I pulled my gun once, when I was in the military…. Not something I thought about at the time, but sometimes I still think about it. It wasn’t a huge life changing event, but it did make me think.
It was the middle of winter, so I was bundled up to where I could barely move. I was half way through my shift and freezing cold. The flight deck is a lonely place when your on watch. Do walk miles and miles around the perimeter of the flight deck and say hi to everyone who passes just for interaction.
Then I spotted it.
A black object floating toward the carrier.
I called down like I was supposed to and followed the object with my gun. The guy on the radio thought I was kidding and told me to open fire. I rarely swore, but I let out a stream that would have made any salty sailor proud. The watch leader took forever to get up to the top.
I sat there waiting. My arm got sore from holding my gun up, but we had been told horror stories of similar innocent blobs blowing holes in the side of carriers. So I kept my arm raised.
I had a lot of time to think while I waited. Could I actually pull the trigger? I’ve always been a good shot. I wouldn’t miss. But could I do it? Could I take one life to protect the countless others down below my feet? That’s why I’d become a sailor, or better yet, why I’d become an air traffic controller, so I wouldn’t have to find out if I could do it.
The watch commander and I stood there waiting. The blob finally turned enough to show it was a bag of garbage that must have fallen over the side. He went back down to figure out who to call to get the bag out of the water and I could finally give my arm a rest.
We later found out that the bags were a training exercise for divers. They had failed to tell us there was training that day. All I could think was that my gun had been pointed at that bag. What would have happened if one of the divers had shown up before we heard about the training? Someone could have been hurt.