I would not shoot.

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Simply put, they were frightened and I was their cause. My M-16 was one of the many rifles pointed their way but this decision was mine. Uncertainty bounced around my head in an instant as Arabic commands rolled off my tongue. “Get down, Get down (in arabic)”.

The small boy and his father crouched low with their hands on their head. The boy was no older than my sweet son is today. They obeyed, which seemed to come easier to the Iraqi men. Their reaction was wise and logical. As for the child’s mother, the choice was not so simple.

Much like a wild animal guarding her offspring, she lashed out at me. Behind her I could see her husband and son still crouching and encouraging her to listen. Their cries were unheard. She stretched out her arm toward the iron death held in my hands and grabbed on. The gloves were off, I now had a reason to shoot. Instead, and I thank God for this, I went a different route.

Though my appearance was different and my position was that of a man, she knew who she was dealing with. I was but a blink older than her young son. As she held onto the barrel of my M-16 and I contemplated my next move, one thing became clear for the both of us. She knew I would not shoot; I would not shoot. I would however poke her gently with the point of my rifle until she backed up against the wall with the rest of her family.

I have made many decisions in my life, some insignificant and others truly a matter of life or death. The problem I face, along with thousands of other combat veterans with bad paper, is that we are summed up by a couple of boxes on one sheet of paper. The military and government expects society to discern a service members character based off of a DD214 but too often this piece of paper does a better job at reflecting ones mistakes and a poor job at highlighting the service members sacrifice.

If you have or if you know someone with an Other Than Honorable discharge, that fought in combat, please refer them to our site to REGISTER

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