19 Soldiers Reveal The One Thing Nobody Tells You About Going To War.
Soldiers of Reddit were asked: "What are things they don't tell you about going to war?" These are some of the best answers.
1/19 You'll die for no reason without any time to react. It won't be like that heroic favourite movie of yours.
2/19 Nobody ever talks about the smell. That's what's most vivid in my memory. You watch movies that show war and you talk to guys that have already been there, but you never think about what it will smell like until you're clearing buildings, have to pop someone in the head for the first time, and then that smell hits you. Maybe it's the combo of blood and gun smoke, but it reminded me of how your hands smell after holding a swing set chain. Between having to go weeks without showering, burning your own shit and garbage, and the dead people that aren't always properly interred... yea war is a smelly ass place.
3/19 There's a place where you don't have to worry about your bills, mortgage, family, in-laws, homework, or neighbors. You can't get busted by the cops or shut down for having too good of a time. You're with your best friends in a valley for months and you get to fly in helicopters a couple times a week. You get to go camping all the time, and you'll be in the best shape of your life. You'll get paid more than you've ever been paid in your life. Seriously. It's tax-free. You get girl scout cookies at a certain point, and then it seems like every officer (and some of the medics) somehow never runs out. You don't have to do or fold your laundry, and you don't even have to get out of bed to pee. You shoot the biggest and coolest guns you've ever seen or heard of - and, goddamn, you shoot them a lot.
And then you get back and you're 21 and drinking a bottle of liquor every night with your best friends, because you can afford it and it's a damn good time. Everyone at work thinks you're a hero and listens to what you have to say. What you say, goes. You are the expert in your field because you've earned the right through the blood, sweat, and tears you poured into something you didn't even really think about over the past year or so. It's just part of the job - deal with it, guys. The Army pats you on the butt on the way out and the Department of Labor says you'll do well getting a job going out - thanks for training the medics to replace you! You get home and it feels like leave. You think "now it's real." College classes are easy and part-time work is a joke. The VA is the hardest thing, because they ask you to describe in detail every ache and pain and irregularity you suffer - multiple times, to multiple people, and why. Each time you remember, you remember a little more, but it never feels like you had an incomplete picture to begin with.
You remember the explosion, and you remember running your lieutenant to the bunker. It's your fourth or fifth firefight, and it's only his first one. He's cowering and trying to get his armor back on because he was giving a radio class to Afghans, but with the sound of incoming and outgoing gunfire praying to find each other, he can barely move. You laugh, and look to see if the story makes anyone else laugh. Instead, there are three horrified teenagers form your group project staring back at you.
You miss that place. You miss it, and you got shot at every day, and you can't explain to anyone why.
4/19 The enemies look like people and the people look like enemies.
5/19 That you are killing children. By direct fire, by indirect fire, by directing fire.
There was this one girl they brought to Camp Warehouse when I was on guard, legs gone, shrapnel all over her body, somehow still alive. They just dropped her out of a taxi and took off. You get closer to her and you realize she is alive. You see the damage, you want to help, yet you stay back because you remember the last time they lured you into a trap and rigged a corpse with explosives. She breathes and says something you don't understand. Someone yells orders to stand back and get EOD. You cant leave her there. You just move and pick her up while someone yells at you to not touch her. She looks at you with a face of innocence and pain. You turn around and carry her inside the camp to medical. Now everyone helps. You hand her over and stay outside. Your sergeant starts yelling at you but his words don't reach you.
You later learn that she died. At the briefing the next week the incident comes up again. She didn't step on a mine, she was hit by a 40 mm round during fighting. The guys who dropped her off were too afraid we shoot them too. War just sucks man, there is nothing heroic about it, it is just a giant tragedy. And its coming home with you.
6/19 Shit burning detail. Did that in Baghdad back in '03. It took about 3 hours for it to become ash.
7/19 They can't prepare you for a human being dying in front of you. It's not like Hollywood where they tell you something important before they die; they cry, scream, shit & piss themselves, beg to stay alive or, worse yet, they just stop being there. The biggest thing they don't tell you is how to put up with f*cking civilians asking questions about shit they have no right to ask about.
