the angel of death…………

 

It was 1985 or early 1986, I cannot be sure, but I recall it was very hot, so it was in the summer months .Africa is hot specially as you get closer to the tropics. We were soldiers,young soldiers,teenagers still.

 

Our task was to sweep the road clear of landmines as we are a specialized infantry platoon from the support company,trained in the detection, use, removal and destructoin of landmines and exoplosive devices.

Sweep the road clear, meet the other team coming form the opposite direction and then escourt the three truck loads of sand to sector 5.4 battalion headquarters at Eenhana.

Yes the site of the mass grave.

 

I was surprized a few years back when the media, in its normal hyped up sensational way, reported that a mass grave had been discovered as I and many others were aware of its existance and had witnessed bodies being transported there to be burned. I took it for granted that everyone was aware that people die in wars. I was aware of its existance before I was legally of age to buy alcohol or watch certain movies in a cinema. God forbid that our fragile minds should be corrupted by the sight of a nipple.

AHHHH…the good ole days hey!!!!!!……………………WTF….you go figure it for yourselves??????

 

 

The trucks fall in behind us and we start off on our slow trek. Its slow going in the heat and we cover, on average, about five kilometers in an hour. The truckers are civilian contarctors and they inform us that they cannot afford to go this slow, afterall they have money to make. They proceed on ahead of us despite the limited danger of landmines. We dont disagree as we have walked this road for months and have never found a landmine. Besides the sand road is baked rock hard and you can clearly see if anyone has dug a hole. Its different during the brief rainy season when the road turns into a quagmire, a soldiers nightmare.

 

We climb in our vehicles and proceed to escourt them,pleased that we no longer need to walk allday in the blazing sun.

 

Now sitting strapped into the back of an armoured personel carrier with chest webbings,kevlar helmet and all other associated military gear is highly uncomfortable in the dusty heat. We are however used to it as we have drilled for months and are fully aware that this practice will well ave our lives should we hit a landmine. Shorty we are all dozing off to sleep as any good soldier knows that an oppertunity to catch up on a nap is not to be wasted.

 

 

BANG…………………….or more like a low dull sort of THUD…………..We are awaken by the driver slamming on brakes and carrering off to the side of the road. So the drill paid off after all. HOLY SHIT…….weve hit a landmine or we are being ambushed. Automatic mode now takes over. We disembark from the carrier in the prescribed fashion, as we have drilled for months,half provide covering fire whilst half disembark and then vis versa. We go into round about defense and prepare to enter assault and manouver phase. This all happens automatically. That is after all what drills are for, to create automated responses that will save your life. That is what makes a good soldier.

 

It quickly becomes apparent that we have not hit a landmine, niether are we under attack. There is a fuel tank and various truck parts laying in the dusty road. The truck has hit a landmine?……..no….the truck has driven into the back of the stationary truck in front of it.

A scary, unforgetable moment in time.

Just believe it.

 

Now the truck has hit the one in front at high speed and the trailer containing thirty tons of sand has crushed the cab, and its occupants between the two. The driver is unconscious but still alive. The steering wheel has crushed his chest cavity and he is clearly a dead man even though he still has a pulse. We put a drip on him in anycase but he is dead within ten minutes.

 

The co driver is a different story altogether .He is very much alive. He has been thrown through the windscreen, smashed his head on the trailer in front, his arm is twisted and mangled out of all proportion and the front and back of the cab has crushed its way around, and moulded itself to his left leg and pelvis making him an inseperable part of the twisted smashed up cab. At first he is clearly in shock and is quite calm and unaware of his predicament. Unfortuanatly this did not remain so.

 

I find it hard to find the words to continue from here onwards.

 

We radio in for assistance but we are in a warzone, miles away from anywhere and it will take them hours to reach us. We attempt to cut him out but have limited tools for this, a few jacks ,crowbars, spanners and other general purpose implements.

 

Now greatgod, being the small skinny ass that he is, is the only one who can squeeze inside the cab via the air vent on the roof. I spend the next three hours or so ripping out the dash and whatever else i can to try to get this man free. I loosen every bolt i can reach. I am cut and scratched to peices by glass and mangled metal. He has become an intergral part of the truck and cannot be freed .I am covered from head to toe in blood , I was kneeling ,laying,rolling around in about an inch of blood that was collecting in the bottom of the cab.

 

Once you have seen, felt and tasted this much blood you cannot ever forget the taste of blood. It turns a sort of shiny black colour with a sweet, sickly smell that is really a taste that sits in the back of you throat, it tastes like steel,.Hence the term blood and steel that is so closly related to tales of warfare and violence. Unforgrtable. The blood was dripping out of the bottom of the truck and forming a puddle in the sand.

 

He went through periods of calm but most of the time he was sceaming in pain, he was crying for his mother .Its a most distressing thing to see a grown man cry for his mother, he became delusional and we had no idea what he was talking about. We had had enough so we decieded to give him some morphine that was in the first aid kit.

 

I injected the morphine and he went still and calm for a short while but then he went bezerk and started shouting aggresivly and tearing off the bandages and drip. I held his arms to prevent this. He died whilst i was holding his arms.

I felt him  die. I knew he was dead.

 

I had killed him with an unintentional overdose of morphine.

Im not a doctor and i did not realize that the huge loss of blood cause the small dose to be an overdose.

Although he and i both knew that he was a dead man in anycase i still feel responsible for his death.

In retrospect im glad that i did what i did …and angel of death so to speak.

 

It took hours for the rescue to arrive,hours to tow the truck back to base where it took further hours to cut out his body with an angle grinder….he would never have survived. I do not even know his name

 

When i got home i had become an alien amongst my peers and friends. They could no longer relate to me or i to them. They were still essentially teenagers toying with their poppy music and childish things. I had seen too much and was way too wise beyond my years. I spent a lot of time alone.

 

I have now come to terms with this episode, but it took a long time and it was a long time ago. I hardly ever think about it anymore but it comes occasionaly. This is the reason i could not sleep the other night. I have never spoken about this in such detail before.

 

I hope you all can understand this.

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23 responses

  1. I knew a man who suffered PTSD only many years after WW2. It happened not long after he retired and had time to himself.
    You did what you felt was right, and it was.

  2. Oh, ggp.
    I know that you know he was dying of shock and blood-loss, that eventually the tiniest dose of morphine would have had the same effect – but it’s how we are supposed to be wired – we’re supposed to feel a sense of dreadful awe when it comes to death – without that we’re reduced to the sort of people who pop an innocent bystander for R50.

    But you know this already – you know that the same thing making you remember this incident as ghastly, it’s the same thing that makes you a decent man.

  3. this is Joanne, the artist formerly known as Joberry2 – who deleted her entire WordPress blog this afternoon, but has not committed suicide because she saved all her posts on disk – *gasp*, breathes in after that very long sentence….

    I will also appear as youth issues editor – I’m not developing a spilt personality, but the youth issues one is a work project. ‘kay – have a naais weekend.. 🙂

  4. “Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have – life itself.”
    ~Walter Anderson~

  5. of course you were also in shock by then, that sort of trauma can make one lose sense you would have had in normal circumstances. you tried and tried.

    i am so glad never to have had to do something like that. i’d be useless

    • i react well in such situations….i go into survival mode and think very clearly and logically without letting emotions get in the way……they only come after the danger has passed……………………..

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