The battlefield was torn asunder with the tracks of combatants after being weakened with torrential rains. The sky was gray with approaching thunderclouds and the air was thick with moisture from the impending storm. Four men swallowed the apprehension of the coming battle as they triple-checked their weapons before combat commenced. Two would fall. Two would emerge victorious.
My brother and I stood at the ready, our hoppers filled with ammunition and our pods full of refills were at the ready. Our battle masks were checked and in position and we had found our cover and concealment to protect us from the enemy: my two nephews. This was my first time participating in the event. Some call it a sport, and while there is definitely a physical aspect to it, it is more of a game than a sport. Drew, my eldest nephew had been playing several times and my brother, Dean, and his youngest Alex had played at their last post in Hawaii.
The referee, a young man about 19 or so, checked if we were ready before blowing the whistle to start the game. Dean and I fired several rounds in the direction of the enemy lair before moving rapidly to a new firing position with greater field of fire and more cover. Several balls whizzed by my head as my nephews tried to draw a bead on my movement. I saw movement from the enemy stronghold and fired several rounds as Drew dove for cover. Paintballs are very low velocity (even still they sting something fierce) and the wind can carry them off target pretty quickly. Needless to say, on that engagement, Drew was not hit. But I kept him pinned down as my brother tried to get into a better location while firing at Alex.
On the next round, Dean and I fired at the target just as one of them was leaving their shelter. Neither Dean nor I aimed, nor intended on hitting anyone. We just laid down cover fire. But no sooner had we fired did someone holler “I’m hit.” Call it chance, call it luck, it resulted in a kill for us, so we call it providence.
We played something like 10 rounds and got fully covered in mud and paint (though some of us more than others). I was shot in the eye of my mask twice. It is a surreal experience to watch at a kill shot arc right into your face; more so the second time. I will admit there is a sense of satisfaction watching your enemies get splattered with paint from your gun.
Hostilities were ended when all the ammo was expended. I was covered behind a large tire waiting for Drew to lean out too far from his cover and Dean was trying to draw Alex into his line of fire. Dean was hit and left me pinned down on two sides. Paint was flying past me on both sides and it was all I could do to keep them from getting a lock on my position. Fortunately, Alex ran out of ammo and had to leave the game. Drew and I faced off and I knew I had less than half a hopper left. I tried to make Drew shoot and miss, hoping he would run out. I even jumped out and danced a jig trying to taunt him into firing. My ploy worked and he fired several rounds before hollering “I’m out.” We one without one single kill shot in the final game. Kind of disappointing, but a victory is a victory.
We recapped the game as we cleaned up. Alex constantly wondered out loud (and loudly) how we were able to hit them so consistently. My brother just retired from 20 years of active duty Army, and I was a 9-year Vet when I got out in ’93. We were trained for combat. As much as my nephews may play video games and even paintball, nothing prepares one for combat better than combat arms training with the real guns. We won. But we won by one round. Chalk that up to youthful vigor and endurance. All I had was experience and skill. Enough to win, though, so take that youthfulness.