Ernest Hemingway wrote, “There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter.”
Over the years I have bumped into numerous men who have served in militaries other than their own and fought in wars that really had nothing to do with them or their country of origin. Several of these men that come to mind had lived their adult lives bouncing from one army to another and one conflict to another. I class these gentlemen as professional soldiers.
They differ greatly from the majority of career soldier you find in most regular armies who see serving their country as a regular job with paid holidays and benefits. The majority of these soldiers will go where they are sent and do their duty honorably but will not volunteer time and time again to serve on active duty. But there are those that do, and they deserve great respect, which I doubt they are given by those they serve.
So why do such men seek to fight others wars or put themselves in danger when these day’s its easy in developed countries to get a job and live a peaceful life. Some will say it’s the potential of earning big money but there are far easier ways to get rich quick for those who want to take risks, drug trafficking and organized crime are a couple options.
Are such men just evil killers that get pleasure hurting, maiming, and killing others? I would say not. Such psychopaths tend to be ill-disciplined liabilities that are not only a danger to themselves but also everyone around them. In the world of the professional soldier such people usually meet their end quicker than most and not always by enemy fire, or they just realize there are a lot safer environments where they can abuse people.
Violence is very much part of this world but it’s not violence without reason or against those who cannot defend themselves. As I said, psychopaths and bullies tend not to last in a world where violence is the trade of those inhabiting it.
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Someone once said to me that he only hunted animals with a IQ of over 100. The thrill of the hunt, the adrenaline and the challenge of surviving the violence of the sought-after confrontation is something that is in the DNA of humans. We as a species are hunters and predators and men have sought the challenges of war and the hunt since time began. Not only to protect their people but also to prove their worth to their tribe, society and most importantly themselves.
There is also the freedom that can be found for those who become comfortable in let’s say hostile environments. There is freedom because all that matters is staying alive, killing your opponents before they kill you. The problems of the regular world become irrelevant. Who gives a fuck about rent, taxes, utilities bills and the bullshit opinions of others when you could be dead in a matter of seconds, minutes, hours or days. Life is simple, stay alive, hunt and destroy those that will destroy you if you give them the slightest chance. Nothing else matters, just life. Those living in such environments, and are comfortable in such environments tend to appreciated everything because they know life is very fragile and temporary.
I was speaking with someone recently and we were discussing a wannabe private military company that fell apart while providing medical support and training services in Ukraine. The line came up that it’s cool to be a gunslinger as long as you don’t survive. This company had apparently been funded by donations and had taken in over one million dollars and had now gone broke. I wouldn’t want to be the accountant that’s going to have to justify to the IRS how the funds were spent on their tax returns. No doubt law suits will also follow from disgruntled donors etc. First world problems and real-world problems. As, I said, it’s cool to be a gunslinger as long as you don’t survive… Well, for most at least.
I used the term wannabe private military company because this company and the vast majority of PMC’s are wannabes. Most self-titled PMC’s are at best armed security guard companies, they do not and cannot legally take part in offensive operations like Wagner or the old Executive Outcomes. These companies if they are ever lucky enough will provide armed guards for static sites. Their only similarity to military organizations is that they get to dress up in tactical gear and post selfies and tacticool photos on social media. More like muzzled yard dogs than dogs of war… To put it in perspective most security guards on gas stations, supermarkets or working cash in transit in most inner city shitholes in the US live far more dangerously than these wannabe private military contractors ever will.
I am sure many reading this will be thinking the men Hemingway was describing must suffer from mental issues, I would say no more than most. Everyone has their own quirks and these days behaviors that would have been classed as insane thirty years ago are the mainstream. Men have been going to war since the beginning of humanity, its part of human nature. Once upon a time warriors were celebrated, respected as asset to their society, but times and values have changed.
I was asked once during a close protection course I was running why there was the problem of PTSD in the US, a question I didn’t really have a solid answer for. The person that asked the question went on to say that in their country there was plenty of violence, people were killed all the time but such things as PTSD were extremely rare. Two men in particular come to mind as I am writing this who I met and were from all reports extremely dangerous men who killed many people. These men were very respected in their communities because they helped keep their communities safe. They were normal men with families who if necessary, would use violence to protect others from people who only understood violence.
Maybe the issues with PTSD in the US etc. has more to do with society not accepting, but rejecting and discriminating against its warriors. Their societies help cause their mental issues by labeling them as having mental health problems without understanding that going to war, fighting, hunting and killing is a lot more natural for human beings than say having sex changes.
For those Hemingway described, I would say most don’t really care what others think, they know they are outside the norms of society and like it that way. They are comfortable in their world and the opinions of others who will never appreciate to true value of life are completely irrelevant.
So, was Hemingway right with his quote, I will say he was spot on, but not for the reason most people would think. The killing if it happens is the nature of the game. The addiction is the freedom, the simplicity, the focus and the clarity of life in such environments and situations combined with the adrenaline that comes from knowing the ever second could be your last.
Most of my good friends are Vets. Of those many were, some still are mercenaries. I met a lot of them when I signed up with the first Private Military Company, ever by the name of Executive Outcomes. Then a lot of us got involved in the Rhino Anti Poaching here in South Africa. All my friends are Gentlemen of the Old School, not violent men at all. Till they have to be.