The Scent Of Battle

Men and Battle

     Men, forgotten remnants of boys, pass by you with shrunken faces pale and bled of life. They look down, transfixed, at the ground as if bewildered at the sudden loss of their youth. A wounded sergeant limps ahead of the squad, leading his somber men as if on some imaginary leash. As they pass you, the pungent musk of sweat and the sad odor of body waste accompanies them. They are long impervious to the smell.

     The air is heavy and fills your lungs with the heat and thick humidity. The slightest drift of a breeze brings the arid smell of scorched polystyrene, the main ingredient of napalm. Then there’s the wafting scent of cigarette smoke which comes from every other man, most new to the habit, which will now burden many for most of their lives.

     Then there’s the one, overwhelming stench that envelopes you and saturates your depleted uniform and webbing. It crawls into your sinuses and gnarls it’s way into your brain....the smell of blood and death. No one, no one....can describe it. It’s heavy in the air and lays over you like an old carpet soaked in bile. The blood has a metallic scent, some copper, maybe iron, maybe something else. Then there’s death. A sickening smell of sour, yet cloying sweet grease. Rancid waves come and go as the warm wind shifts this alarming and unnatural fragrance known only in nature. Then there’s the residue of burnt flesh....lost to words.

     Combat is shrouded in the essence of fatigue and filth and the permeating aura of death. It hangs and bellows like incense over the battle field. But, I soon learned that there was one smell far more toxic and disturbing than all the rest....the smell of fear.

 

 

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Comments (38)

  1. funfreak

    Wow, Charles. This one halted me in mid-morning. We forget. In the comfort of our daily lives we forget what others experience daily. It’s a grim reminder of what freedom costs.

    July 26, 2014
    1. uncle_charlie

      It’s hard to write about and then difficult to stop when you do. All these memories are from 1969 and as clear and pungent today as they were back then.

      July 26, 2014
      1. funfreak

        July 26, 2014
  2. sweetpaws

    The worst of the living and uselessness of death and war.

    July 26, 2014
    1. uncle_charlie

      Total waste.

      July 26, 2014
  3. timholzbaur

    How very detailed. Excellent write Charlie.

    July 26, 2014
    1. uncle_charlie

      Thanks a lot Tim.

      July 26, 2014
      1. timholzbaur

        Most welcome.

        July 26, 2014
  4. pastormike

    we who didn’t go will never understand what you guys went through but this gives me at least a glimpse. Salute Charlie.. to you and all the others. I have names on the wall..

    July 26, 2014
    1. uncle_charlie

      Thank you Mike. Seems after thousands of years we would have learned by now.

      July 26, 2014
      1. pastormike

        I know Charley.. I know. “eye for eye” has never borne fruit and never will.

        July 26, 2014
  5. BootLady

    Not quite as glamorous as the recruiters would have us believe, eh? I’m sorry that you had to know these smells, my lovely friend. xo

    July 26, 2014
    1. uncle_charlie

      Thanks love.

      July 26, 2014
  6. Bettymom

    Wow, Charlie, I’m glad I’m not on my way to a party. I’m so sorry that you had to go and learn all these awful lessons for us.

    July 26, 2014
    1. uncle_charlie

      Life in general is a tough journey for many.

      July 26, 2014
      1. Bettymom

        I can hardly imagine a tougher journey – my life seems so simple compared to yours.

        July 26, 2014
  7. yayuki

    good write… the smell of fear was clearly present…

    July 26, 2014
    1. uncle_charlie

      Thank you my friend.

      July 26, 2014
      1. yayuki

        you’re welcome

        July 26, 2014
  8. vis4

    visceral

    July 26, 2014
    1. uncle_charlie

      Words do pour out sometimes.

      July 26, 2014
  9. vis4

    visceral

    July 26, 2014
  10. GoldenPig2012

    I’ve never been in battle. I never want to be and I doubt I’ll ever be, but, I had an uncle, Jack, who came home from Vietnam and he died just months after coming home. One of the few things he said to anybody in those months was, “You CAN smell fear and it’s usually coming from you”. I didn’t get that, heck I was a kid. I never thought about it again, really, until I paid attention to veterans. I thought you wanted the enemy to fear you, but, if the fear you feel and, apparently, smell is yours, what does that mean?

    July 26, 2014
    1. uncle_charlie

      You learn that the smell of peace is greater than any flower. Our politicians don’t seem to ever smell the roses.

      July 26, 2014
      1. GoldenPig2012

        I agree. What is wrong with our politicians they can’t appreciate peace? OOH, maybe they are all the type of people who thrive on discord, discontent and drama – those people always confuse me and make me wonder if they are missing some essential element of themselves.

        July 27, 2014
        1. uncle_charlie

          These no profit in peace, and the only thing that’s expendable in war are young lives.

          July 27, 2014
          1. GoldenPig2012

            No profit in peace, sigh, shit. Oh, they gripe and take account of every cent spent on every war or police conflict, yet, what there is no price upon is LIVES. Unlived lives of actual human beings, not just pawns on a chessboard over which they preside, safely, I might add. Maybe, if they had to ride out there in the line of fire, they might think twice. Lives unfulfilled aren’t expendable, idiot politicians are.

            July 27, 2014
          2. GoldenPig2012

            Have you read “q-tipman”? He scares me.

            July 27, 2014
  11. EvaKimble

    Good write, thank you for sharing this.

    July 26, 2014
    1. uncle_charlie

      My pleasure. Nice seeing you stop by.

      July 26, 2014
  12. keepingitreal_13

    There is no glory in war. Just ask the one’s that have fought in one.

    July 26, 2014
    1. uncle_charlie

      More shame than glory.

      July 26, 2014
      1. keepingitreal_13

        Not for the front line troops but yes for those that order them into battle and those that create the wars.

        July 26, 2014
  13. cjb321

    There is nothing I could say that describes the way I feel now after reading this. Mind boggling wouldn’t even be close. Wow!

    July 26, 2014
    1. uncle_charlie

      All politicians should experience it.

      July 26, 2014
      1. cjb321

        You are absolutely right!

        July 27, 2014
  14. firewalker

    July 28, 2014
    1. uncle_charlie

      Thank you my man.

      July 28, 2014