It seems like an oxymoron, silence is deafening. How could silence make so much noise to deafen a person? I always thought that saying was crazy, there’s no way you can hear silence. I was wrong.
All the sounds of long ago
Will be forever in my head
Mingled with the wounded cries
And the silence of the dead
I’ve heard these lyrics hundreds of times, they are from a song called, “Still in Saigon” by The Charlie Daniels Band. I knew the song was about a Vietnam veteran. But I never really knew what they meant. Then I volunteered to go to war for my country. I knew I was going to see violence on a scale I had never seen before. I was going to bring violence on my enemy, violence I never dreamed of. Yeah I fought in school, but this was going to be nothing like the playground fisticuffs of my youth. I was going to be asked to kill for my country, and I was ready to do that.
What I didn’t know was I wasn’t ready to deal with the death of my friends and the innocent people caught in the middle of the war, after I came home. I went to war 4 times, and I got progressively worse with each one. The lack of sleep, the nightmares, seeing the dead. No matter that I was trained and ready to go to war, no matter how much I thought I was ready for it, I wasn’t.
I was having nightmares about the combat, the wounded, and the dying. I could put up with hearing the wounded scream because I know all of them survived, they were wounded, some very seriously, but they survived. Seeing the dead was the worst part of it. I wasn’t ready for their voices to run around my head. Their voices scream in my nightmares, and I can hear them when I’m alone. I can hear their silence, and it is crushing. I can’t hear anything over their silence, their silence is deafening. I can see their vacant eyes, and emotionless faces, but it’s their silence that unnerves me.
I was in Iraq for about a month when I had to take my first shots at the enemy. He set an IED off on one of our Iraqi Soldiers trucks and wounded most of them. I got out of my truck and saw the trigger man running away, I shot him 4 times. once in each shoulder, in the neck and the back of the head. Through my ACOG I could see the pink/purple mist that used to be his brains explode out the front of his head. I felt neither elation nor sadness, I just did what I had to do and took an evil man out of this world. I had no problems sleeping, I wasn’t immediately affected in any drastic way,. It was only when I got back to the States that I started having problems. In the silence of my dreams that man comes to me, he just sits and watches me with what is left of his face. The wounds, the missing skull, seeing inside his gaping hole that was his forehead doesn’t bother me. His silence destroys me, it crushes me. I hope that one day he stops visiting me.
Worse than the silence of the dead insurgent, is the silence of my brothers in arms who never came home. I can see them as they were before the were ripped from this world. They are happy, they are smiling, but they are silent, like they know they aren’t here anymore. Their silence has a weight to it that is unbearable. I do not want to ever forget them, I don’t want them to leave, but I want them to talk. I want them to say that they are alright, I want some sound from them, laughing, crying, screaming, anything. I want anything other than silence.
It is all around me and the Silence is Deafening.