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Were You Scared?

Every so often, a person asks--boldly in my opinion--whether I was scared when I deployed to Afghanistan. I rarely provide a straight forward answer; it is too hard to be honest. I obscure my answer in half-truths without ever admitting the reality of war.

Truthfully, no two people experience war in the same way; and they never feel the same about it. I can speak about my experience and say, I did not want to die. I confronted the reality and would have sacrificed myself if needed, but I did not want to die. The thought of dying terrified me.  

Is the fear I felt a universal emotion or was I alone?

I deployed from Vicenza, Italy with twenty-two guys, three of whom had deployed before, the rest who had not. (Our Brigade had deployed a few months earlier and we were mid-tour replacements.) The rest of us, 2nd Lieutenants or Privates First Class, were scared--or I assumed others felt the same as I.

The fear, if it was there, was always hidden. The infantry prides itself on giving nothing away. An infantry soldier will complain, but never in a way that will make him seem weak. Weakness should be avoided at all costs. When joining a fighting force dedicated to revealing no weakness, it is expected that you will hide your emotions.

I acted the same way with my family as I would the infantry--I revealed no weakness. I was heading to danger but I avoided letting anyone know. When deploying to the Pacific in WW II, my grandpa told his family he simply drove a truck. I told my family that I was merely the truck driver’s boss.

The fear that started in Vicenza never really left throughout deployment. Routine set in eventually -- there are only so many places you can go and so many things that can happen -- but then something would change the entire focus of operations and fear would creep back.

To answer the question: yes I was scared. I was fearful of never seeing my twin brother again, never seeing my girlfriend again and never seeing home again. It worked out fine for me. As I returned from deployment, regret replaced my fear: first, the regret for those Soldiers who did not come back, and, second, for the soldiers too embarrased to admit they are scared.

three comments

Courage isn’t acting without fear, but acting inspite of it.

What about missing seeing your FATHER?

It’s a valid question in our culture. We live in a society that puts safety and security right at the top of the list. Also, the traditional notions of manhood (courage, honor and dignity) no longer apply to males in our way of life. Safety and security are feminine traits.

By joining a sort of other society (the military and more particularly the Infantry) one steps outside the conventions of the culture into alien territory. Were we a more traditional type of society the question would never arise.