We've all had that moment. Maybe sitting at dinner with a well-meaning family member, maybe with an over-eager gal or guy you were chatting up at a bar one night, or perhaps just a friendly weirdo who recognized an embarrassing shirt or service tattoo on the subway one day. Whatever the circumstances, there isn't a single veteran I've ever met who hasn't, at least once, been asked the eternal question of the civilian acquaintance: "So, did you ever kill anyone?"
Regardless of whether or not you have, it's one hell of an awkward spot to be put it. Personally, I've yet to meet the person that hasn't found it a frustrating, if not annoying, query to have directed at them. Veterans on the whole hate answering this damn question, and I've seen more than a few chums unable to respond to it with anything beyond baffled surprise and mild indignation.
So, for all those out there who don't quite know how to answer that question, here are my patent-pending, never-fail responses. Supply your own level of sarcasm as needed.
1. “Not yet.”
My go-to comeback. Be sure to maintain constant, unblinking eye contact with the person who asked you in the first place. And a creepy smile beamed his way never hurts. After all, you may be considering him to be your first.
2. “Yes, but only for food.”
Credit where credit is due, this is the eerily calm version of my father's response to the "kill" question. His own particular method, which I last saw directed at two dozen terrified high school students, was to yell "Yeah, I fucking killed 'em and I ate 'em!" It's certainly one way to do it, but personally I recommend distasteful over aggressive. And if it doesn't divert them right away, explain how you always used every part of the body, just like the Native Americans.
A meaningful look off into the distance and esoteric nod are key to selling this one. Because, like, what if you could kill someone … without really killing them? Mind equals blown. Works particularly well with curious liberal arts students.
4. “Batman does not kill.”
Enough said. Wear your cape.
5. Maniacal laughter.
I consider this what is typically called "the nuclear option." If you're just sick as hell of getting asked or really bear a grudge to the questioner, give it your best supervillain guffaw until they start running. Trust me, it won't take long.
Please feel free to throw your own responses back at the people who get curious on this matter, but my aforementioned five are always solid fallbacks. Of course, you could always just be a mature, confident adult and speak straightforwardly and honestly about your own personal combat experience or lack thereof. But come on, where's the fun in that?
Oh, and for those of you out there wondering: no, I haven't killed anyone. At least, not yet.
A soldier who died in Camp Buehring, Kuwait, from a non-combat related incident on July 18 was identified by the Pentagon as Sgt. William Friese, a West Virginia Army National Guard soldier assigned to the 821st Engineer Company, 1092nd Engineer Battalion, 111th Engineer Brigade.
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Members of the Iranian revolutionary guard march during a parade to commemorate the anniversary of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88), in Tehran September 22, 2011. (Reuters photo)
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