By Cmdt Burmam (former 32 BN) Posted in 32 BN's forum:
"Hi guys I wrote this letter to my kids to try to explain the issue of materialsim and that money is not everything in the world.
You might want to tell your kids the same.
Hello Blake and Chris,
The story of Mark Pond.
The moral of this story concerns life and materialism. Never forget this story.
I have never met a soldier who has disregard for life or is materialistic. The reason for this when you are killing people and taking lives and trying not to be killed there is nothing in this world that is more important than life. Soldiers cannot dress properly, pick their clothes, care for expensive things, need money or try to climb the social ladder. The reason for this is your clothes are all the same every day, its either camouflage or camouflage and it the same every day and you don’t have to pick.Their home is supplied by the army, the food, the medical, the boots, the ration packs, the guns the ammo and all the rest so we don’t care a shit for anything else out there except possibly a better weapons. All soldiers are fixated by weapons. This is their tools and this is all that counts.
They are all generally good survivors in ANY world.I will never be materialistic and actually don’t care a dam what other people think of what I wear or how I live etc. Also, very few soldiers have to prove anything to anybody, they have done it all. When you have to kill people, try to survive and avoid been killed and look after your mates nothing else in the world is important. Life is the ONLY important thing and you can loose it VERY fast.It is IRREPLACEABLE!!! Everything else in this world is not worth shit – it can be replaced!!
So what has this to do with Mark and what is the lesson. Its simple, Mark was killed at the age of 19 whilst under my command. He had 40 days left of the army and then he was out forever. He was the only son of a great family and the only soldier that I ever lost in almost 20 years of almost continuous combat operational deployment.
When Mom and I were giving in South West Africa- Namibia and I was in the army in Rundu I was a Captain in the Special Forces tasked with some complicated operations. I worked in one of the military sectors called SECTOR 20. There were in total 10 Sectors in the country. My sector was the second worst for enemy in the area. My job was to collect information on the enemy in that area then using small combat teams of no more than 5 people find them and eliminate them.These operations were called small team operations and we often ran into very big groups of enemy. The team consisted of troops that I had rained from my old battalion 32 Battalion and captured enemy. Whenever we captured enemy soldiers, we tried to “turn” them to our cause as soon as possible and use them against their own people. We were about 90% effective with this. My team consisted of half South African black soldiers and half captured enemy soldiers. Each team had two whites. This was myself and one Non commissioned officer, usually a Sgt. These were always national white servicemen who were in the army for two years and after that were finished with the army. Any national serviceman with 40 days or less in my team I tried my best to keep out of the combat zone.
In 1986, we had a large infiltration of enemy into our sector and all units were deployed and operational. We had just captured an enemy soldier and although he was wounded, we are able to find out that the rest of his team were to meet at a specific place in the bush. I had my team but could only use Sgt Mark Pond as all the other NCO,s were deployed.
As usual, we were dropped about 5 Kms from the area where the enemy were to meet. This was done by chopper and usually at sunset. We walked to the location where the enemy were to meet. We always had heli gunships available if we had a contact and fast support if we needed it. My team at that stage was 6 people including me and Mark, the only whites.
As we approached the kraals, village where the enemy were to meet we heard taking close to us in the mealie field we crept closer and one of the captured enemy confirmed that he knew the guy talking and that he was an enemy soldier. I wanted to attack at that stage but was not able to able to as there was plenty of dead dry laves on the ground and that made a noise. The enemy soldier was asking one of the heard boys is there were any South African soldiers in the area. The guy then disappeared into the mealie field.I knew that the rest of the enemy were on their way to the meeting spot and that the meeting would possibly take place at the kraals / village or in the village.
After dark, we approached the village and went into ambush positions. At that stage we were quite safe and in control of the situation. We were well equipped with night vision headsets and telescopes on all of our weapons so we were able to fight in the dark.
We waited all night for the enemy group to come to the village as they usually do. By early morning, they had still not arrived.At first light we moved out of the ambush position and out of the immed area to the bush line approx 200 meters from the village. On the way to the bush, we captured a young boy with some goats. He told us that the enemy were located in the mealie field under a very big thorn tree. I knew that Mark had 4 days to go and I decide to keep him out of this firefight. I worked out that with three guys I could attack the group of enemy under the tree by crawling through the mealies up to the tree and then engaging them. I also realised that if there were any left alive they would run for the tree line. I sent Mark out of the area to the tree line to kill any enemy who ran from the tree to the bush. I assumed that they would be safe. We were not sure of how many enemy were there but assumed it to be around 6 or 7 and we could handle that.
Once Mark was out of the area, we attacked the enemy under the tree. In the process, we killed 4 of them. The rest ran for the bush but not in the direction of Mark. After the contact, I called Mark on the radio and told him to meet me at the tree. He was to walk directly through the mealie field to me and not through the bush as the enemy had ran into the bush. I waited under the tree.
