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One Shot to the Head

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Dark Horse Comics tried to create a comics universe a few years back and one of the characters was simply named X and he had a series lasting 25 issues and some specials. One of them was titled: X-One Shot to the Head which reprinted some earlier stories that weren't in his regular book.

Yes I'm setting up the scene.

There is a grim reason for the above title.

I considered What Cost Glory? or perhaps -again grimly--The Price of Fear. If you are disturbed by real life violence STOP READING NOW.

Fair warning given.

My second son Daniel has been in Afghanistan since January serving as an Explosive Ordanance Disposal (EOD) officer (1st Lieutenant) in charge of taking out bombs (IED I think they call them--my mind is drawing a blank.)

He is very good at his job and I am very proud of his career and how well he has turned out.

He was supposed to come home on leave next month. I was expecting him around the 15th partially based on a Facebook reference from one of his best friends who was double checking the information.

Instead he showed up two days ago--unannounced and totally unexpected. My boss gave me the night off--as I was already at work and prepared to finish the shift. Dan left my house before I got home but we talked a bit on the phone and he was going to visit Friday. I make a joke about a 20 minute visit (which spoiled the last time he was home as he was very bored and stayed long enough to be polite but he had other things he'ld rather be doing. I treated my parents very much this way so I shrug it off to God's justice and decide to settle.

Friday he arrives early and the visit goes very well. Stays almost 90 minutes--a new record. He shows me the citation for a Bronze Star (his second) for being part of a bomb blast that didn't kill anyone but took out the jeep they ran over it with. He had a concussion but he took care of his men. Very very protective of them. He inspires loyalty. It has to be said he is very different from me. I call him two things--one to his face- Dan the Man and occasionally the Anti-Richie.

In the course of the conversation in which several things came up--his failed marriage, his future in the Army, the Afghan war in general, the topic of being the only EOD officer in an area at least half the size of Maryland (his area of responsibility is the size of that venerable state). He cites the differences in being former enlisted where you can be more graphic in your approach as opposed to be being an officer where you MUST watch what you say.

This story comes out. He tells it precisely and to the point much like a briefing. Dashiell Hammett would be proud. My own feelings --stated before hand -are War is NOT a game for children and there is always a cost and the best approach is a quick and clean kill.

Dan and his unit were out and about and they happen to come across a fellow digging out the ground and about to place a bomb in the roadside. We probably will never know what would have happened otherwise. The fellow grabs his rifle and begins shooting. Dan assures me most of the Afghan are terrible shots (as an aside he told of one of his sergeants who has been shot at 12 days in a row--some bullets very close).

However the attack has been made and response is immediate. A sergeant raise his weapon and the man dies. One shot to the head.

The body is taken to the nearby village where the officer in charge of that sector is being confronted by the man's father. No question about being upset. It was never going to go well. Dan is standing by with his unit and his man observing until the idiot makes a very critical error. He points out to the father WHICH enlisted man pulled the trigger.

Dan immediately orders his man to get in the truck and tells the officer (another Lieutenant) to get in another truck for a talk.

He informs this paragon of diplomacy that he would rather the father have an a vague image in his mind of an unknown American rather then a face to haunt his dreams the rest of his life. And if said officer ever puts one of his men in a position like that of making him a future target for revenge he will knock his teeth in.

My son speaks his mind and often gets away with it. In all my years in the Air Force I NEVER won an argument with a civilian contractor--ever--even when I had the documents in hand proving my case I was overruled. Dan won't have it--his philosopjy over there is do your job--it's what you're being overpaid for.

He tells the officer to stay in the truck and goes back to the father. The father is of course making all kinds of demands, excuses and complaints.

The father says the Taliban MAKES the people plant the bombs. Dan informs him he has two choices. Live in fear or tell him WHERE in the mountains the Taliban can be found and he and his crew will go there and KILL them and even bring the bodies back as proof. These are the only two choices the father has.

He chooses fear.

Dan is later accused of being cold in general about it. Dan is a realist. He has his warm and fuzzy side but over there he is expected to lead and protect and do his duty as he sees it. I like to think I would have tried to take the fellow prisoner but that's from watching too many movies. This is real and this is war. It is never meant to be pretty. Dan says he slept well that night. I envy him his peace of mind. Considering how many sins of my own that haunt me to this day.

Anyway thanks for listening and reading--I wanted to make a record of this as my guttersnpies NEVER come here but there is something to be said for preserving legacies.

Updated 08-19-2012 at 12:07 AM by mtpspur



  1. qimissung's Avatar
    That is a powerful story, Rich. No, war isn't pretty, but we as a country did insist on it, now, didn't we?

    I know you are proud of your son, and I appreciate very deeply his service to our country. He handled the situation, ugly and distressing as it was, superbly. He did what had to be done. I'm glad he slept well.
  2. Buh4Bee's Avatar
    Wow! This is a great blog entry! This seems like a boy who has turned into a man. Maybe you can take some credit for it.I also want to pay my respect to you and your son for serving in the military.
  3. LadyLuck's Avatar
    This was a wonderfully written entry. It offers a lot of insight into things that many people would otherwise be unaware of. Hopefully some lighter and brighter things will enter his future soon though.
  4. Virgil's Avatar
    Whoa, now that is a great blog. May God be with your son, and he has my admiration and gratitude.