Colors. I know people have died trying to protect it. It’s a sign, a symbol, an insignia. You can display it, fly it as a flag, and you can even wear it. And when you wear it, you can die in it. When you wear it, it becomes a huge part of what you are. To me the uniform is extremely important. It tells others who you are and exactly what you stand for.

In ancient Japan, the samurai had elaborate battle dress that still impresses us today. These elaborate battle dress were not used to simply impress however. The obvious reason was to show others who he was and which side he belonged to. But the significant reason was that the outfit the warrior wore was to be properly dressed for his death in combat. The warrior wore the elaborate battle dress so that he could die in it and show the victor who he was and what he stood for.

To me, that is pure honor. If I am going to die in combat I want to die with honor.

Some fighters though, do not wear a uniform or battle dress, rather they wear the clothes of the innocents. They wear these regular streets clothes to hide amongst women and children, ready to use them as shields for their own lives. Those who do this and die without a uniform – a ideal to represent – die without honor and as a coward.

We Weren’t There

We weren’t the first ones and we won’t be the last either. Only we know exactly what we did. Whether what we did was righteous or wrong, we wouldn’t admit it. There we others like us, they were from other places. The public had to be shielded from the kind of things we did. They didn’t need to know. It was for their and our own good, they said. The government couldn’t do it because if they did somebody would have asked questions and somebody would have to answer those questions. But if private citizens has volunteered to do the job then it was a donation for a cause.

It was complicated, but it was real simple too. It was the good guys against the bad guys. The government didn’t want to get involved, but they were eyeballs deep in it already. Nobody would admit to knowing anything about it.

It was complicated because the bad guys were complicated. They didn’t belong there. They figured out how to be bad guys in places that were easy to be bad guys. So the people who didn’t belong there either had to go get them without embarrassing or involving the governments.

So that’s why what we did didn’t happen – and we weren’t there either.

But we were there.

Some government people were there too. When they were there, nobody could tell who was whom, and we liked it that way. We could hide amongst ourselves. That way we were more efficient in doing things that were never done.

We’d always win, but it’s not only the bad guys who’d loose. And we would have causalities too. We have lost too many of our guys trying to stop the insanity. Those who were helpless and clueless for all the reasons not their own, for no fault of their own, also paid prices too high to pay for this insanity.

We weren’t there to conquer land or people, we were there to help. To get the bad guys. We were the clean-up crew, basically. The trash collectors.

Nobody cared about the janitors until something didn’t get cleaned up. So if everything was clean, nobody cared. So just like those who weren’t there cleaning up a mess that also wasn’t there, somebody will still be there cleaning up a mess that doesn’t exist. I bet you that there somebody there right now, and if not, somebody will be.

The Look of Experience, the Look of Burden

We were told that we’d be meeting up with the oldest and the most experienced team of the company to back them up in an attempt to take down a rather large heroine production operation out in the high lands, near the border.

We, I was, more curious about meeting up with these guys more so than being anxious about the job we were given. As I understood it, some of these operators were doing this since the mid 70’s, right about the time America left Vietnam. In essence, these guys were in the business long before the company went into business over there.

Weather beaten would be a decent phrase to describe their appearance. Or, just beaten. Their skin looked just like leather. Tough and tanned and wrinkled.

To be completely honest, it was the look in their eyes that scared me. It wasn’t that they’d kill me and eat me for a snack kind of scared, but it was something in their eyes that I found familiar that scared me.

We all heard stories about how once a soldier accepts his fate, as in “he’s dead already” fate, the soldier becomes a far more fierce and effective fighting force. There is a look about these fighters, fighters who’ve already considered themselves dead. But that wasn’t all they had.  There was something else there too. It took me a while to figure that out.

It took us a few days to prep for the job. We all had to know what we were doing, and what the other guys were doing, too. During the down time, we’d all get together and eat, or light up a cigarette or just relax. And we’d be cordial and strike up a conversation with these old timers, out of respect.

Our reception was, however, tepid at best.

They weren’t unfriendly, nor were they friendly. It seemed as if they wanted us to not approach them, to not befriend them.

Then it hit me. That look that I wasn’t sure of, but was somewhat familiar with. It was sadness. It’s hard even for me to decipher how one person can have the look of a killer, a witness of unimaginable atrocities, a survivor of decades of combat and maintain the pride of an honest man, but to be in a group of men who all had that same look in their eyes.

I’ve seen things one shouldn’t see. I can’t imagine the things these men have seen, and the number of times they’ve seen those things. They all carried the burden of someone who had been to hell and decided to stay and fight there instead of bringing the fight to where all the innocent live. It was as if they didn’t want to bring the war home with them.  But they knew it was too late. Anyone could see that. They became the war; and it had consumed them a long time ago.

Tears for Bullets

I wish I had the talent to be a baseball player. They say there’s no crying in baseball. For that matter, I wish I had the talent to be anything other than what I did. Maybe a chef, a carpenter, jeweler, engineer, anything other than what I’ve been doing.  Although I was working as an export broker, the only talent that was needed was to manage what was already there.  In other words, there was no talent needed.

