Category Archives: guilt



“…The Huey was slowly rising.  The steady rhythmic thump of its engines smothered the screaming chaos below.  Looking down, I recognized pieces of men, wrapped in olive drab.  Moments ago, those things were legs, arms, and heads.  Mortar rounds were dropping everywhere.  Rounds were clattering against the bottom of the Huey.  It was so loaded with men, its’ engines were straining.  One of our abandoned dead moved and waved to us.  His legs were missing.  He waved frantically.  There was no chance of rescue.  Enemy ground movement was visible at the tree line.  No one was firing on them because we were trying to get out before we lost more men.  The Gooks had kicked the shit out of us on the ground, and destroyed three choppers unloading men.  I think our LTs were afraid to fire.  I heard, or thought I did, the legless soldier’s scream in my ear.  His motions became hysterical, as he tried to stand and realized why he could not.  The only thing in reach was my M-16, and even though it was empty and I was required to keep it that way, I could not help myself.  My motion was fast and automatic, as I took a full clip and reloaded my weapon.  Before anyone noticed, I was locked and loaded and hanging half out of the chopper.  I used it.  In that millisecond after my weapon jumped a couple times, I saw the man’s eyes glare into mine.  His face, locked in an unending scream, vanished into the swirling dust of his death.

I did not know the guy.  To this day, I can see his terrified eyes glaring their raging betrayal at me.  I hope he did not know me.  The warrant officer looked at me, and I knew he just watched me kill an American.  When he looked away, and would not meet my eyes, my shame multiplied, ten-fold.  He never mentioned the incident in his reports and I have remained silently grateful, ever since.  Jim was lying on the deck next to me.  His eyes caught mine, for a second, and he looked horrified at what I’d done, but he understood the why of it.  My eyes suddenly filled with tears at my act of kindness.  It was a violation of Army regulations and I could be in real trouble, since two men witnessed it.  This was insane.  I felt shame for doing it and knew I would do it again, no matter who was watching.  I ended his pain by taking the last few moments of his lost life.  I couldn’t stop my tears, so I hid them by taking a few shots at the victorious gooks running out of the trees.  I watched the dust and smoke drift over that unknown, unnamed place of death, until it was out of my range.”


A post submitted by E. F. Grossman’s Wife:

The horror of combat and survivor’s guilt, leaves veteran’s permanently wounded, even if they survived battle without a physical wound. They can never come home, at least, not as the people they were when they last saw their family and friends. They are unrecognizable to everyone they left behind, and far too often, to themselves, as well. That person they used to be is dead. The person that returns to the world has experienced sights, sounds, and horrors that loved ones cannot even begin to imagine, let alone understand, or relate to… so even though the veteran looks like the same person, they are not, and can never be, again.

My husband had a friend that was a former Navy Seal. Like most that served in the various branches of Special Forces, he had given years of service to his country, and had dedicated his entire life to that service. Since Seal operations are often ‘top secret’, and he took an oath to remain silent (like all special ops soldiers),. As a result, he was forced to swallow his rage and pain, and memories.

He began his service in his youth. The Seals became his only family. When one of his teammates, his closest friend through many missions, and many years, died in his arms, it hit him harder than anything else he had ever experienced. The trauma was so great, that he could no longer function. He was hospitalized, and eventually ‘retired’ from the Navy.

He came home to a world he could not recognize, and tried to blend in. He took a job as a mechanic, but could not hold it. He had a small pension that allowed him to live, but he could not work, or go to school, even though his benefits would have provided an education, he could not keep the focus required for college. Mind you, this was a highly intelligent man. The Seals don’t take dummies. He was just lost in wounds, so permanent that they would never stop bleeding.

His mother could not understand him, even though his father had been a military man. His brother, who had served twenty years in the Army on a base in California, had never seen combat, and could not relate to him at all. He had no friends in the outside world, having joined the Navy at eighteen. He felt most comfortable in that underworld of society, often referred to as ‘outlaw’; because so many in that world were fellow veterans whose experiences were close to his own. They provided him with a foundation of family that he could relate to, since his own family, and society in general, had driven him away. Even when he found a lady and fell in love, she told him to “…just get over it!”

He could not. None of them can.

If you love a combat veteran, you must love them enough to accept them as they are, if you are ever to be able to help them learn to cope back in the world.