Mark decide to walk some distance along the tree line and then through the mealie field to me. I waited for him. Not long after he had started to move, a heavy firefight started in the bush line. I could not make contact with Mark o the radio. We advanced to the tree line to area where we heard the firing. As I walked into the bush in stumbled upon a body on the ground. The face as really white and initially I could not work out who it was. I grabbed one of the troops that were with Mark and asked where he was. They told me that he ad been shot and was on the ground close to me.
A wounded enemy soldier had crawled under a dead tree trunk and as Mark walked down the path at a range of approx 5 meters has shot him in the chest. I ran back to Mark, saw his very white face and he looked bad. I had to find the wound fast as it seemed that was loosing blood fast. I had to take off his thick jacket to find the bullet entry point. I did that and only saw one bullet hole in his chest but vey little blood. I called for the first aid kit and a drip. I could see that he was dying but I was unable to work out why. I then turned him over and saw this huge puddle of blood underneath him. I realised that the bullet had hit one of he main arteries in his chest. I immediately wrapped a bomb bandage on that and connected him to a drip. He was losing blood so fast that I had to squeeze the drip o get the rip solution into him. I went through a litre of drip in max 3 minutes and put another one up. We had called for a chopper and there were armoured vehicles on their way to us (Koevoet).
I was kneeling over Mark, calling his name, and shaking him to try to “get him back”. As fast as I as pumping the drip into him it was running through his system and out. After about 5 minutes as I was working on him and kneeling over him I looked into his eyes which were very blue and very open. He seemed to be looking intently at something in the sky and at that point I literally saw him go out of his body through his eyes. It all seemed as if he knew where he was going and he was on his way to something in the sky. I even looked up to what at was what he as looking at.I was shattered when I realised that he was dead. I really lost it. I have never lost any soldiers of mine killed in contact, even after so many years in that war. I always managed to save them somehow. This was the first, he was white and only had 40 days left, and he had been in the team for almost 12 months. I was devastated!!
Very soon after that the chopper arrived and the armoured vehicles with trackers. 3 of the enemy had escaped including the one who shot Mark. My team with dead Mark were all loaded into the Puma heli and taken back to the base at Rundu. The armoured vehicle and the trackers followed the rest of the enemy and killed them later that afternoon.
I arrived at the base after approx 45 min in the chopper with Mark dead on the floor at me feet. The chopper aluminium floor was covered with blood, it dripped onto to skids of the chopper.
At the base, I had to report to the Commander immediately and make a report of the contact and the death of Sgt Mark Pond. I did this in detail. I also told the commander that I was finished with small team operations and needed to have break as I as suffering from battle fatigue and some traumatic stress. He said that he would consider this, which he never did as I was back in operations a week later.
After the debrief I went o the sickbay to talk to the doctors who were doing an examinations of Marks body. I needed to know why he had died as I had tried everything. They did a post mortem and the Doc confirmed that the bullet, the only one had totally cut one of the two main arteries running below the heart to the rest of the body – the aorta. They informed me that there was absolutely nothing that I could have done bar cut a hole in his chest and physically clamp the artery with my fingers. The aorta is approx 1.5 cm thick.
I then went home and tried to explain to Mom what had happened to Mark and me. She could not understand it. She never could understand it when I tried to explain a serious situation I had experienced in the bush. I remember lying in the bedroom of that mobile home that we had and wanting to either run away from it or drink myself to death.
A month or to later I was sent on a course in Durban - NATAL. Possibly to chill me out. I knew that Mark had come from Natal and decided to find his family. I tracked them on to Pietermaritzburg approx 100 Kms from Durban. I contacted them and told them who I was and requested a visit. I did that and had the chance to give a full description of how Mark was killed to his mother. He did not have a father, he had been killed in a car accident few years before. He was the only son and child. The mother was extremely grateful and we kept in contact. The army NEVER tells the whole story. I was also pissed off that I could not attend the funeral as I was on operations in the bush.
Nothing in the world is more important than life and when you are in a situation when the life blood of one of your mates and comrades is running out of his body into the ground and you cannot stop that and you seem him die in front of you, then that is serious. I always say that you never have a problem unless someone is about to die, then you have a huge problem. Life cannot be replaced, bought, brought back, fixed etc when it is dead.
The moral of the story is that NOTHING in this world s worth anything except life. To hell with the rest. After that comes FREEDOM. If you have those two things then you actually need bugger all else!!! Everything else is materialistic and can be bought and replaced!! Anything that does not have life is not worth shit, it can be replaced. So never, forget this story as it is the basis of freedom, courage and a healthy spirit. So the world can throw ANYTHING at you and you should never worry as it is all temporary and replaceable. YOUR LIFE, your spirit and your freedom ------ that, they can NEVER touch!!!!
LOTS OF LOVE DAD"