Bonfires in the military are rare — and almost no one tells ghost stories over them. But if you ever do find yourself on the receiving end of such tales, you’ll notice that, just like many ghost stories, they’re filled with all sorts of morality lessons — it’s just that the military’s morality lessons are a little different than everyone else’s. And when the platoon sergeant tells them, they’re always pretty bloody and seem to be directed at one soldier in particular.
He was such a promising soldier before the incident… Before the curse…
(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. David Meyer)
1. The AG who flagged the commander. Twice.
It was an honest mistake, a lapse of judgement in the shoothouse. The assistant gunner had to take over for the gunner, and he shifted the gun’s weight at the wrong time and angle, pointing it up at the catwalks — and the commander — by accident. The platoon leader reached out his hand for a second, saw that it was done, and decided to wait for the AAR to address it. But then the AG rolled his shoulders again to settle the strap, pointing it at the commander again.
What happened next was epic. The platoon sergeant launched himself across the room, tackling the AG. The commander started screaming profanities. The platoon leader started doing pushups even though no one was yelling at him. But it was the eastern European military observer who did it. He mumbled something under his breath — a gypsy curse.
The AG took his smoking like a man, but he didn’t know the real punishment would come that night. He awoke to sharp pains throughout his abdomen and looked down to find three 5.56mm holes in his stomach. Now, he’s normal and fine during the day, but at night, he wanders as the ghost of live-fire exercises past. Eternally.
When in large formations, always remember to shut up and color.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Tojyea G. Matally)
2. The specialist who dimed out the platoon sergeant
Specialist Snuffy was an ambitious soldier — a real Army values kind of guy — but he took it too far. The platoon sergeant tried to provide some top cover to a soldier in trouble during a horseshoe formation, but Snuffy was kind enough to rat out the original soldier and the platoon sergeant for protecting him.
The rest of the platoon didn’t take it kindly, saying that Snuffy should’ve let the platoon sergeant handle it internally. So when Snuffy first started hearing the whispers in the barracks, he assumed it was just the platoon talking about him. But then he heard the whispers in the latrine. And on patrol. And while cleaning his weapon in a closed barracks room.
He slowly lost sleep, instead just tossing and turning to the unrelenting noises. When he was able to drift off, he was haunted by the visions of wrathful ghosts who declared him a blue falcon and buddyf*cker. It wore away at his metal foundation until he was finally chaptered out for insanity. It’s said that the voices are still out there, waiting for someone to screw over their own platoon once again.
Talk back to first sergeant, and you will do pushups until you die, and then your ghost will do the rest of them.
(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Michael Selvage)
3. The team leader who actually talked back to the first sergeant
Corporal John was smart and talented, but also prideful and mouthy. He led a brilliant flanking movement during an exercise, keeping he and his men low and well-hidden in an unmapped gully until they were right on top of the OPFOR’s automatic weapons. But then he made a mistake, allowing his team to get bunched up right as a grenade simulator was thrown his way.
First sergeant took him to task for the mistake, and John pointed out that most other team leaders wouldn’t have seen or used the gully as effectively. He did push-ups for hours, yelling “You can’t smoke a rock, first sergeant!” the whole time. But first sergeant could smoke rocks.
The pain in John’s muscles should’ve gone away after a few days. He was an infantryman. But instead, it grew, hotter and more painful every day. On day three, it grew into open flames that would melt their way through his skin and burst out in jets near his joints. Then, his pectorals erupted in fire. The medics threw all the saline and Motrin they had at him, but nothing worked.
Slowly, the flesh burned away, leaving a fiery wraith in its wake. It now wanders the training areas, warning other team leaders of the dangers of mouthing off.
Keep. Your. Eyes. Open.
(Photo by Senior Airman Gina Reyes)
4. The private who fell asleep in the guard tower
He was just like one of you. Barely studying his skill book. Rarely practicing for the board. But that’s you expect from privates — just a good reason for their leadership to encourage them. But then, he was up in the guard tower during the unit’s JRTC rotation. He had stayed up playing video games the whole night before his shift and, by the time the sun was going back down, he was completely wiped.
He fought his eyes falling, but a thick bank of fog that rolled in caressed him to sleep. As he drifted off, he felt the light tickle of skeletal fingers around his neck. He thought briefly of the rumors of undead that wandered the Louisiana swamps.
Despite the threat to him and his buddies, he dropped into the lands of dreams. He was found the next morning with his eyes bulging from his head and thick, finger-shaped bruises on his throat. It’s a tragic reminder to keep your stupid, tiny little eyes wide open.
Not sure how he got so many negligent discharges with an empty magazine, but just go with it. It’s hard to find photos to illustrate ghost stories.
(U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Terry Wong)
5. The King of Negligent Discharges
It’s said that he whimpers as he walks. He was once like one of you, a strong, upstanding killer. But then we were doing “Ready, up!” drills and this moron kept pulling the trigger while he was still raising his weapon. Somehow, no amount of yelling got him to stop doing it. The impact points of his rounds kept creeping closer and closer to his feet until his platoon sergeant finally grabbed him and threw him, physically, off the range.
But the disease was in his bones by that point. He started accidentally pulling the trigger on patrols while at the low ready, and then again on a ruck march. They stopped giving him live ammo. Then they stopped giving him blanks. Then he was only allowed to carry a rubber ducky rifle, and then finally he was only allowed to carry an actual rubber duck.
Somehow, even with the rubber duck, he had negligent discharges, sharp squeaks that would split the air on patrol. But one day it wasn’t a squeak — it was the sharp crack of a rifle instead. He had shot himself in the foot with a rubber duck, a seemingly impossible feat.
He’s a gardener now, always careful to point his tools away from himself, because he never knows when the next one will go off.