But, the number one, biggest thing they tell don't ever you about war is this; some of you will like it a little too much.
8/19 No matter what they say you are never prepared to come home. It's so different and your sense of imagination is 10 fold. I saw a woman holding a gun to a man's stomach... I blink and take another look it's his f*cking wallet that he dropped and I was about to tackle her... Idk it's just hard
9/19 That just because you're infantry, that doesn't always mean that you're going to get f*cked up, and everyone else isn't. I was an infantryman who went to Iraq. My younger brother was in Communications and he went to Afghanistan. I drove from base to base hoping to not get hit by IEDs while looking for suspicious people, places, objects on the road, etc.My brother sat on one base the entire time he was there working with radios and satellites.
Our base was never attacked, but we did find some rockets once set to launch at our base. EOD destroyed them. My brother's base was hit almost daily. Farmers with RPGs firing randomly. Mortars coming in randomly. Well, one time was too random for my brother. He was sitting in a bunker waiting for the attack to be over when the women's shower was hit with a few mortars. It blew the building all to shit. There were women in there showering at the time. A few were killed, and my brother saw one crawl out of the rubble, who was blown in half.
I came home with bad knees and anger issues. My brother came home with a broken body, mind, and spirit. Shit like that was supposed to happen to me, not him.
10/19 That it never washes off. It will always be your highest and lowest point in your life.
11/19 That there ARE people who appreciate you being there. Maybe you were told that before you get there, but when you see the state it's in, you don't believe it. This image is burned into my head and literally made me tear up when I saw it. It was literally our first day out on patrol on our own (meaning those who were training us and teaching us the ropes when we arrived, had left) and we leave the gate and right outside the gate, there was this little boy (around 10 years old) was standing on this mound and was saluting us as we were driving by. I mean it really f*cking hit my in the soft spot and really proved that there are people out there who want us there for protection and security (even though there were attacks by insurgents or forced attacks by farmers) but they felt safer with us there.
Not only that but if someone needs help, they flag US down. If there was some kind of incident, they didn't go to the Iraqi Army for help, they searched for us and flagged us down and sent us over there because they knew we would know what to do.
When I was there, unlike f*cking stateside, I felt like I had a god damn purpose. I left like my life had meaning and every god damn waking day I wish I was back in the military. I wish I didn't get UC, I wish my back didn't get f*cked up, I wish I could have handled my mental state, I wish I would have had a more positive outlook while I was serving stateside, but it's in the past but still it eats me up every f*cking day. I guess that's one other thing they don't tell you. For some of us, deployment gave us a purpose, and when we are done, we feel like we don't have a purpose anymore.
12/19 Joining the military isn't the hard part. Going to war isn't the hard part. Getting out and returning to "real" life is.
13/19 When you get back, people are going to assume that you have PTSD and will be remarkably vocal about it given that they have zero military experience. Anything that you do differently is going to be chalked up to some kind of mental issue. And while, yes, you're not going to come back exactly the same I think it's unrealistic to not expect someone to change at all over the course of an entire goddamn year regardless of where they are or what they're doing.
You're going to be asked remarkable stupid questions for years. Did I kill any one? (Did you parents teach you to think before you talk?) Your civilian co-workers are going to give you shit for being "too happy" at work just because you have a sense of perspective and don't get bent out of shape about the stupid, piddling minor inconveniences that you face at your new job.
People with no military experience will also forever and always try to tell you "what you went through" because they watched Hurt Locker or American Sniper. I think this is linked to the assumption that all Vets have PTSD.
14/19 You have to shoot at people with babies strapped to them.
15/19 You're never really the same. You get back and you want to be left alone. You don't feel that you're special for the things you did, but you don't want civilians to forget. Every movie or tv show that shows war somehow gets it all wrong and it fills you with rage. Every "thank you for your service" feels fake, like a requirement. Everything back home is upsetting, does anyone remember that there's a war? Why is everybody so interested in a tv show about people singing? Those people singing haven't done anything special, they don't know what it's like to be scared shitless every night. Nobody could possibly understand what you've been through. Even other soldiers didn't have the same experience. You weren't at this place a this time so how could you understand?
