The voices in my head

Daniel Im, guest writer

The coarse sand gently scraped the bottoms of my feet as I sat and watched the sunset. I watched the water lap at the shore as my brother breathed heavily beside me. We were both catching our breath from countless football routes. This was our typical Friday. Wed end work at 4:00, pay the milkman, eat a quick dinner, then spend the rest of the afternoon playing a wide variety of sports on the beach until sunset. After running ourselves to exhaustion, wed take in the sunset, mesmerized by its striking red hues. My brother and I were usually wrapping up a week packed with draining work tasks and school, so we welcomed the weekend with open arms.

            Pulling onto our street, I stopped to check the mailbox as my brother parked his bike at the front. Empty. I sighed realizing it had been almost three months since I had applied to the military base in Anaheim. Overcome by exhaustion, I headed straight to my room. I let out a deep breath as I sprawled out on my bed. My dreams of going to war seemed to diminish away as my eyelids grew heavy. Will I ever get to fight for my country? The thought whirled around in my head until the world around me became a dark void.

            * * *

            tick, tick, tick. “Charley!” All of a sudden the excitement of frantic soldiers in the muddy trench around me blurred and shifted into the dull-colored English classroom of Carmel high-school. Oh boy, lunch detention again… I cringed as I slowly looked up to greet the intense stare of my teacher.

            “Please try to stay awake during class.” My English teacher, Mrs. Smith, gave me a look of disappointment mixed with pity; a confusing contrast to the usual “death stare”. “You mustve had a late night, huh? That’s quite some exciting news.”

            “Yeah… right…” Slightly confused, I looked around at some of my classmates, looking for an explanation.

            “The names of the draftees were included in the newspaper this morning,” my friend Joel whispered to me. I quickly replied to my teacher, pretending as if I knew exactly what was going on.

            “Yeah, it’s really exciting. Fighting for ‘Merica, am I right?” I could hear a few giggles as I realized how foolish that sounded. Still… isn’t that the truth? It had only been five years since the WW2, so the patriotism in our country was still fervent. In these past five years, I, along with plenty of other young men, had developed a craving to join the army. Now, as I got closer to satisfying this desire, I began to realize how much I needed to learn about the war I would begin training for in just a few days: the Korean War.

            The rest of the day blurred by as I pondered the questions in my head. Hows Chris going to run the business by himself? Are you ready to die? Will you be able to kill? The first question hit me like a truck. I would be leaving in three weeks, and hadnt made any plans as to what I would do with our business. Many households had started to purchase television sets, so our television repair business had recently begun to take off. I thought about our work, and how necessary it was to have at least two men on the job. Just then, my friend Joel walked into the cafeteria. Maybe Joel could help out… I shrugged off the thought. I would have to discuss it with my brother and dad when I got home.

            Once the lunch bell rang, I grabbed my lunchbox and started heading to my next class. The last question continued to nag at me. Will I be able to kill?

            Throughout my whole life, I hadnt even killed anything more significant than an ant. Now, I was faced with the thought of pulling a trigger on a human being. For some reason, it was something I hadnt thought of. Up until this point, war seemed a little fictional. Since the end of WW2, Desmond Doss had become my idol. Saving lives without even pulling a trigger? Geez. Truly one in a million. It hit me hard once I realized that his situation was probably a “one time thing”. There was no way I would have the same luck as him, and there was no way I was going into war without a gun. Pure insanity. Maybe Desmonds God could save me too? I almost laughed as the thought crossed my mind. Who knows? Maybe the stars would align once I joined the army. As I walked to my next class, I visualized a calendar in my head. Only three more weeks… three more weeks…

* * *

July 24, 1950 

            Training camp was coming to an end, and everyone in the camp anticipated war. Ironic right? On a day to day basis, I would often hear men talking about how excited they were to get into battle. I, on the other hand, had recently heard many vivid stories of war directly from some of the generals, so my excitement had slowly started to mix with anxiety. Training camp, however, was a success. To my surprise, I had earned a spot on the sniper team. In a war like this, I was told most of the action would be on the frontline. At the beginning of training, I was partnered with Phil, the spotter I would work with during the war. We didn’t have much in common, but inevitably, we became close. Our conversations stayed surface level: sports, hobbies, our childhoods, etc. Occasionally, we would get into deeper conversations, which Phil would usually turn into religious discussions. Phil was constantly trying to tell me about his beliefs. All these things were new to me, so the content he presented was rather fascinating. A few days ago, he told me about the “Ten Commandments”.

            “Yeah, I only follow some of them. They were made so long ago, so some of them aren’t relevant anymore.” He told me. Later that day, I was so intrigued that I had bought a small NKJV pocket bible from the camp store. That night, I read the Ten Commandments for myself. Many of them didn’t make any sense because I realized there was some context lacking. The commandments “you shall not take the Lord’s name in vain” (Blomburg) and “you shall not murder” (Blomburg) stood out in particular. I don’t know why, but I felt a sense of guilt. As far as I was concerned, I wasn’t a “follower of Christ”, (as Phil called himself), but somehow these laws found a place in my heart. How was I not supposed to kill? I’m at war for crying out loud! I recalled that night, the lack of sleep due to confusion and frustration. What would I do?

