What is the most gruesome thing you’ve seen while serving your time in the military?

Mudassir Ali
Jan 18, 2020 04:40 PM 0 Answers
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Mudassir Ali
- Jan 18, 2020 04:40 PM

I thought about posting this anonymously, but people might question the authenticity of the story and therefore, I decided against it.

A couple of years ago, I was working on a documentary movie about the disintegration of Yugoslavia for an American producer. They interviewed participants of the wars from all the factions involved, mostly politicians and generals but also a few soldiers.

There was an interview with a Serbian soldier that I’ll never forget. For reasons unknown to me, they later cut the interview out of the film, but I still remember every word of it. Here is what the guy said. The only things I changed were some of the names and I also omitted a few details to protect the identity of this soldier:

At the time it happened, I was a soldier of the Vojska, the Serb army in Bosnia. In 1994, my battalion was at the front line near the city of Goražde. The whole thing happened just five days after I had joined my unit.

I grew up in Sarajevo and had just started my studies in Belgrade when the war broke out. I didn’t come from a very nationalistic family, but I felt that the world had done a terrible wrong to the Serbian people and therefore I believed that it was my duty to defend them.

On a late September morning, we had started attacking a Muslim village from where we had been constantly shot at by snipers. In the beginning, everything was fine, but after two hours, we got stuck.

My platoon was on the left flank of our company, near that village. We had tried to enter it in the early morning hours, but while we slowly moved forward, we had come under heavy enemy fire.

Soon all our plans were thrown overboard and we were just trying to save our lives. I had already experienced enemy bullets flying over my head, but this time, it was different. We were badly getting hit. First, my comrade Zvonko was hit by a bullet in his arm and then another comrade behind me started screaming. He held his stomach and I could see blood on his hands.

I don’t know exactly what happened during the next moments; it was as if I had stepped out of my body and was watching myself. Somehow, we made it back to the first Serbian village where we got some water from the only Serb family that was left there.

I remember that it was very hot and I drank the cold water from a nearby well. Then I went into an empty house, sat on down on a chair, and lit a cigarette. After that, I got up and went outside.

The sun was high, it was noon, and I could feel the heat burning through my uniform jacket. I saw Zvonko with some other soldiers leaning against a wall and joined them. Zvonko’s arm was in a bandage but he smiled at me. We were witnessing a chaotic scene. Everywhere where there was a little bit of shadow, under a tree or near a wall, people from our company, many of them wounded, were lying on blankets and waiting for orders.

Two of my comrades were leaning over a wounded soldier, talking to him while from time to time looking up to see what the medics were doing. The medics, there were two of them, were very busy.

Then I saw another medic, a woman with a ponytail, who was leaning against an army truck, smoking a cigarette. Probably she had just had polished her nails, she looked like she had just been gotten ready to go to the discotheque. Blond hair and too much lipstick.

Our commander called us to help to carry some of the wounded into the truck. Our work was quickly done. After I had helped with the last wounded comrade, I looked up and saw two guys quarreling. One of them was from my platoon, a squad leader whom we always called Dzony (Johnny), but I didn’t know the other one. The guy looked less like a regular soldier but more like one of the ‘hobby’ soldiers from the volunteer units. Maybe he was home defense from the village, I thought. His long black hair was unkempt and unwashed and he had a long beard.

His eyes looked down on the ground and he looked terrified. Soon, the soldiers that were sitting with me started to take an interest in what was going on. Dzony suddenly started punching the other soldier in the face. I remember that I thought that this has escalated rather quickly and asked a guy for some explanation. “Muslim,” he said, pointing his finger at the other soldier who was kneeling now in front of Dzony. He had started bleeding from his nose. “Sniper!” one of my friends added We had caught us an enemy sniper!

While Dzony towered over the Muslim sniper, shouting some curses and spitting him in the face, someone came up from behind him and tipped him with his finger on the shoulder. When Dzony turned around (rather angrily because of the interruption), the man behind him handed him a large metal cooking pan from the house. Djony took it and started hitting the Muslim on his head with it. Once, twice, and then many more times.

The soldier who had handed him the “weapon” then placed himself behind the enemy sniper. After a while, he told him to get up. The Muslim tried to follow the order, but his legs were too weak and he fell on his ass. Everyone was laughing and shouting.

Then the soldier behind him took out a knife. His left hand grabbed the Muslim’s hair and he put the Muslim’s head sharp to the left so that his right ear was exposed. Then he started cutting off the ear. One strong cut. The blood immediately started spilling out of the wound, down the Muslim’s throat. He stopped cutting for a while but didn’t let go of the hair. I looked at the Muslim’s face, looking for a reaction, but this man didn’t react at all. Not a single movement or sound. No screaming. It seemed as if the hits on his head had rendered him half unconscious. He looked almost sedated.

The cutting continued. I could hear a faint scream from behind. There was a small trench, not a military one, but maybe for irrigation, and there was a woman. She was old. She was small and fat and was wearing a headscarf. The sniper’s wife. Unlike her husband, she showed plenty of emotions. She wailed, she cried, she pleaded for her husband’s life: “Nemojte molim!”, “Please, don’t do that!” I felt bad, but when I looked at the soldiers next to her, I saw that no one seemed to be interested in her. It was as if she didn’t exist at all.

Her husband, however, was still the center of attention. The ear was almost gone. Dzoni’s friend made one last cut and then I thought I heard a tiny scream coming from that Muslim’s mouth. The ear came off and was thrown right in front of the sniper where there was now a big puddle of blood. The Muslim man fainted and fell face over right into the puddle where his ear was.

We left the scene rather quickly. The show was over. I looked at the truck where I saw that blonde woman. She was still leaning against the truck, smoking another cigarette and totally unfazed from the scene that she had just witnessed. Instead of driving the truck with our wounded people to the next hospital, the driver and the woman had stayed because they didn’t want to miss the circus.

I remember that I spat out on the ground. Some guy asked me if I was okay, I said “yes”, but I wasn’t. Not at all. Three months later, I deserted, went first to Germany, and after two years to the United States. My family followed later.

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