Pride The soldiers of my army were pounding at the walls of the enemy base, ramming into the thick stone and metal with tanks and bulldozers. There was little left on the interior of those walls, having been blown away by mortar shells or destroyed by howitzer fire. The few buildings that retained anything more than a foundation were scarred black and had walls that had fallen in.
The base was completely lost, or so I thought. I was in command of the regiment that destroyed the base. I thought myself a master strategist and fancied in my head all the medals and honors and parades that would be held in my honor. In all my smugness and confidence, I had underestimated my opponents.
As my men tore through the fort's walls, I felt that final thrill of victorious pride swelling wide in my chest. I ordered everyone into the base and commanded them to set up camp.
We would sleep here, in our place of victory. I figured it was safe enough, the fires had burned themselves out hours ago, and the winds were kept out by the remaining sections of the wall.
Near one o'clock that morning, I awoke to the sound of machine-gun fire. They struck while we slept in our assumed safety and woke us with gunfire. I was on my feet in an instant reaching for my 9mm pistol and barking out orders. It was then, in the middle of the rubble that I had realized my folly. A huge metal door lay open, the hole in the ground that it had been capping gaped open, ready to either claim a hapless soldier or belch the enemy back up. My orders did nothing we had been infiltrated by a larger, stronger, and better-equipped force. I screamed for my men to surrender hoping this opposing commander would give us mercy in the light of the Geneva Convention.
In my mind I fit everything together, even as I watched my men slaughtered. It had been so easy to take the fort because there had only been a few soldiers manning it. The rest had hid in the underground bunker and waited. Waited for me to make the mistake that they seemingly knew I would. I couldn't come to grips with the fact that I had truly been that predictable or that our enemy was that insightful and clever. I imagined fighting commanders with IQs in the teens but obviously they had outsmarted me. My men surrendered as I had ordered but we were to receive no mercy.
I was forced brutally from my thoughts as an enemy forced a pistol in my ribs and bade me go with him. I did as he commanded. I was lined up with the rest of my men, the few which remained. We were cut down from five thousand to a few hundred. We were rounded up, like sheep, and encircled by the enemies. My body was gripped in horror as the heavy, fifty-caliber chain guns were set up. There were hundreds of them, all staring and waiting for their officer's command. They took aim and I knew the end was in sight.
The order rang out. They all began to fire. Not just the big machine-guns, but every weapon they could muster was fired at my platoon. I took a slug to the right arm and another had embedded itself in my chest. Bullets whizzed passed my head on my descent to the earth. As I lay dying in the field of the hundreds of already dead, I heard the sound of the enemy exterminating anything that moved. They moved through my army's gruesome remains with remarkable efficiency. I would have liked to die that day along side the men I commanded but their sweep of the bodies were incomplete. For some reason I remained alive. Consciousness escaped me and I lay limp until the next day. I radioed for a pickup and gave my coordinates. Soon I would escape these killing fields, but a part of me had died there with those thousands of men, I would never be whole again.
To this day remembering that sea of human flesh brings me to my knees in pain. The moans of dying and the silence of the dead are the only sounds that reverberate in my soul. That day after the massacre, the rescue chopper came and I was rescued, but not from my mind. I will never forget that it was my mistake that ended the lives of almost five thousand soldiers. Pride and ego can lead us to the grandest mistakes. Those mistakes carry a weighty price.