I don’t mean frightened by reading a horror novel, seeing a scary movie, walking through a spook-house, hearing scary stories around the campfire or having to go into the basement after it’s dark. I’m talking more about the fear you experience when your very life is in danger such as being in battle during a war, those seconds prior to an imminent automobile accident or when falling from the roof of your house, street fights, getting robbed or discovering that you are in the house alone with a burglar.
Some of those experiences above happen so quickly that fear doesn’t even have a chance to manifest itself – most likely, there is only enough time to say “Oh shit” before dying. Other occurrences may only happen once in a lifetime, and only for a few moments or maybe several hours, but then if you survive it’s over with.
Now consider those deployments by military personnel in war, be it Vietnam, Iraq or anywhere else in the world. Running patrols to seek out the enemy is like walking through a spook-house. You are expecting something to happen any moment now. It could be a live person or some prop lurking around every corner, ready to jump out at you. At times, spook-houses can be scary, but after exiting, you are able to take a deep breath and laugh about the experience. In a war, this fear continues day in and day out; a prop or live individual jumping out from its hiding place could kill you in an instant. You are always on heightened alert and the adrenaline boils over, looking for an outlet. Even when returning to the base after a patrol, you are still afraid of incoming snipers, mortars, rockets and ground attacks.
Night is the worst, especially in Vietnam, where visibility is limited to only a couple of feet in the dark jungle. Not only are you scared of the enemy, who may be out there watching you, but you also have to worry about what may crawl into your sleep area with you during the night. Scorpion’s, lizards, snakes, spiders, centipedes, and other creatures of the night may be attracted to your warmth and cozy up to you. It is pitch black outside and if you feel something drop on you or come in contact with any part of your body, you just can’t sit up and turn on the light to investigate. Instead, you have to “man up” and just lay there hoping for the best. Thankfully we were so young back then, because every night heart attacks were just waiting to happen.
Yeah, I was really scared for that entire year and continue to react nervously whenever a car engine backfires, fire crackers pop or when thunderstorms pass through the area.
Do you agree? Can you share examples of your own? If you’ve survived a war – WELCOME HOME!