarette because he had "misplaced" his own, so I light a cigarette for him and place it on the side of the ashtray. That's my way to remember him.
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