The moment, the moment it has all built up to. That moment when it is all or nothing. The hair is standing up. Chest heavy with the tools of the trade, rising and falling as it provides the most crucial substance. Personal space becomes everything, because personal space may create the ultimate sacrifice. You become one with many. Their moves are your moves. The world becomes eerily silent in the seconds that feel like an eternity. So much is said without a single utterance. It does not matter who. It does not matter the relationship, the beliefs, the personal vendettas. Because in this moment, no matter who, no matter how many, you are one.
Once it begins, there is no stopping it. The movements fluid, the actions swift, and silent. There is never the need to look back, only forward. There is never a question. No matter who. No matter the relationship, the beliefs, or the personal vendettas, they are always with you. Your life is their life, and their life is yours. “Clear,” and it begins again, without a single word, many become one.
For years I have struggled to find the words to explain what it was like. Why is it so many men lust for aspects of that life again? And every time, all I can think about is “the stack.” All I can think about are those moments when nothing else matters and when somehow men who seemingly despise one another become a single organism. They depend on one another; they would pay the ultimate price only to save the very man they despise.
It is living on the threshold, pushing it further. It is communicating without saying a single word. It is knowing every action in the most extreme, adverse, and ever-changing environment without ever having to question the devotion of those next to you. If I could ever present that world in a single situation, it is the stack, it is what it took to become the stack, and what it means to be in the stack. It is a feeling I have experienced nowhere else in this world, and may never again. It is an unexplainable force, a force that has united enemies and friends, a force that drives you forward when anyone else would go backward.
Jake Smith is a law enforcement officer and former Army Ranger with four deployments to Afghanistan.