Never been a soldier. The shooting I have done has been from an antiseptic distance, comfortable – if not entirely safe – in the cockpit of a high speed, high altitude fighter. No noise really, that I wasn’t already used to. No dust certainly. No cracking rifles and chipping rocks spraying into my face at the sudden onset of an overwhelming ambush.
Never having ever experienced it, I still believe that it’s the kind of thing an ordinary human being would intuitively shrink from. The tendency to curl into a ball, and seek some kind of cover to hide behind must be almost irresistible.
Staff Sergeant Robert J. Miller was clearly something more than merely ordinary:
Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller, killed on January 25, 2008. will be the seventh service member to receive the Medal of Honor during operations in Iraq and Afghanistan,
The Army said he fended off fire from Taliban insurgents to allow his team to fall back to a safe position. The battle took place in the village of Barikowt, near the Pakistani border.
“Miller deliberately moved forward making himself vulnerable as he engaged several enemy positions to provide suppressive fire, buying time for his teammates to take cover,” the Army’s website states.
“We were fish in a barrel,” said Sgt. James Odyga, Miller’s commander in Afghanistan. “Enemy on right, on the left. Robby immediately started firing.”
By “exposing his position repeatedly, he drew fire from more than 100 enemy fighters,” and saved the lives of his fellow Green Berets and 15 Afghan soldiers, the Army said.
Miller’s parents take consolation that their son gave his life so that others could live.
I believe that soldiers are trained to assault into an ambush. And yet, this kind of instant reaction is not something that is a product of training, I don’t think. It’s the result of a considered decision, made in a moment of solitude and earnestly committed to over and over again. It’s a decision that you’ll go down fighting. A decision that your own life is not more valuable than the lives of your team. You can live each day hoping that the prepared for moment never occurs. But when it does, you recognize it, remember what you promised, take stock of all you have and step into the breach, with the full knowledge of what it will cost you: Everything.
All this, at 24 years old.
Update: More here.
Remind me again why we need the Ivies to give us soldiers?