Thomas Wictor

Angel of death, angel of mercy

Angel of death, angel of mercy

A short post tonight. I’ve remembered that which I’d blocked out all my life. It was time, apparently, because remembering hasn’t destroyed me. Instead, it’s explained everything, including my lifelong fascination with the Angel of Death.

I’d always loved Saint Michael the Archangel.


I’m not religious, so it might seem strange that one of my heroes is a figure who might be simply a myth. Too many things have happened, however, for me to believe that Saint Michael isn’t real. And if he isn’t real, so what? Is this real?


Or this?




Saint Michael the Archangel is more real to me than most human beings. After my father went into hospice on February 20, 2013, the chaplain told me that Saint Michael was also the Angel of Death. He doesn’t visit death upon you; he protects you against demons when you make your journey from this side over to the other. That’s why he’s a ferocious warrior. He kills without mercy, but only because it’s necessary. If there were no evil, we wouldn’t need Saint Michael to fight it.

So it turns out that my hero had been my obsession.

I learned today why I’ve always been fascinated with the German Garde-Reserve-Pionier-Regiment of World War I, the men who were armed with flamethrowers. It was the use of flames—which represented my fear of hell—and it was their insignia.


They wore the death’s head.

This is the cap badge of the Austro-Hungarian Sappeur-Spezial-Bataillon Nr. 61, the flamethrower battalion.


Next, my favorite face in my entire collection.


He’s a private of the American 30th Engineer Regiment (Gas and Flame), known as the “Hellfire Boys.”

Flames. Death. Hell. They were always in the back of my mind.

I even published a book that contains what I always knew but couldn’t bring myself to face until today.


It’s right there in plain language. For over a decade I’ve been leading up to the recovery of the memory, which happened while I was taking my walk. One of the reasons I delayed getting back into walking is that I do my best thinking and remembering while I’m out on a walk. Though I obviously didn’t want to remember, I guess I just couldn’t put it off anymore.

This isn’t something I can talk about publicly. Most of you have no context for it. The veterans of combat who have friended me on social media could understand, but everybody else would find it too horrible to contemplate. And you’d be right.

I knew something was coming. There were signs and portents everywhere. Today—before my walk—I began seeing Angels of Death, demons, and death’s heads in the fence of Lyle and Brother Cat’s house.





This is the best one. There are two perfect skulls on the center board, one above the other.


It looks exactly like the work of my favorite artist, Otto Dix.


Dix was a German, a machine gunner during World War I. When asked why he produced such disgusting art, he said, “Painting is an act of banishment.”

I never found his work offensive. He was trying to overcome unimaginable trauma. I’ve been trying to do the same my entire life, and now I remember what it is that I’d forgotten out of necessity. It’s as bad as bad can be, so I won’t talk about it. Only my brother Tim knows, and it’s what he’s suspected for years too. It was right there, out in the open, waiting for us to see it.

But we’re coping. We were ready. When it’s your time, it’s your time. It was my time to remember. I asked Tim if he was up for hearing it, and he was.

Life goes on, and sometimes it can be amazing. A few days ago I got a letter from a member of an Arab special-operations group that I’ve written about. The operator thanked me for giving his unit the credit they deserve for being as skilled and selfless as they are.

I can’t tell you how much that letter means to me.

It was like getting a letter from Saint Michael the Archangel.

بارك الله فيك