Although this article is not about the Vietnam War, most of it can still apply to soldiers during that time. The term was certainly coined back then…this story is about a modern day infantry soldier. My guest, SPC Italino Pietrantonio is an Army Infantryman of five years, currently serving at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. As an active duty Infantryman, an avid biker, and a father, SPC Pietrantonio devotes most of his time in pursuit of his goals, though one of his true passions has always been writing. Currently, SPC Pietrantonio is working on finishing and subsequently publishing his first fantasy novel, but has composed everything from essays, short stories and even poems from an early age. While his novel is the only thing he is seeking publication for, he continues to write varying styles and genres as he feels, when not at work or screaming his bike on the road.
On this perpetual clock face that the military sees as the planet, there are no more important values than six and twelve. It is to be expected that a great many people will argue this point, as there is importance to every value, as bullets are notorious for having little concern for direction. I assure you, however, by the end of this, I will make you a believer.
You are in-country. It’s hot, you’ve been patrolling for four hours without rest, the sun is beating down on you and the heat waves across the horizon are dancing mirages across the sand and playing tricks on your eyes. Nevertheless, off in the distance, maybe a stone’s throw away, you catch the briefest glint of movement. Another mirage, surely, right? You shake it off, certain that the sun must be getting to you. Until that is, you hear the dreadfully familiar crack of a rifle and feel the searing wake of sailing lead as it zips past the side of your face. Not a mirage, after all, it would seem. Your danger is ahead, sitting in a small shack on the outskirts of a farming village in rural Afghanistan. Is it one man taking crack-shots at you to scare you off? Is the village being used as a stronghold for a larger force? You don’t know, and frankly, it doesn’t matter. You now have no choice but to sweep through the entirety of the village from top to bottom. You lock eyes to your twelve, searching, scanning, and waiting. Nothing else follows. You and your team of four make your way to the wall of the nearest building; the same drill you’ve been training on for over a year now. You hear a couple more shots ring out from another building across the way. Time for a judgment call. Take shots from two directions, or split your already small team to tackle both known threats at once? “Well boys, see you in Hell or on the other side.”
You brief your team on your plan, grab one of your guys and move off. Your buddy grabs your shoulder as you stack on the closest door. “Don’t worry Brother; I’ve got your six,” he tells you. You move in and begin the process of systematically clearing every building in this small collective. You make it to the other side without a casualty, removing the three insurgents found within. You received, assessed, and removed the threat appropriately, making a decision with the understanding that danger from more than one direction is far less predictable than the danger from one known one. So why did your buddy make sure you knew he “had your six?”
Using this scenario, to tell a Brother under fire that you “have his six” is pretty self-explanatory, right? You’re going to seek out, eliminate and protect him from, any dangers to the rear, right? Well, that’s part of it. However, there is a MUCH deeper meaning that so many people overlook or simply don’t know about. To tell someone under fire that you’ve got their six is to say that you will literally stop a bullet meant for them that they cannot see coming. That you are placing your body between your buddy and whatever dangers that may present themselves when he isn’t looking. But is this a phrase meant solely for combat jobs and environments? It may have begun this way, but it now carries another meaning and a different connotation.
No doubt most of us have seen the “;IGY6” movement that started in early 2016. But do we understand what it means? The “;IGY6” movement was begun to combat the steadily increasing number of veteran suicides per year. There was a study conducted over the course of 2014-2015 that determined on average, twenty-two veterans commit suicide a day. This number has actually risen since then to reach as high as an average of twenty-eight veteran suicides a day. Doing the math, this comes out to approximately 3.26% of all veterans per year will die by their own hand. So what is the goal of the “;IGY6” movement as a whole? It began as a slogan, and it transformed into a tattoo. To place this simple phrase on your body is to tell any veteran who sees it that you are a safe place to go, should they ever feel like suicide is an option. It is a heartfelt message to those in need that you will do your absolute best to safeguard them from whatever other trials of life that may occur while they focus on their respective “twelve” and take their time to heal and seek help with the depression raging within them.
So take caution, my friends. “I’ve got your six” is not just a gung-ho way of telling someone that you support them. It is a solemn oath to support, defend, protect, and when need be, throw yourself in harm’s way for their benefit. That being said, from me to you, from the bottom of my heart: Don’t worry Brother; I’ve got your six.”
Thank you, brother, for a great post.
This article originally published on the website, “Rally Point” on September 18, 2018. Here’s the direct link:
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