* * *

August 7, 1950

            My body screamed for more sleep as I was forced awake by a splash of cold water. My mind quickly replayed the events of yesterday, and I shuttered at the fact of returning to war. I picked up my journal and reread my entry from the previous day.

August 6

            Today was hell. The North Korean army succeeded in pushing us back to the Pusan Perimeter. Out of sheer desperation, Colonel Johnson stationed my regiment near the Naktong river. These North Koreans are relentless. It still hasnt fully occurred to me that I was here and fighting. Today I was faced with the task of killing General Lee Yong-Ha, and as far as I know, he was in my crosshairs at one point. I don’t know why, but I couldn’t pull the trigger. Maybe I was meant to be a medic… whatever the case, Chris, I miss you. Dad, you too.

     I slammed my journal out of frustration. “GET UP LADIES!” The veins on General Thomas’s neck threatened to burst as he yelled at the top of his lungs. I sat up and checked my watch. 4:30 A.M. I looked around, watching the other boys in my rank struggle to grab hold of the last bits of energy inside them as General Thomas continued to pour cold water on those still in bed. It had only been two weeks since we joined the war, but the horrors of war had already pried into my dreams. Nightmares of explosions and stray limbs took control of my sleep. I felt the thin sediment on the sole of my foot as I slipped on my boots, which contained my crudely inscribed initials on the runner midsole. “LETS GO BOYS!” General Thomass heavy southern accent and raspy voice created an unpleasant combination. Although I was required to respect him as my general, it was impossible to like him.

            “CHARLEY!” I stood up straight as General Jackson walked right up to me until his mouth was millimeters from my ear. “Were going to pull that bloody trigger today…right?”

            “SIR YES SIR!” I tried to cover up the fear in my voice. So he heard? Who saw it happen? I glanced over at Phil. We briefly made eye contact before he put his head down. What the heck! Why would he rat me out like that? Anger surged in my veins, as I clenched my jaw. General Thomas must’ve read my expression.

            “He aint yer’ enemy, son. It don’t matter who told, that aint the point.” General Thomas leaned in and whispered in my ear. “I stuck you on the sniper squad ‘cause you had steady hands and calm nerves. Im startinto doubt ye’ boy. Show me I made the right decision and kill some darn Ks… Just breath, focus, take aim, and pull that frickintrigger. Dont make me put yeon the frontline son. Yehear me?”

            “Of course sir!” My feet felt frozen as I watched him head out of the barrack. Things would be different from now on, as I realized I was being carefully watched. Would he actually sent me to the frontline? Thats almost guaranteed death… I tried to shake off the thought. I cant die. Im only nineteen. I thought about my family back at home. Theyre probably eating lunch right now… without me. I forced away the thoughts of the simple life back home as I loaded my magazine. The .30 caliber round in my hand felt heavier than usual. I slid it into the magazine, wondering if it would ever see the light of day.

* * *

            “Southeast, about 134 yards out. Light wind. Stationary target confirmed.” Phil whispered as we both peeked over the ridge.

            The world around me seemed to travel in slow motion as beads of sweat trickled into my eyes. My hand tightly clenched the handle of the deadly weapon as I carefully took aim of my target. I looked through the scope at the North Korean soldier, writhing in pain on the ground only a couple hundred feet away. My heart pounded so loud I swore he could hear it. I placed my finger on the trigger, the center of his head in my crosshairs. The Bible in my right pocket began to feel like a lead weight in my pocket. Exodus 20:13 echoed throughout my head until I felt like I was going insane. Breath… Focus… Take aim and fire… The instructions of my General battled their way into my head as I struggled to decipher which voice I should follow.

            “Target confirmed?” Phil was tense.

            “Yeah. Almost there.” It was getting hard to breath. My legs began to shake.

            “Shoot now… Shoot now!” Phil raised his voice.

            The world went silent. I watched as my target began to move, inching towards a boulder for cover.  God, I’m sorry. I pulled the trigger… click.

            Phil gasped as he realized what had happened: misfire. I froze. I looked through the scope and watched the soldier disappear behind the boulder. At that moment I knew; this was God’s plan.

Works Cited

Blomburg, Craig. “Exodus 20:13.” 2010. Web. 31 Jan. 2018.                   

Blomburg, Craig. “Exodus 20:7.” 2010. Web. 31 Jan. 2018.       


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Martin, Frank. “The Impact Of The Television In 1950s America.” 9 Jul. 2016. Web. 12 Feb.                 2018.

Kim, Albert. “Desmond Doss: The Real Story.” 14 Jun. 2014. Web. 12 Feb.                     2018.

Valdes, Robert. “How Military Snipers Work.” 11 Jun. 2004. Web. 12 Feb.                     2018. Staff. “Winchester Model 70.” 26 Sep. 2016. Web. 12                        Feb. 2018.

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