“The Spirit of the Bayonet”

Volume 8 | Spring 2018

by Bruce Richardson

I was 17 years old in the military and was asked
“What is the spirit of the bayonet?”
The correct answer was, “To kill, Sergeant.”
I had never knowingly hurt much less killed
Anyone in those 17 years.
The training was an intricate dance of death.
One soldier would come at the other
And the defender would execute the
“Vertical buttstroke series,”
A simple three step process:
One, block or parry the aggressors charge,
Two, quickly bring up the butt of your rifle
To smash him in the face, and
Three, bring down the bayonet into his chest.
“Pay attention, Gentlemen, this could save your life!
Or your buddy’s life…”
We practiced with pugil sticks
Each was about four feet long with big pads on each end.
The end of the training was a series of eliminations
One on one until one was “killed.”
Finally, only two guys were left in the pit.
One was a baseball player, an excellent athlete.
The other was smaller but already had some military training.
I thought the better athlete would win fairly easily.
I was wrong.
The smaller guy fought a defensive fight
Which frustrated the jock.
The little guy found an opening and got in a good lick.
This really pissed off the ball player,
He took his stick like a baseball bat and swung for the fences
But he missed.
The military man executed a perfect vertical buttstroke series
Put him on his back and “killed” him.
“Pay attention, Gentlemen, this could save your life.”
Watching and doing like a skilled professional soldier helped
Us become trained professional soldiers.
They taught us to kill,
The spirit of the bayonet.
But what if the sergeant was wrong?
What if the spirit of the bayonet is to protect and defend?
The country? The Constitution? My life or my buddy’s life?
What or who are we fighting for?
The first crack/thump of the first round fired at me
Told me the answer
We all must learn.