So there I was flying combat missions daily in the F4 over Cambodia in 1973 and a letter comes from my sister and she asks “How does it feel to kill someone?” To say it pissed me off at the time is an understatement .
Hollywood makes being in combat seem so easy in the movies. The hero pulls the trigger and then moves on. Of course it is seldom that easy.
I have known many veterans, from family members to good friends and comrades in arms. Many of them have been in combat, many have fired weapons in combat, or dropped bombs in combat, they are and were brave men. They talk about flying, they talk about assignments and shared times with each other. They talk about their service.
What I have never heard them talk about is the act of killing in combat.
To ask someone how it feels to kill someone in combat cheapens their service. It negates their personal sacrifices. It puts them in a position of trying to explain it to someone, who can’t even begin to fathom it, what they have gone through.
Even if they have gone through a similar situation, Vets don’t ask other vets about combat. They know this instinctively.
When I decided to fly in the Air Force and selected the F4 for my aircraft, I also accepted on some level that I might be called up to kill someone. Granted I didn’t think about it much; even after I arrived in Thailand, the thought seldom crossed my mind. Even today more than 40 years later, I do not dwell on this. I also know that in the course of the bombs that were dropped in war so long ago, this may have happened or it may have not.
I recently was at an event, and someone innocently said to a friend, whose son was serving in Iraq, “that he was too good for cannon fodder.” Perhaps the person meant it to be a positive statement. This upset my friend terribly, a man who had himself served in Vietnam. He did not view his son’s service this way, he saw it as an honorable thing. This disparaged his son’s service in a very clueless manner. He had every reason to be upset.
When my sister wrote to me all those years ago, I don’t know her motivation for asking me about killing.
But I do know this: there are things that are not said and areas that are not entered lightly.