They were the fodder of the infantry, the little boots, the walking dead. Eleven bang bangs, through and through, but guys with almost no hope of going back home.
Maybe the infantry was filled with the illiterate, criminals, the roughened variety. And maybe these men were all of that and more, but they were also cursed with being small.
The infantry is supposed to fight anything, drink every drop of booze, stick their dicks in wall sockets not contemplate the cosmos.
The future was a concept best left to better minds. The now is all that mattered. The now and the then.
To the grunt the smaller man made sense. They could fit and fight in tight corners.
It was the now, they were tools to use with no reason to preserve.
The tunnel rats were the little guys, the ones responsible for scrambling into tight spots, the dark areas on the map, the hot cramped going to die places. The smart ones knew that they only had to go so far. Out of sight out of mind, but even then it was better to keep going. It was better to find something. It was better to be needed and valued and not digging holes and burning shit and piss.
Be a hero and go home quicker. Do your job and avoid being punished. Find something and maybe your buddy doesn’t die tomorrow.
They worked with rangers. They bumped shoulders with special forces. They rode in choppers and got dumped way out. Their only weapons were close quarter orientated. In a firefight in the jungle they were useless. They were better in a fight against shadows and in candle light. Flickering, dim light, they fought the dark. They fought by instinct and accident.
Their enemy had made homes underground. They killed with spears and snakes and poisoned gas.
It was a curse to be a smaller man. To be told now, go under the ground, be a hero.
Nobody wants to be a hero. Nobody is supposed to volunteer. Nobody is born smaller than the rest hoping to be forced into the dark to kill other humans while looking them in the eyes. Seeing the blood run out. See the look of pain and fear.
It changes the soul. It places a burden on the heart. It wasn’t the cold dispassionate firing over a berm, or around a corner. It was the inches from death, I got you before you could get me, type fight.
It lived in dreams. It survived long after peace was granted and the war ended. It was the nightmare that kept returning over and over again.
It was a fight that never got won. That never got rewarded. It took guts to go to sleep and face it again each night. Maybe it was worse the nights it wouldn’t happen. The hope that they might be cured. Maybe weeks would go by, but something always happened. Some trigger. Some reminder they were the little guy and wham they would be back in that tunnel ready to kill or be killed.