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Ethical dilemmas in combat are some of the toughest challenges soldiers face. In the heat of battle, making the right decision isn’t always clear-cut, and the consequences can be life-altering.

Soldiers often encounter situations where they must balance duty, morality, and survival. For instance, in the book “Bronco Pilots,” we see the complex choices faced by Marine Corps pilots during the Vietnam War. The story follows the journey of three friends, who served two combat tours as H-34 helicopter and OV-10 Bronco pilots. Their experiences highlight the harsh reality of war and the moral quandaries that come with it.

One vivid example from their story involves a mission where they had to decide whether to engage an enemy target located dangerously close to a civilian area. Striking the target could save their fellow soldiers from imminent danger, but it also risked harming innocent lives. The decision weighed heavily on them, illustrating the profound ethical dilemmas that soldiers must navigate.

Such situations demand split-second decisions where the right course of action is not always evident. The mental and emotional toll of these decisions can linger long after the battle ends. Soldiers must have access to ethical training and support systems that help them prepare for and process these experiences.

Understanding these ethical challenges and discussing them openly can foster empathy and support for those who serve. As readers, we can better appreciate the sacrifices and complexities faced by soldiers, recognizing that their duties involve not just bravery, but profound moral judgment.

By sharing and reflecting on these stories, we honor their service and acknowledge the heavy burdens they carry, both in combat and beyond.


  • John says:

    My friends have been the greatest asset I could ever have hoped for. Ranging from saving my life to mentoring or just hanging out. I wouldn’t give up any one of them for anything, but some have passed on already. The pain of their departure is still with me although over time it has lessened. I still pray they are resting peacefully. I’m grateful to have others in my life, even though in some cases, I don’t see them much anymore because of distance, and others don’t call or get together as much as we used to.

    Do you have close friends that are now separated by distance? Do you have close friends that have passed?

  • John says:

    I believe there are no closer friends than those forged in combat. As Bronco pilots we probably spent betweenl 75 to 90% of our tours on the ground, out of danger, essentially in the rear with the gear, except when our unfriendly foes threw noisy explosions in our direction. These, “down” times were when we bonded. In our quarters, in the ready room, in the bar and on occassions such as liberty off a ship or Rest and Recuperation (R&R) during the rare seven days off during a 13 or 14 month combat tour. We played cards, Shoo and I played Bridge or Gin and he also played Poker; Brooklyn and I often got drunk at the Officer’s Club. Probably, as I remember it, we were drunk at the club anytime we were not scheduled to fly. Len Chapman III and I often hit the raquet ball court when he was with us in VMO-6 as an Air Observer. He was a quiet, sober young man and an admirable reflection of his father, the Commandant of the Marine Corps at the time. I could not say that our time together was “enjoyable” but the friendships made it bearable. We did have “fun.” We sang, we laughed, we bitched, we moaned and generally served our time with each other as companions, commrades, buddies, or whatever you would call it. I would say, everyone I knew was a “friend” but the closest of us, called each other brother. Shoo, Brooklyn and I were even closer than brothers in the “Triumvarate.” There were times of rollicking laughter at each other, at our circumstances, at the ridiculousness of our predicament. All in all, my friends are what I remember most. They meant everything to me. I suppose I would have survived without them but looking back it was their compassion, understanding and support that helped me through the more difficult times. Yes, I’d do it all over again, if I had to, but I wouldn’t want to do it without them.

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