In an October 1951 charge up Height 1211 everyone in my dad's platoon was killed. Also my dad. A medic pronounced him dead on the battlefield. Later that afternoon, somebody else saw him barely breathing on a pile of dead bodies. So he was rushed to a MASH unit, where someone like Hawkeye Pierce was able to patch him up enough so that he could be transferred to Tokyo and then to San Antonio, where he spent the next several months as a patient at the Brooke Army Medical Center. He was in a coma for the better part of a year. His injuries were the result of at least two bullets to his brain, grenade fragments in his eyes and one ear, and bullet wounds to his chest, hip, and legs. All of these injuries left him with the total loss of one eye, partial blindness in the other, deafness in one ear, partial paralysis on the right side of his body, deep scars on his chest and legs, and loss of some brain function. (Whenever my dad made a mental mistake he would jokingly point to his head and say, "You got to understand I'm working with only part of a brain...") For his service, he was given the purple heart and other medals.
A few years ago I read the definitive history of the battle of Heartbreak Ridge and learned that my dad's company was purposely sent up one side of the hill, against overwhelming numbers of Chinese, in a so-called "diversionary tactic." The battle itself has been described as "a fiasco," because the U. S. totally underestimated the strength of the North Koreans and the Chinese. Only later, after sending in tanks, did the United Nations' forces secure that hill, which was eventually given back to the North Koreans.
This is only one anecdotal example, but I suspect many others could be told about military personnel who suffered and suffer deeply as a result of their "justified" killing. These stories seem more human and humane to me than the all-too-familiar bravado-pleasurable kind, the kind of story we heard not too long ago from a U. S. army general who spoke publicly about the "pleasure" of killing Afghans or any other "enemy."
War is terrible and we should never grow fond of it.
Following his "first death" in baptism (we Lutherans speak of baptism as putting "the old, sinful Adam" to death), and his second death on a Korean battlefield in 1951, my dad died for the third time on June 17, 2004. He is buried at