I know, I know – it’s been awhile. I have been pretty busy with ‘life’. I’ve gotten married and I’m now working towards a Certificate in Creative Writing through the University of Calgary. I am nearing the completion of my first course and our final project is an essay assignment. I want to share it with you as it was a tough piece but I am happy with the result. With Remembrance Day just passing it only seems appropriate. Enjoy and I’d appreciate any comments or a share on it. A tribute to the men and women who have served, continue to serve and who will serve.
With the parole officer leading the way off the subway, the soldier was in his normal state of mind that day – anger – what the hell were they doing and why was his parole officer wasting his time? They walked together through a set of doors that proved to be the soldier’s last chance to set himself on a different path in this life -what he thought would be a better path. Frozen in fear yet at the same time a hardened street kid, he was unsure of what was going on, the silence was broken when his parole officer spoke – “Don’t worry – we’re just here for some information and to talk to some old friends of mine.” Memories of his grandfather’s stories of the war swirled in his head – remembering him say he would rather have been in a jail cell than fighting in active duty. It was at this point that the fear turned real. The fear was real but the intrigue was greater – the videos of men driving tanks, shooting guns (which he was already familiar with) and doing hand to hand combat piqued his interest and with little thought his intrigue turned into being a recruit in the Canadian Armed Forces.
He does not speak of being on the front lines often although his scars can speak a million words silently. What can he possibly speak of to help other people understand how it feels to walk in those boots, carry those weapons and bear the guilt in that heart. He’s a good man – the soldier but often times he thinks back to days of being a hardened street kid as being easier than the days of being a soldier or a veteran for that matter. A street kid would not have spent days if not weeks awake in fear for his life, chew under his lip so he didn’t fall asleep, rifle in one hand, knife in the other wishing he was anywhere other than there. A street kid would not spend months digging up massive grave sites trying to identify the remains of human beings from babies to the elderly. A street kid would not have had to make the choice to protect his troops by taking another human beings life. Now he understood what his grandfather had meant when he said prison was a better place than the war.
The years went by and the tours continued to places he’d wish he’d never been. The soldier did not realize that each day that went by and that as he did what he had been trained to do, his soul was dying inside. He went on through the paces of daily life when he was on his homeland – getting married, having children, being a friend and a husband. With every tour, his sentence to a life of guilt grew. When he’d come home to the life he’d created the guilt would shackle him and he would never feel joy or happiness. As soon as it would feel good, the guilt would take it away and the voices in his head would play over and over and over again. “You caused pain and hurt to others, you deserve no happiness or joy yourself.”
He has lost many friends, some to war but so many more to the aftermath of war. Some to the bottle, some to the drugs but most of them have been lost to the good Lord above through battle and through the guilt that engulfed them after the wars. War does not discriminate about what soldiers it will take ransom for the rest of their lives. It does not look at the soldiers with children and families at home and ensure they go home safe to them. War may send them home physically but many of those soldiers’ souls remain in the fields that they fought in – alive or dead.
When war has taken its toll and that soldiers days on the front lines were done, he came home to an unfamiliar life. A life he had dreamt about when he was young, 2 children and a wife safely in the confines of their home creating memories and a stereotypical life. The soldier tried hard to find the man he had wanted to be before he became a soldier, before he became a hardened street kid but he no longer knew what that man looked like. His anger would take control and just when life could no longer hurt him more than he had ever thought, the Lord took away his wife and with her another piece of his soul. He considered that this was payback, the Lords way for punishing him for doing what he had been trained to do. The ultimate inner battle of protecting his land, his freedoms, his family and friends lives as they knew in exchange for another human life. The soldier’s guilt spun further out of control and into a day to day abyss of simply existing. He had thoughts that life would be better if he joined his brothers and sisters of war and make the same choice they made and allow the guilt to take his life. Except the Lord had bigger plans for this soldier, he sent him what the soldier refers to as “An Angel”. He and her have grown in love through the pains and sorrows they’ve both known in life and he knows he has been given a second chance.
The room is dark and the only noise to be heard is the low hum of the furnace. I look over and see him; he’s sitting straight up in bed still rigid from the dream. His eyes are open wide yet he doesn’t seem to be here in this bed with me, in this house with me. His soul is lost in the dream. He’s covered in a thin layer of sweat and has yet to figure out where he is. I place my hand softly on his arm and say ‘It’s ok baby, you’re home with me.’ He turns towards me and slowly mentally comes back to this place, this bed, this life. He strokes my cheek and says ‘I’m ok, go back to sleep.’ The dreams that haunt this man are beyond what I can imagine deep in the depths of my heart. The pain in his eyes is so engrained and deep that often my heart weeps quietly for the man he was before – before he became a soldier.
Nicely done! You showed the inner life of a soldier graciously and effectively.
Thank you for the read and comment Lynn. I appreciate your guidance!
Well done. My friend!
Thank you Angie. I can only hope that others feel that emotion as well.
This is a very powerful and moving story. Thank you for sharing and giving us a glimpse of what our soldiers go through.
Thank you for reading Tandy. I always appreciate hearing from you. It is as you say a very small glimpse but I hope enough for people to see why we need to continue to honour them – dead or alive.