My war was the worst war. My tragedy is the most tragic. So you drink to stop being so angry. You drink so maybe you can laugh again. You drink because F*ck you! I've served my goddamned country, what did you ever do? No one gets it, how could anyone? You wife wants to help, but she already looks like she's constantly disappointed in you, she doesn't know what you've done for this family. So you stuff it down, try to get your shit together, get out of the Army, get a civilian job. You still hate everyone, they haven't done shit for this country. You grab a beer with the dirty civilians from work, all of them act nervous around you. Like you are some sort of experiment that they need to keep an eye on.
One civilian opens up to you about how his mother killed herself a few months ago, and asks how you deal with loss. Another talks about the cancer that killed their father. Another about the car crash that killed a friend. Wait....what? Theses civilians had tragedy too? Nah f*ck that, they can't know what it feels like. They don't know, my war is the worst war. But wait, how can I dismiss their tragedy and expect them to always care about what I've been through? We all have tragedy, maybe mine was just compounded and compacted into a shorter time, but as it turns out, I'm not special. We are all in this together. Maybe I'm not the same, but I am not alone in facing this. ----so there's that and how it takes some time getting used to driving again and how you have to pay for energy drinks and water bottles again.
16/19 I'd say less than 5% of the military have actually seen real combat. Also, combat is an hour of boredom and 5 minutes of extreme fright.
17/19 Boredom. Absolute, numbing boredom. After the first mission when you expect every rock and road sign to be an IED and reality sets in. That's when the boredom sets in. Boredom on a mission, after the boring mission you return to a boring rack where you spend the next few hours bored until a meal comes up. Then you go eat a boring MRE. After chow, only a sprinkling of a few hours filled with boredom before you can go to sleep in order to wake up and survive another day so packed full of boredom that you regret falling asleep when you wake up. Then one day on a mission, shit hits the fan and for a few hours you are living life 120 mph by the second. Adrenaline makes everything a blur and crystal clear all at the same time. When what seems like all day finally passed and you realize it's been a few hours the crushing weight of life comes back and the absolute soul crushing realization hits you.
If you thought things were boring before then now it would be an existence of nothing. Your life is an endless channel of nothing but static waiting for the next flash of some faint image coming through the background and just as quick as it appeared it's gone. The boredom of before becomes an intolerable carousel of the same fake scenery passing by on a daily basis. Wake up. Eat. Mission. Sleep. Only the order changes. If you're lucky (unlucky) combat might enter the equation but more often then not it doesn't. Then after a certain amount of scenery rounds your time is up and it's your turn to go home. But hey it'll be better when you're home cause you'll be back in your old life. But your old life has zero chance of combat and that realization makes your old life you were so desperate to get back to seem...boring. For some people this is when thoughts of suicide creep in and without a support structure they start to entertain those thoughts. Luckily though, I had support.
18/19 The sound of thousands of people chanting their prayers in the distance surrounding you in the early morning is one of the most haunting things I have ever heard. Could be beautiful, but knowing that some of the people you can hear are going to try to kill you later makes it creepy as f*ck.
19/19 The things they taught in the 3 month train up were completely wrong compared to how things ran in country. For example, we deployed in '05, after the surge and on the cusp of the IED outbreak. In training their tactic for a far side ambush was to pull the vehicles into a diamond formation and return fire. Near side, pull a herringbone and return. Both had the likelihood of getting you targeted either by an IED or indirect mortar fire. All stateside training goes out the window when boots hit the ground and the real learning begins on the right-seat ride alongs with the outgoing unit... if you choose to listen. If you're part of a hard headed unit that chooses not to (looking at you Texas guard), then you're going to lose a lot of people learning the hard way.
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When you're a kid most adults will tell you one thing or another is "cool" and "fun." Odds are you're too young to form any kind of opinion on the matter one way or another. You're a kid, right? You don't know what you're eating for breakfast. However, when you get older and form that larger worldview, you realize that yeah, maybe that one time when you were a kid actually wasn't fun.
These are those stories.