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12 Soldiers Explain What They Don’t Tell You about Going to War

Photo via [Aubrey Arcangel / flickr Creative Commons](https://www.flickr.com/photos/ob1/3257608)

Photo via Aubrey Arcangel / flickr Creative Commons

Reddit asked an interesting question to their military users. They wanted to know what the soldiers weren’t told about going to war. Imagine risking your life not knowing what you’re even risking it for. Explore other stories of insight with our friends over at AskReddit.


BENEFITS OF WAR
There’s a place where you don’t have to worry about your bills, mortgage, family, in-laws, homework, or neighbors. You can’t get busted by the cops or shut down for having too good of a time. You’re with your best friends in a valley for months and you get to fly in helicopters a couple times a week. You get to go camping all the time, and you’ll be in the best shape of your life. You’ll get paid more than you’ve ever been paid in your life. Seriously. It’s tax-free. You get girl scout cookies at a certain point, and then it seems like every officer (and some of the medics) somehow never runs out. You don’t have to do or fold your laundry, and you don’t even have to get out of bed to pee. You shoot the biggest and coolest guns you’ve ever seen or heard of - and, goddamn, you shoot them a lot.

And then you get back and you’re 21 and drinking a bottle of liquor every night with your best friends, because you can afford it and it’s a damn good time. Everyone at work thinks you’re a hero and listens to what you have to say. What you say, goes. You are the expert in your field because you’ve earned the right through the blood, sweat, and tears you poured into something you didn’t even really think about over the past year or so. It’s just part of the job - deal with it, guys. The Army pats you on the butt on the way out and the Department of Labor says you’ll do well getting a job going out - thanks for training the medics to replace you!

You get home and it feels like leave. You think “now it’s real”. College classes are easy and part-time work is a joke. The VA is the hardest thing, because they ask you to describe in detail every ache and pain and irregularity you suffer - multiple times, to multiple people, and why. Each time you remember, you remember a little more, but it never feels like you had an incomplete picture to begin with. You remember the explosion, and you remember running your lieutenant to the bunker. It’s your fourth or fifth firefight, and it’s only his first one. He’s cowering and trying to get his armor back on because he was giving a radio class to Afghans, but with the sound of incoming and outgoing gunfire praying to find each other, he can barely move.

You laugh, and look to see if the story makes anyone else laugh. Instead, there are three horrified teenagers from your group project staring back at you.

You miss that place. You miss it, and you got shot at every day, and you can’t explain to anyone why.

MEANINGFUL EXISTENCE
That there ARE people who appreciate you being there. Maybe you were told that before you get there, but when you see the state it’s in, you don’t believe it. This image is burned into my head and literally made me tear up when I saw it. It was literally our first day out on patrol on our own (meaning those who were training us and teaching us the ropes when we arrived, had left) and we leave the gate and right outside the gate, there was this little boy (around 10 years old) was standing on this mound and was saluting us as we were driving by. I mean it really hit my in the soft spot and really proved that there are people out there who want us there for protection and security (even though there were attacks by insurgents or forced attacks by farmers) but they felt safer with us there.

Not only that but if someone needs help, they flag US down. If there was some kind of incident, they didn’t go to the Iraqi Army for help, they searched for us and flagged us down and sent us over there because they knew we would know what to do.

When I was there, unlike fucking stateside, I felt like I had a god damn purpose. I left like my life had meaning and every god damn waking day I wish I was back in the military. I wish I didn’t get UC, I wish my back didn’t get fucked up, I wish I could have handled my mental state, I wish I would have had a more positive outlook while I was serving stateside, but it’s in the past but still it eats me up every day. I guess that’s one other thing they don’t tell you. For some of us, deployment gave us a purpose, and when we are done, we feel like we don’t have a purpose anymore.

SNEAKY ENEMIES
The enemies look like people and the people look like enemies

SOBERING THOUGHTS
Wasn’t a soldier, but was a sailor. One thing they never tell you is that you’ll lose more friends to suicide than any other reason.

HOT ASS MEETS DEATH
Nobody ever talks about the smell. That’s what’s most vivid in my memory. You watch movies that show war and you talk to guys that have already been there, but you never think about what it will smell like until you’re clearing buildings, have to pop someone in the head for the first time, and then that smell hits you. Maybe it’s the combo of blood and gun smoke, but it reminded me of how your hands smell after holding a swing set chain. Between having to go weeks without showering, burning your own shit and garbage, and the dead people that aren’t always properly interred… yea war is a smelly ass place.

NOT SO HOLLYWOOD
You’ll die for no reason without any time to react. It won’t be like that heroic favorite movie of yours.

WAR CASUALTIES
That you are killing children. By direct fire, by indirect fire, by directing fire.

There was this one girl they brought to Camp Warehouse when I was on guard, legs gone, shrapnel all over her body, somehow still alive. They just dropped her out of a taxi and took off. You get closer to her and you realize she is alive. You see the damage, you want to help, yet you stay back because you remember the last time they lured you into a trap and rigged a corpse with explosives. She breathes and says something you don’t understand. Someone yells orders to stand back and get EOD. You can’t leave her there. You just move and pick her up while someone yells at you to not touch her. She looks at you with a face of innocence and pain. You turn around and carry her inside the camp to medical. Now everyone helps. You hand her over and stay outside. Your sergeant starts yelling at you but his words don’t reach you.

You later learn that she died. At the briefing the next week the incident comes up again. She didn’t step on a mine, she was hit by a 40 mm round during fighting. The guys who dropped her off were too afraid we’d shoot them too.

War just sucks man, there is nothing heroic about it, it is just a giant tragedy. And its coming home with you.

INTENSE 5 MINUTES
I’d say less than 5% of the military have actually seen real combat. Also, combat is an hour of boredom and 5 minutes of extreme fright.

TORCHED TURDS
Shit burning detail. Did that in Baghdad back in ‘03. It took about 3 hours for it to become ash.

EXPLICIT TRUTH
They can’t prepare you for a human being dying in front of you. It’s not like Hollywood where they tell you something important before they die; they cry, scream, shit & piss themselves, beg to stay alive or, worse yet, they just stop being there. The biggest thing they don’t tell you is how to put up with fucking civilians asking questions about shit they have no right to ask about.

But, the number one, biggest thing they tell don’t ever you about war is this; some of you will like it a little too much.

NOT COOL BRO
There’s a fairly good chance that your wife or girlfriend will be living with another man when you return. There is a very good chance that she was poked by at least one other penis while you were gone.

STEREOTYPES UNTRUE
The number of gay people.

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