by Sheldon Bass
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Not For Sale
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The Red Georgia dirt baked to a sweltering temperature in the hot summer sun, making our feet sweat. Our platoon would pound out five mile runs in combat boots and full gear. Infantry training is grueling work. But remembering thousands of new things was the hardest.
If we didn't pay close attention, or forgot some critical piece of training, it could cost us our life, or the lives of others. We were learning to fight and survive. There was much more to it than I'd thought—so many things to know, some of which we couldn't imagine a need for.
"What sound is this?" The instructor asked.
"Swish, swish, swish." Everyone remained silent.
"Tell em Sergeant."
"That's the sound of brush against the pant legs of U.S. fatigues."
"You mean you can tell they're American just be the sound?" I asked.
"Different countries, different uniforms, different materials. In Viet Nam we learned this next sound well."
"Swish, swish, swish." As usual, I couldn't keep quiet.
"Sounds the same to me Sarge."
"Listen again to both, and you'll hear a subtle difference in the sound of brush against our uniforms and the all cotton of the Vietcong's."
Amazingly, there was a difference. We learned to use all of our senses to their full potential. That skill would later prove invaluable.
There are many night-time sounds along the Demilitarized zone spanning the border between North and South Korea, where our five man squad was on ambush patrol.
A strange insect we called "kimchee crickets", made clicking sounds. I was on point, with all my senses focused on detecting any man-made sounds or smells. Our job was to catch North Koreans sneaking across the border to infiltrate the democracy in the south. Some of them have been successful in obtaining high-level positions in the South Korean government.
Trying to filter out the slight sounds of the men behind and to my right and left in a wedge formation, we stalked a semi-wooded area around a known infiltration route. The crickets were clicking away, when I heard two clicks that sounded slightly different. They were similar to the crickets, yet distinctly metallic clicks. And crickets aren't made of metal.
I signaled a halt, and then for a consultation with Sergeant Davis, an old combat veteran, who was serving as rear guard. Using night vision field glasses, we discovered three enemy soldiers, escorting two infiltrators. They had heard us coming and were lying in ambush, waiting. The clicks I had heard were the safeties being taken off of their AK-47's, and switched to automatic.
Sarge deployed us into a semi-circle around the enemy, catching them in a cross-fire. Bullets whizzed past my head like super-sonic bumble bees on a deadly mission. When the fire-fight ended, my friend, "Robert (Crash) Kolowitz," was grazed by a 7.62 X 39 mm round. But that was our only injury. The communists didn't fare as well; with two dead. We captured the would-be infiltrators and one soldier. That was in 1980.
Today, as the world keeps fearful eyes on North Korea and their god-like supreme ruler, Kim Jong-un, there are still firefights along the DMZ. It doesn't happen often, and you won't hear about them in the news. As far as the U.S. Army is concerned, they never happened at all. Politics!
My knees are paying a price for the abuse they took in the Army. Whenever I kneel down, each knee complains with a loud "click-clack". But I imagine those clicks are a sweet sound to our Lord, as I kneel and thank Him constantly for bringing us safely through that ordeal. My knees might be rickety-clickety now, but I have an entirely new body waiting for me when I get to heaven.
Many nights I can't sleep, thinking about those two soldiers that died, wondering whose bullets did that. Lord willing, I'll never touch another gun. In North Korea, every young man is required to serve in the military, and those soldiers were only doing as ordered. The penalty for disobeying is death.
I've learned there are undercover Christians in North Korea, who face severe persecution and death because of their faith in Jesus Christ. The possibility horrifies me that maybe those two men...
Before you click over to the next web-page, how about saying a quick prayer for our men in uniform, who fight for our freedoms? And then say a prayer for those we call "enemy", who never had a choice in the matter.
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You pulled me in with your description of the different sounds cloth can make. I held my breath while your characters were in danger. Nicely done!
Wow, one of your best. I could hear the clicking and swishing sounds, excellent writing!
Wow! This is one of the best pieces I have ever read! You had me mesmerized immediately, which says a lot as this type of story wouldn't be my favorite genre. Often I feel like I can relate as it feels so foreign to me in my little rural community Typical Town, USA. But you had me right there and opened my eyes to my naivety. You must do more with this article. I'm not sure what, but God will guide you. Perhaps go to the library and check out a recent (last few years) of the Writer Market and check out the different magazines. I have prayed and you made a huge difference in my heart. I'd love to include this in my church newsletter if you would be willing. It doesn't pay, but would get your message out to 250 families. This is outstanding!