People are naturally curious about what Veterans experienced during war, and it’s a good thing that people want to know more and understand it.
However, the question I’m always baffled by is the one people tend to lead with most often.
“Did you kill anyone?”
To me, that’s like asking someone to read a choose your-own-ending book; “go back to page 4 and re-read one of the most difficult experiences in your life.”
It’s in the Ten Commandments, “Thou Shalt Not Kill.” We are trained to think about killing as no longer taboo when it’s in defense of our country or our comrades. We have to kill our enemies, lest they kill us.
But not everything in war is as simple as Hollywood makes it.
I was a radio operator in the Marine Corps, so my trigger time was limited. Most of my duties were related to calling in air strikes and requesting MedEvac helicopters to get wounded Marines to a hospital.
But I will never forget Feb. 14, 2010. It was Valentines day, and I was sitting in the Regiment Command Post outside of Marjah, in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
A call came up from a platoon of Marines who were pinned down by sniper fire coming from a house. They had a wounded Marine and needed to stop to get him out. They sent me the coordinates for the building, and after the Colonel gave approval, we sent a rocket out that way.
*BOOM* I heard the impact, even though I was miles away. What happened next still haunts me. Wounded civilians were pouring out of the house we had just hit. We didn’t know they were in there, and there was no way we could have known.
An investigation found that the rocket hit the right house, but that doesn’t change the fact that my actions led to the death of civilians; my actions killed people.
Those people weren’t enemies. They didn’t fit into that neat box of “kill or be killed.” That questions is complicated and messy and I still have trouble figuring it out.