I see the face of a man that I missed, and sometimes I wonder, Who did he kill?
This is a quote that I’ve heard in two places. The first was a TV show about snipers, and the person was a Vietnam veteran. The second was a fictional story about a sniper who was interviewed after a battle with Iraqi insurgents. They were both asked this question: Do you see the faces of the men that you’ve killed? To this, they both replied, more or less, “I don’t see the faces of the men that I’ve killed. However, there is a face that does worry me, the face of the man that I missed. And sometimes I ask myself, ‘Who did he kill?’”
Now, I won’t claim to know what goes through a soldier’s mind, as I’ve never worn the uniform, or been in combat, or any of those things. However, I have a good understanding of human nature, for the most part, and I have a good imagination. Also, I have talked to a few vets, though some of them have passed away, and are unable to say any more information. So, I will try to explain my personal reasoning behind the quote.
A soldier is like every other person; he cares for himself, his family, and his friends. Of course to him, that squad he’s with is both family and friends, in a sense. He’s worried about Baby-boy Joe, the private fresh from Boot Camp. He’s also worried about Hank, the Lt. who is recovering from a knife wound, and was just released for active duty. He is also worried about Mallory, the sergeant who may be sent back home because of some shrapnel still in his lower backside. Also, he is worried about himself, and perhaps those he left back home.
So, when he gets into combat, and gets an enemy combatant in his sights, he isn’t thinking, “I wonder if he has kids.” No, he’s thinking, “I’m going to nail this bastard before he kills one of my buddies.” He isn’t thinking about if the guy has a family, or that he is a good artist, or anything. He is thinking about the fact that the guy has a weapon, and that it might be aimed at one of his friends, if the soldier doesn’t do something at that moment.
For a sniper, this might be an even more far reaching than that. If he lets that enemy soldier survive the fight today, next week, that enemy soldier has a chance to bring an RPG, or another weapon, against a convoy full of civilian personnel, and kill several of them in one attack. So, to prevent this danger, the sniper has to pull the trigger, and kill the man now. Then again, the enemy soldier is a current threat to the sniper’s allies, so they must be protected from the threat that is now.
So, the question that reporters ask shouldn’t be, “Do you regret taking the lives of those men?” It should be, “Were there any you missed that you regret?”