I was recently sent this email from a student, which I have so far been unable to answer:
So war is to be avoided, until it isn’t.
Tragedy indeed. I have an alternative view. Let’s take a few snapshots:
You are an elite, selected and trained. You are a band of brothers. Shock troopers. Eyes up, chests to the enemy. You know you will be given the hardest missions, and casualties are expected to be high. But that is why you are there.
You are not there for the politicians, or the fat selfish civvies back home. Screw them. You will never expect anything from them. They don’t care, and neither do you. You are there because you are the best, because you are a professional soldier. You don’t do it for the military leadership. Screw those assholes too. You do it for your buddies, for your brothers, because you are the best, and you don’t want to let them down. You do it for the proud tradition of those who went before you, and who stand next to you.
In the miserable cold dawn, you mutter and mumble. Cuss and swear. But you are always ready. Your morale is unshaken, however much you complain about the stupidity of whatever you are tasked with. You don’t really care what the mission is, you just want to do your job.
You will always be ready. You will defend the redoubt to the last round, or be the forlorn hope into the hopeless breach. The worst you fear is mutilation. Death will see you in Valhalla. The greatest fear is the pain that your loss will cause those that love you. You want to live not for yourself, but for others. particularly when you have a wife and children, because you want to be there in their life, so they will not feel the pain of loss.
You keep the flame of aggression burning low, deep inside you, ready to go. You can drink chai with people in the morning, and wish them no ill will, and be fighting them later that day, determined to kill them.
Because you know about The Quickening. You know about the visceral excitement that comes when it all starts. You know how the sound of the guns uplifts you.
There is fear in the quiet times. You rationalize it away. As you gird yourself with your armor and your heavy gear, you feel the comfort of it, the pressure of it around your torso. Knowing that it will not help you when the molten metal rips through the vehicle, you feel comfort in it anyway.
You feel the excitement, the oddness of the place that is combat, the different dimension. There is no fear there, just action. Everything feels different, and it is in that strange place that you do your work.
As you wait in line to load onto the back of the CH47 Chinook, standing in the heat of the turbine engine exhaust, you feel it.
As you feel the G forces pull as the chopper shoulders the rise, swooping nap of the earth, looking across and past the door gunner at the star wars villages below.
The long hours of nothing as you drive the roads like a road warrior. When it happens, it happens quick. Visualize, be ready. Act.
The enemy rounds cracking over and past you as you walk your strike onto their position, dueling in the desert. You hammer rounds into them, smashing them.
The eternity between the concussive WHAM of the IED, and when the small arms fire starts.
The brother staggering, ear drums burst. The taste of explosives in the air.
Rolling up on the compound, breaching, into the house, go left, go right, no hesitation.
Weaving through the ambush site, vehicles burning, hammering your machine gun at shadowy enemy in the palm trees. Looking down and seeing the burned bodies, stiff blackened arms outstretched, dead eyes staring. Who laid the vehicle door over that dead guy? Bizarre. Looking up the road and seeing the monstrous boat like APCs, rolling towards you through the desert haze, coming like the cavalry.
The sniper in the minaret. The brother down. In the back of the APC, rushing towards the FOB, hands red and bloody. His aorta hit, dead on arrival.
The brothers with their legs torn off, after the EFP ripped its molten slugs through the armored SUV.
The sudden rip of rounds into the roadway. The clang of enemy fire off the vehicle armor. Hammering away yet again, you see their firing positions on the rooftops across the waste ground.
Or when your weapon is the radio, and you call it in, and the gods hammer the enemy from the sky.
After you get home, you are tired. Oh so very tired. You need to rest. You drive like a maniac, avoiding trash in the road. Sometimes the anger bubbles up. Mainly the tears come in the quiet times.
But you are still ready to go. You know about The Quickening.
You mourn those who did not make it back, but you get on with making a life and family.
You never cared before what the mission was, you were just there to fight. Now you have awoken. You thought that you were always fighting for truth and freedom, on the side of justice. Perhaps you weren’t. Perhaps you were duped.
Now you see evidence that tyranny is at home also. You are older. Your knees creak and your back hurts. But you are still a soldier, and you stay ready.
You know that when you hear the sound of the guns, you will be ready to go again. Instantly. Perhaps you will die in your bed, or perhaps you will yet make it to Valhalla.
All you want to do is raise a family, live quiet, and farm. You will not start a fight, you will not start a war, but if it comes, you will be ready. Always ready.
Hope for the best, but if evil rides, prepare for the worst. Train.
This post may make no sense at all. If so, I will resume normal programming shortly.
Wolves are loose in the Shire. Winter is coming.
‘Green fields and Blue Skies.’