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By Pat Lisi

 

          The pitch darkness that enveloped me was perfect cover for the careful thought and preparations needed to successfully complete my harrowing and dangerous mission.  Stealth would be of utmost concern.  Getting caught was not an option that I was equipped to deal with.  This would have to be a secret, flawless undertaking.  A quick low-crawl across very familiar terrain would situate me in a perfect, undetectable hide for the single, deadly shot it would take to eliminate my deserving target – for good. 

          Adorned in green forest camouflage from head to foot and my face and hands fully obliterated with grease paint applied in the shadows created by a dim moon, I emerged from my designated zone of demarcation on belly, knees and elbows into the stark and crisp evening air of late April.  My eyes were already focused intently on where I expected to find my dreadful and unsuspecting enemy.  For just a moment I peered into the inky void to allow the rods and cones of my eyes to adjust, thus protecting my brains’ built-in night vision.  I took a few long breaths to relax into the mental state I would need to slink upon the ground and close the gap between me and the enemy.  Certainly, my heart would pump a little faster at the mere thought of getting that one shot off and into the forehead of my quarry.  For this, one needs to be calm, fearless and committed 

          My weapon of choice this fateful evening was a Colt AR-15, a non-automatic version of the famed M-16 that I had been issued the very first day I arrived at the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment Combat Base inHue,South Vietnam.  A lot of grunts didn’t seem to like the “Black Beauty”, but I was just the opposite as I loved it.  Keeping my rifle clean was all it took to ensure reliability and pinpoint accuracy.  It saved my ass lots of times with its tremendous cyclic rate of fire and the devastating 5.56 mm projectile that it spewed from the chrome lined barrel at more than 3,200 feet per second.  It was enough to knock a human being clean off his feet before he even heard the shot.  The awesome bullet was designed to tear through human flesh and organs with little interruption and to then splinter into tiny pieces.  When it did stop it was usually too late, and either death or complete disruption of normal bodily functions occurred instantaneously upon impact. 

          I never liked wasting ammunition, so I practiced at the range whenever time would allow.  Ammo was precious and expensive, and I became adept at shot placement in order to kill with only one squeeze of the trigger.  Heart shots were my forte, but head shots were my passion!  No one walks away from a 5.56 slug to the noggin.  The lights go out and life ceases, right now.   

          My silent stalk continued.  Within a very short time a faint light appeared ahead of me.  I peeked up and over the tops of short grasses in front to judge the remaining distance to my final position, where I would have a clear and clean shot at my prey’s heart or head.  I hadn’t decided which target would work best, yet, as it depended completely on opportunity and had nothing to do with emotion.  My goal was to do the deed and then scurry back to the harbor of the rear area.

          With the utmost care and caution I slowly crept along as low to the ground as humanly possible, my black weapon balanced and nestled in the crooks of my arms.  I couldn’t let the muzzle dig into the earth for fear of creating an obstacle in the barrel, so I was in absolutely no hurry.  Inch by inch I made my way across the landscape, oblivious to any thorn, rock, puddle, animal feces or anything else that might cause a person to skirt such obstacles in the daylight and under normal circumstances.  Resolutely, my track to the perfect mark to do my sniping from was straight forward.  And, soon I had reached the ideal spot where I would perform my terrible act of finality. 

          I took a few more “cleaning breaths” to bring my heart rate down before pushing the muzzle of the AR-15 through a diamond shaped section of the chain-link fence that I lay prone behind.  With the front of the rifle secure I perfected the shooting position by resting up on both elbows, with my legs splayed past shoulder width.  In this way I was perfectly aligned and there was no shake or movement when I gazed through the scope past the crosshairs. 

          My 4X Redfield telescopic was perfect for this job, not too strong and not too weak for a target that was barely 40 meters away.  Had it not been for the chain-link fence, I could have picked a hide further from the kill, but this would do.  I reached up with thumb and forefinger to adjust the focus so there was no blur anywhere in the sight picture. The crosshairs rested squarely and at the direct center of my target’s forehead.  I waited for the exact moment in time to begin the shot sequence. 

          The mark was a middle-aged man.  He had taken something very precious from me.  I was sure of it.  And, that is why this particular scenario was about to unfold with me relaxing motionless in the dark behind cover with rifle in hand, and he sitting comfortably 40 meters away with no allusion that he was about to give his life for taking that of another. 

          As I lay there studying him through the scope, I could see that he was talking to himself out loud.  His words were audible to me but non comprehensible.  I didn’t know if he was drunk, why he was muttering like a babbling fool, or what his problem was.  But, it didn’t really matter to me, for I was ready to finish this.  The time was at hand.  His time on earth was over. 

          Flipping the selector switch located on the left side of the AR-15 just above the trigger housing, with my right thumb to engage the ‘fire’ position, it made a soft “click”.

          This made my heart stop for a moment, because I feared my victim could hear the metallic movement.  I keenly peered through the scope and was relieved so see that he did not flinch at all nor did he glance over in my direction.  Taking a couple of deeper breaths and then letting the air almost completely out, I calmed myself for the eventual report of the rifle as I slowly but steadily squeezed the trigger to me.   

          “Snap!”  

          The gun did not fire.  Had it done so, the man across the way would have spun out of his chair and collapsed on the floor, dead, with a gaping, bloody hole in his head. But then again, I knew the rifle wasn’t going to go off.  It couldn’t, because I had not inserted a magazine of ammunition in the rifle and I had not seated a round in the chamber.  This was a ‘mock assassination; even though I really wished my neighbor who lived across the fence ill will, including perhaps death,  I was still sane enough to know that I would spend the rest of my life in prison if I actually did such a deed and got caught.             

          The real question was, “Why would I think about killing this man in the first place?” 

          My prized hunting companion, a German short haired pointer by the name of Duchess, had died in her kennel a couple of months prior to this night and I presumed that the guy living in the house behind us had poisoned her.  His motive was that Duchess barked a lot and it disturbed this neighbor to no end.  I then naturally deduced that this particular neighbor killed my dog simply because he lived very close to where Duchess’ dog kennel was situated in my yard, about 50 meters away. I further presumed that this neighbor probably tossed a poisoned chunk of burger, or some other nasty-laced food item, into my kennel under the cover of darkness, and that Duchess ate it.  This was my total motive for the homicidal thoughts that I created and nurtured in my mind. 

          Laying the AR-15 back in the cradle of my arms I silently low crawled my way back to my garage and, after carefully slipping through the small access doorway, I secured the rifle and my hunting clothes and went into the house for anotherBudweiser. 

          It was around midnight, and there was a six-pack in the frig to drink through.

          Note: This is a true story about the devastating effects of PTSD.  Luckily, this one ends well.  If you are having behavioral problems associated with PTSD please seek help immediately.

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