Then, one day, I was up to my eyeballs in misery. The misery of being yelled at by someone who was training you so that you could survive different kinds of miseries. Misery of living in leech infested jungle, the misery of staying awake for days at a time, the misery of living in and witnessing the horrors of human atrocities, etc.

I often asked myself, “how in the hell did I ever get myself in this mess?”

Then we’d go out in on an assignment. Some of us were more able to handle the situation better than others, but we’d all come out physically uninjured.

Physically uninjured. From the outside, it all looks fine.  That’s because no one can see the wounds that fester on the inside.

There’s not much anyone can do for the dead, but for those who are barely alive, or the ones about to die, we tried to do what we could. We were able to do more for those who were still left alive; we would give them food, shelter, medicine. And perhaps try to answer their questions of why did this had to happen to them.

It was times like these that would recharge us. It reminded us of why we were there in the first place. Most, if not all of us, hid the anger that exploded inside of us. We sought for release of the pressure by hunting down the motherfuckers that made us answer to the question we could not answer.

Most of time, the answers came at the end of the barrel of our weapons making a series of loud bangs. At least we believe it was the answer. Maybe, just maybe, if we shot enough bullets, if those bullets hit enough of the bad guys, the question would simply cease to be.

It wasn’t, and never had been, and it never will. The military types would come by afterwards and take some of them into custody. Other times, they’d carry them out in big black plastic bags with handles on them.

We thought we were the strong enough to prevail through all this. We were trained to survive the misery. We even had somebody yelling in our faces so that we could stand up to all this shit.

We were wrong. We were, oh, so wrong.

Witnessing death in a massive scale is one thing. Witnessing death on personal level is another. Trying to answer questions on a personal level such as these can never be answered. No matter how many bullets were fired. No matter how many times one achieves revenge, on a personal level. It just cannot be done, and the question lingers on, and on and on. Soon the question becomes infected inside of those who tried to answer the question which has no answer.

But we try to answer the question; it hurts not to. We know deep down inside that there is no answer, but we still try. The more we try, the more it hurts. Day after day, we try to answer that rancid question. We try, we try, and we fail.

Every fucking time the question comes up unexpectedly in a totally unrelated conversation, or hearing a sound that you’ve heard before, or if the fucking wind blows in the wrong fucking direction – anything – yet again, we fail to answer the question.

That failure hurts; it hurts in a way that now my tears have replaced the bullets. I would’ve run out of bullets if that answered the question, but I’ll never run out of tears. Maybe the tears will one day answer the question, maybe. But in the meantime, the infection that lives inside of us will keep hurting.

“Physically uninjured?” they’d ask.

“Yup,” we’d answer “Physically uninjured.”

I Am Mud

It’s raining like I’ve never seen before. Makes Texas rain storms look like spring showers. It’s hard to believe rain drops could be so huge.

I’m balls deep in a leech infested mud puddle the locals use for some sort of irrigation control. I’m walking forward towards the other side of this mud hole and it gets deeper every step I take. I’m holding my M-4 above my head, but the huge rain drops splash mud all over my face and on my rifle.  I’m covered in mud and it’s everywhere. In my ear, up my nose, and the fucking leeches are sucking my blood, I just know it.

Then the rain stops, just like that. And only after a few moments, the fucking sun comes out. If it wasn’t for all the water everywhere, it’s like it never rained before.

I’m making my way towards the other side of the pond when I hear screams. I look around and I see a face looking back at me, smiling. I recognize the face. This punk is on the wanted list, the “apprehend if possible” list. For us, it meant shoot on sight list.

I look closer and I see he’s got a young woman on the ground and he’s on top of her. She’s struggling and fighting but he’s too strong for this young woman. He’s ripped off her clothes and he’s already raped her.

I aim my gun and squeeze the trigger but the mud jammed the receiver and it won’t clear.

I hear another scream and I look up to see the bastard holding a knife up over his head ready to stab the woman. I’m doing my best to clear the gun but it just will not clear. I try to run over to where they’re at but the mud is so thick I can’t move. I reach for my sidearm but it’s stuck in my holster. I’m all pissed off and scared for this woman. I can’t do anything but try to scream but the humidity keeps my voice from coming out.

I look up again and I see nothing but total fear on her face, crying out for me to help her but I can’t do anything. Then I see the fucking smile on this piece of shit’s face. I know what he’s going to do; he’s about to stab her. And I can’t stop him and the worst part of it, is that he knows I can’t do anything.

I hear her cry out, “Help me, please…”

Then I see blood everywhere.

I yell out in rage.

I feel a touch on my arm, and it’s shaking me. Then I hear a familiar voice, “Honey, wake up. You’re dreaming again. “

I wake up, confused, pissed off and totally helpless. It’s that dream again. The one that leaves me paralyzed; Fucked up for days. 0330. I guess it’s time to get up.