"As I mused, the fire burned"

Reflection on life as a person of faith.

A Soldier’s View of War

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From the book “Jarhead” by Anthony Swofford, 2003, page 114.

“I told her quite confidently that our war was important not because of duration or the number of dead and tortured and burned, but simple because we’d been there and only so many men know the horror of war and the fear, and they must suffer it, no matter the war’s suspected atrociousness, because societies are made, in part, by the men who have fought. I told her that the importance of a war is never decided within years and certainly not within months, but rather in decades, or even centuries. After V Day the vision of the victors is obscured by champagne and skirts and parades, increased profit, decreased loss, and joy, for the war is over and the enemy dead. The war is over and the enemy dead. I said, “The value of every war is negligible.”

[She told me I was full of sh-t.]

“I told her that the problem with believing your country’s battle monuments and deaths are more important than those of other nations is that the enemy disappears, and it becomes as though the enemy never existed, that those names of dead men proudly carved on granite monuments cause a forgetting of the enemy, of the humans who died and fought in other cottons, and the received understanding of war changes so that the heroes from one’s own country are no longer believed to have fought against a national enemy but simply with other heroes, and the war scar is no longer a scar, but a trophy. The warrior becomes the hero, and the society celebrates the death and destruction of war, two things the warrior never celebrates. The warrior celebrates the fact of having survived, not of killing Japs or Krauts or gooks or Russkies or ragheads. That large and complex emotional mess called national victory holds no sway for the warrior. It is necessary to remind civilians of this fact, to make them hear the voice of the warrior.”

My experience of soldiering, is that most I worked with would be considered pacifists by most definitions (although a soldier would not think in those terms). No one person understands the cost of warfare better than a soldier who has entered that fog. The drive to remember, in a soldier’s mind, is not to glorify battle or death but to continue to ‘do their duty’ to stand by their buds once again…their buds who did not return, while they continue to draw breath. That remembering is no less sacred to the soldier, than her or his duty to stand on the firing line in combat, supporting their buds.

The real danger (which we are seeing too much of today) is that the warrior becomes mythological in the eyes of the civilian population, and the permitting of the warrior to work his craft eclipses the horror that is brought forth when societies go to war. As Swofford states, war becomes heroes battling with other heroes, a Disney experience where no one bleeds, and all return home to tell tales of the great battle around the firepit. Nothing is further from the truth.


Written by sameo416

November 17, 2011 at 11:17 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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