by john harrison
Being a good infantryman is much more intellectually and physically demanding than most people realize. It is not easy to go on today’s, and even yesterday’s incredibly lethal battlefields with the reasonable expectation of coming back alive, and of accomplishing your mission. The operative word in that sentence is “reasonable.” That is all an infantryman expects, a reasonable chance, because they intend to make up any difference themselves.
While an infantryman needs training, it is not just good training that makes an infantryman. While an infantryman needs equipment, it is not just good equipment that makes an infantryman. While an infantryman needs strength, it is not just physical strength that makes an infantryman.
OK then you ask, what is it that makes an infantryman?
It is heart. It is the heart to get up when no one else will go. It is the heart to push forward, when no one else will. It is the heart to take one more step, when one more step is sorely needed. It is the heart to care more about the man lying next to you bleeding than you do about your own blood, and that is partly because you know that if he could move, if he could still move, he would have the heart, and he would have the will to move, to help you to move, forward.
It is will. It is the will to remain alert on post. It is the will to remain awake and alert for the forty-eighth hour. It is the will to exit, an armored personnel carrier, a helicopter on or close to the ground or an aircraft in flight in order to close with, and to destroy the enemy. It is the will to take a life rather than to give your own. It is the will to finish what you start, every time. The infantry does not back down. Not once. Not ever.
And, in taking infinite care with what seem like such small, such trivial, details to others. It is important that fighting knives and bayonets are always put away razor sharp, rifles clean, well oiled, magazines stacked and gear put away in the same order, the same place, every time.
That is an infantryman.
If you are assigned a dog; that dog eats before you do—every time. The same is true if you are assigned a fire team or an entire army; they eat before you do—every time because you are an infantryman.
It is easy to belittle the infantry, to mock their parades and their traditions. It is very easy, until the bullets fly, the bombs burst, the blood flows bright red, and you are so very, very, afraid. Just like it is easy to forget that every Marine considers themselves an infantryman first. Just like it is easy to forget the while the United States Army is only about 8% infantry, that nonetheless over 80% of the casualties are infantrymen.
Why then, you ask, would anyone want to be in the infantry?
Think of this; what do the Airborne, the Special Forces, the Rangers, Delta, and the United States Marines all have in common—they are all volunteers—and they are all Infantry. Oh, and do not forget, they are all also, very, very, good at what they do. They are the best. They are deployed first. They do not ever go gentle into that good night, they rage, they fight, they kill and if necessary, they come back to fight and kill again, and again, to obliterate that dark night.
They all have the Spirit of the Bayonet. They are all prepared to go on a battlefield, any battlefield, anywhere, anytime to accomplish their mission and to come home alive because they are all, Infantry.
Hail to the Infantry, Queen of battle, shatterer of lesser souls. Protector of your freedom.
Steel Rain, the Tet Offensive is my book available from Amazon about my experiences in Vietnam. See https://www.amazon.com/Steel-Rain-Tet-Offensive-1968/dp/1977045448/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=