Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Perspective

There are a lot of situations I have been in when I was afraid. I will discuss a few of them here.

When I was in the First Cav Division in South Korea I was in the 9th Cav Brigade and we were assigned outposts in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) looking into North Korea. The DMZ is 2,000 meters wide and is a buffer zone between the two Koreas. We were well aware that we were and are still in a state of war with North Korea and both adversaries mostly honored the Armistice of 1950 that ceased the fighting. North and South Korea are still wary of each other and I was there as part of the United Nations force. I saw a helicopter get shot down that got too close to North Korea and we had several people killed in an ambush, we assume by North Koreans, so we took our jobs seriously.

We usually worked 12 hour shifts at outposts on mountain tops monitoring activity in North Korea and reporting what we saw.  The outposts consisted of a shack surrounded by concertina wire about 100-150 feet away from the shack. Of course the North Koreans had outpost looking back at us, but mostly we saw rice farmers tending their crops. We had binoculars and telescopes we used to watch them in the daytime, but after dark these tools became useless. One night when I was on one of the outposts, it was really dark. I was a sergeant in charge of the outpost and I had three people with me. I was inside our shack on the hill and one of the outside sentries reported someone in the concertina wire. I was scared immediately. I got everyone to move back where they could monitor the area, but could use the shack for cover. I could see movement, so I told them I was moving down the hill and when I got to a prearranged position someone would send up a flare so I could see what was moving and shoot if necessary. Did I mention I was scared? The flare went off and something scurried into the brush and I realized I was exposed and an easy target if someone wanted to kill me. My training kind of went out the window and my instincts took me into danger instead of away from danger. A lesson most people only have to learn once, if they survive.
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I remember driving down a secondary highway (not an interstate) and saw a group of motorcycles coming up behind me. There were probably fifty of them and very little other traffic on the road. I am not sure I went to full scared when they surrounded my car, but I can say for sure I was apprehensive. It took them about ten minutes for all of them to get past me. I tried to keep the same speed and pretty much kept my mind on the road, but it was not a pleasant feeling. To my knowledge, none of them showed any interest in me and why would they? This did not ease my apprehension.
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My company sent me and two other employees to a training class in West Virginia. After class, we drove around to see the sites. We ended up in Washington, DC one night on each street corner was a congregation of Black people. I was apprehensive again and hoped we would not get caught by any red lights. We did not discuss the issue, so I am not sure if my fellow travelers felt the same apprehension I did. Maybe it was irrational fear -- I really do not know. No one ever took any action or said anything to make me fearful, but I was certainly uncomfortable.

Do you remember the movie “The Blind Side”? Michael Oher was a great big Black man in an all white school. S.J. was the young white boy in the family that took Michael into their home. The two of them were walking through the schoolyard together and the other children were moving out of their way and S.J. said, “Smile, it lets them know you’re their friend.” A smile is good advice in any circumstance.

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