“I teared up…and didn’t cry again for 40 years.”
–Combat veteran Bob Ness after a close friend died next to him in Vietnam.

A spooked soul lives behind the troubled eyes of a combat soldier.

A U.S. soldier of 2-12 Infantry 4BCT-4ID Task Force Mountain Warrior takes a break during a night mission near Honaker Miracle camp at the Pesh valley of Kunar Province August 12, 2009. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Whether returning from the battlefields of Kandahar, Kirkuk, Khe Sanh, or Korea, weary veterans come home with that same intense and unnerving stare…dark, swollen lines surround exhausted eyes that dart in and out of distant shadows; eyes searching for ghosts waiting to haunt the last shreds of sanity remaining inside a terrorized mind.

A U.S. Marine from Bravo Company of 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, gestures during a gun battle in the town of Marjah, in Nad Ali district of Helmand province, February 13, 2010.  REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

Veteran’s call it “the thousand yards stare.”

That playful bravado and bulletproof swagger shared on the flight overseas melts into a pool of lies once the first ear-piercing “snap” chasing the tail of a hungry bullet misses a lucky helmet; that innocent belief of invincibility is quickly replaced with the frostbitten truth that the hunter becomes hunted in battle.

Sgt. William Olas Bee, a U.S. Marine from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, has a close call after Taliban fighters opened fire near Garmsir in Helmand Province of Afghanistan, May 18, 2008. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

A random flip of the coin determines who lives under the protective wing of a merciful angel and who is left alone to run from the devil’s deadly horn; good guys die as quickly as bad guys.

U.S. Marine platoon Gunnery Sergeant, Ryan P. Shane, from the 1st Battalion of the 8th Marine Regiment, pulls a fatally wounded comrade to safety while under fire during a military operation in the Iraqi western city of Falluja, in this handout photograph released on December 17, 2004. Seconds later Sgt. Shane was also injured by nearby enemy fire, U.S. Marine officer said. REUTERS/HO/USMC/Cpl. Joel A. Chaverri

Every GI knows the tiny Bible carried over the heart is too small to hide behind in combat even as faith continues and desperate promises made under fire are honored for the remainder of a grateful life. The chain of true believers pray as one for the end of their forced march in Hell.