At the request of some of our regulars, I am posting two pictures from the recent paint war battle referenced earlier. To avoid embarrassment to my fellow soldiers, I have not posted their own battle-scared images.
It is of course difficult to see photos from this period without feeling a sense of guilt that I survived intact while others did not. Indeed, I often wake up at night seeing my dearest friend Tom falling in slow motion backward from a belly wound — screaming with a sense of surprise bordering on wonderment. (Shortly after this picture was taken as my team was clearing a town of insurgents, I was ambushed by Tom who shot me at close range after charging my position. We fired simultaneously –resulting in a tragic yet inspiring scene for all of the eleven-year-old boys.).
I for one will always try to remember my colleagues as they were then. We were all just kids really (well I was in my forties) but they were kids from the rough streets of Alexandria and McLean . . . Alex, Liam, Benny, Colin, Mattie, and the rest. They grew up fast — developing that 1000 yards stare of boys who had seen it all. To paraphrase Oliver Wendell Holmes, “Through our great good fortune, in our youth our hearts were touched with paint balls. . . .We have shared the incommunicable experience of war; we have felt, we still feel, the paint of life to its top.” Obviously, it was hard to return home “to the world” after seeing what we had seen. People just do not understand. Perhaps that is why we are going back for Ben’s birthday.
To again paraphrase, we are left with the words of Robert E. Lee that “It is fortunate that paint war is so terrible, lest we become to fond of it.”