“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.