I can distinctly recall thinking how strange it was that the ONLY thing I could see was my sight picture, as if there was nothing to the left or right. Then you pull off the weapon for a second and you have panoramic vision again.
I can also distinctly recall feeling as if an engagement had lasted 5 or 10 minutes and being stunned to realize it was all of 25 seconds long.
I will never forget Willie, the Air Force JTAC E-4 who was 5 meters to my right one time, and how ashamed I was that at that moment my entire effective span of control was ME, and WILLIE. Good job, Captain - you have successfully led ONE fucking person other than you.
I will never forget my tongue cleaving to the roof of my mouth and staying stuck, no matter how much water I had just had. And trying to say something, and maybe saying it, but thinking later that it was possible that all that came out was an inarticulate bunch of gibberish. But then Willie did what I said, so maybe it came out right, I don't know.
Or how about the way that, in addition to the crack of the rounds whipping by you, you got a follow-up echo off the nearest wall?
Or how about the way that you strangely have way more powerful memories of some fights than others, and that has almost no connection to how serious it was? I remember this scene with Willie so vividly yet it was nothing, nothing at all, whereas other fights were momentous but I barely remember them.
Or how weird it is that you remember an event sheepishly, as if you could have done more and failed, but others recall you were cool, calm, and collected? No. No I most certainly was not.
Combat is fucking horrible. No movie or show can ever capture just how horrible, because as you say, it is visceral and the feel of hot busted up tarmac and the smell of gun lube and the sound of brass hitting the pavement wholly eclipsed anything you could actually see. We are a visual species and we use a visual medium to try and convey an experience that is often anything but visual when lived.
And yes, once in awhile its just goddamned funny. Scary-funny, like when the Iraqi National Guard kid about to lead a team over a compound wall has a negligent discharge straight up that nips the rim of his helmet, which then kicks up in front, down in back, snapping his chinstrap and knocking him out. Or the 1SG standing in the middle of the street while rounds are rocking all around him, cursing loudly because one of his privates ran into him and he barked his shin. There he stands, screaming "you slimy little motherfucker I will fucking shoot you in the face!" while insurgents are trying to shoot him in the face.
Its a damn good thing I spent most of my time in the JOC.