While the subject of this essay happens to be my guys, "The Infantryman" - the Grunt, the attributes described herein can be associated with every man and woman serving in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard. As I sit in my living room here in Tokyo at 10 PM on Wed. night my time, watching the reports on FOX News of US and British forces moving into their assembly areas in the Kuwaiti DMZ, my heart is with every one of them, my own memories come flooding back. I've tasted that unique flavor of excitement, apprehension, self doubt, and confidence that every soldier experiences as he gets ready for combat. My heart is beating just a little faster, I'm a little more aware of my surroundings, and while I fight ultimately for my country and to defend its way of life, of a more immediate nature I will fight for my buddy, I don't want to fail and let him down at his time of greatest need, as I KNOW that he will stand by me.
I have thoughts of home, my parents, girl friend or boy friend, husband or wife, children and friends, trying to picture the normal course of their lives as I prepare myself for the ultimate test. What are they doing at this exact same minute? While I have fleeting thoughts of being killed or wounded, I quickly push those out of my mind, replaced by trust and faith in my buddies, my training, my leaders, and most importantly, my own invincibility. My only real fear is - how will I react the first time a bullet zings my way, will I turn and run, will I cower in fear, or will I do my duty? As a young officer responsible for the lives of many of these Grunts, I wonder if I'm up to that awesome task, will I be able to lead, will they follow me, will I get any of them killed or wounded? How will I deal with my own fears and still do my duty to my men and to my country. Why are my palms sweaty and my hands shaking just a little bit as I light up that last cigarette? And I also find time for that final prayer, that fervent promise to God that I will lead a better life if he will just guide me and assure that I do my duty.
While for me the sound of bugles had been replaced by the sound of helicopter blades as my transportation landed to take me to potential combat, for most of these modern grunts the sound will be of vehicle engines racing as they head across the line of departure. Many others will ride in helicopters, will sail in ships or pilot planes as they head into Iraq. At that moment they will experience the most intense, most exhilarating feeling of their lives. For those who have never experienced these phenomena, the adrenaline pounds through your veins so loudly that you imagine the whole world can hear you coming. There is no other feeling like it, it's a rush.
Please excuse me if you think that I'm over emotional tonight, but it occurred to me that very few people know what really goes on in the mind of a soldier at a time like this. If this description helps you to realize that these folks are your neighbors beneath their uniforms, and inside their chariots of war, then this effort is worth it. Maybe some of these emotions result from a feeling of isolationism because not only am I not with them, but I'm not even at home with the rest of you. However, the primary emotion is because those folks and I are kindred spirits, I've been where they're going. Please, whatever your political beliefs or thoughts about the validity of this action, please take a moment to wish these folks God Speed, they are going out tonight to protect all of us and to ensure the continuance of our way of life. Surely they deserve a moment's thought and brief prayer.