In the summer of 1998, around June if my memory serves me correctly, I was a platoon leader's driver in an Avenger platoon at Ft. Hood, Texas, while serving with the 1st Cavalry Division. We had received an operations order to go to the field for a week, and began preparations, servicing the vehicles, assuring our packing list was up to standard etc.
The morning of our departure from the loading docks was an early one. Our platoon consisted of six M1097 Avenger Weapon Systems, with a team chief and gunner, and the platoon leader and platoon sergeants' vehicles making up the remainder, with a crew of two each. After our small accountability formation, the team chiefs and headquarters section drivers, myself included, were sent to the motor pool to retrieve the vehicles and return to the loading docks to begin our load up. After returning, we were to draw weapons, including the M3. 50 cal machine guns for the Avenger, and one training Stinger missile for the stinger pods and mount them. After all of this is completed, the team chiefs and drivers are briefed of the mission and we get the vehicles lined up and prepare to 'roll out'.
Our Area of Operations (AO) was West Fort Hood, at the time a fairly isolated area of Fort Hood. By isolated, I mean out in the boonies for a lack of another term. Anyhow, the first few days were rather uneventful, going over NBC training and other things pertaining to Air Defense operations.
I was 18 years old and a PFC, being prepped to take over as a team chief on one of the weapons systems, as I had already served as a gunner. I have always been the type that I have to see to believe, that's just the way I am.
Every night we did a guard rotation, one soldier, on two hour shifts. I had drawn guard duty I believe sometime after midnight. I carried an M16A2 at the time, so as required, I put my BDU top on, my boots, grabbed my weapon and stepped out of the vehicle to relieve the soldier on guard. The shift started out uneventful. The terrain in central Texas is mainly scrub vegetation and open space with sparing patches of small trees, I don't remember the type. Being an open range, it was not uncommon to see herds of Texas Steer passing through the training areas, but usually in different training areas throughout the base, not West Fort Hood.
As I patrolled the perimeter, I went through the motions as if really being in a combat zone to make the time go by and keep myself on my toes. Towards about midway to three quarters of my shift, I was walking the perimeter and happened to look towards the area of an old cemetery. The cemetery wasn't visible from our NDP, but we knew it existed due to one of our Avenger teams setting up near it during the day. I hadn't paid much attention to that general area during the shift at that point, meaning I had probably subconsciously glanced in the direction once or twice and hadn't thought anything about it. However, this particular pass I was drawn towards that direction, and for whatever reason, felt a chill run down my spine and I grew apprehensive as I continued on with my walk, still glancing in that direction as if being watched.
As I came around the last vehicle to make my way back to the aforementioned area, I froze up and leaned on the Avenger to try and collect myself. I don't believe in ghosts, but have had a few strange things happen in my life that I can't explain or put a finger on.
After convincing myself that my imagination was getting the best of me, I decided to continue my walk of the perimeter. As I drew near to said area, the chill I had before grew with an intensity and the hair on the back of my neck was at full attention. I admit, I was afraid at this point, and as much as I didn't want to, my eyes were slowly drawn to the general vicinity of the group of trees concealing the cemetery. It was as if I was being forced to look. To be honest, the atmosphere and the fear I had made me tear up a little, I was that afraid. Anyhow, feeling I was being forced by some unseen entity, I looked in that direction, and immediately froze, shaking uncontrollably.
I brought my M16A2 up to my shoulder, and felt so dumb because we didn't have any ammunition with us, as it was a platoon FTX, and we didn't carry any. What I saw, was dark figure standing between two trees looking away from me. It was about a foot or two taller than an average man, no clothing, its face was sort of elongated as I could see from a side view. Almost as if on cue, it noticed my presence and turned its head towards me. The moonlight was very bright and I could clearly make this thing out, as it was only about 50-60 meters away. There were no glowing red eyes, just two sunken depressions that looked pure evil to me. It had no hair, just a dark silhouette, long arms, long legs, the ears were slightly long and pointed and on the side of its head. I stared at this thing for what seemed an eternity but was probably only a few seconds. The whole time, it seemed to be telepathically taunting me, not having another way to describe it. Taunting me, how? I don't know, I just felt taunted and immensely terrified.
After what seemed like hours staring at this thing, it grinned a particularly disturbing grin, almost as if it was trying to tell me that it saw me, saw my fear, and was going to destroy every ounce of happiness I had in me. It took a few very peculiar steps towards me, very slowly, then seemed as if it were going to leap the rest of the distance to me. For whatever reason, I felt a sense of relief or calmness overcome me as I waited for the inevitable and I believe the figure sensed this as well, and it seemed to fly off to my left and out of sight.
I didn't believe in God, I'm still not sure what I believe in to this day, but I think something or someone kept me from being harmed that night. My platoon sergeant, a big black man and very religious and deep Christian man, happened to be up when I made my way back to the middle of the perimeter, and asked if I was ok. I tried to play it off and act like nothing was wrong in the first place, but before he got back in his vehicle to go back to sleep, he said "You'll be ok, Murray."
I don't know what this was, I don't know if Staff Sergeant Leonard woke up and witnessed whatever it was I was seeing or what went down then, all I know is what I saw, and how I felt after. My platoon sergeant knew I didn't believe in God, knew I was just a normal kid who hadn't found himself at the time, and always looked out for me, as he saw I was a born soldier and a leader. I inducted him in to the Audie Murphy Hall of Fame a couple years later and became his driver after we returned from Bosnia.
If I think on it now, I think he put some type of protection around me and had something to do with this thing not getting to me. Then again, sometimes I think that it was just my imagination and it was just the fact that there was a spooky cemetery past that group of trees.
My great grandmother did pass away a few months later, and I remember not returning home for the funeral, as we were doing a rotation at the National Training Center, and I did not want to miss out. I've felt regret ever since. Maybe this had something to do with it? I'm not sure. I've never told anyone this event before, and this is my first time writing any kind of story that others could see and comment, criticize or critique, or maybe just have an opinion on what it was, or what was the meaning behind what happened.
I have a few more stories I will be posting soon, including one that took place in Bosnia. That place was just spooky all over. I hope that for whoever took the time to read my story, found it a decent read and I welcome any and all comments, opinions, critical analysis or whatever you feel like writing. I won't judge anyone for religious preferences or lack thereof.
Thank you, I hope you will take the time to read my future recollections.