Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Once we fought wars.

They were not our wars but willingly we went. For another country, for an ideal, for the adventure. We went.

They were great wars. They were fought for reasons we often did not understand. For reasons rarely, if ever, fully explained to us. At the time did we care. Would it have made a difference. There was a war to be fought, there was manhood to prove there was a chance to go away to get away to be Over There

We went.

We went and the reality hit us. So different from the stories and the songs and psalms. Reality was the singular earthy metallic fecund smell of the trenches; the particular shade of black that blood becomes when spattered across a moonlit beach; that last flicker of light, so real yet so ephemeral, that is the life flickering away in the eyes of your best friend

We went.

We cut ourselves on the barbed wire, we crawled across the bodies of our brothers on the beach, we huddled, snot freezing to the point of pain on our faces on the winter reservoir.

We listened to our commanders, often speaking to us in the clipped accent of another country, as they ordered us to charge the guns, the cannons the machine guns, over and over. Over and over. Until we could barely leap over the bodies of the dead and we knew where the guns were because of the redness of the glowing hot barrels.

We stood on the docks of the harbour in Hong Kong as the commanders sailed away with the soldiers of the their own countries, hearing the enemy breaking over the hills, knowing we could do naught but drop our guns and wait for the shackles to fit our wrists

We went.

We fought and we died and we were captured and we marched and we questioned the orders and we pondered the reasons but we moved forward. Always forward. Street to street, house house, trench to trench, ocean to ocean.

We went.

We were taught our place. We were permitted to glimpse a glimmer of the plan to be allowed to feel a part of it. A small part of it. But never asked to really understand. Never expected to do anything but to go forward, to advance, to pour ourselves into the breach, over the berm, across the harbour.

To fight.

And we fought. We always fought. And others knew that we fought, they saw that we did. They gave us names. They shook their heads. They knew that we would fight. They knew we break down the doors, leap up on to the tanks, stand on the decks of the ships and fire. They knew that we would fight.

We went.

Now we do not fight wars. We are involved in actions, in missions, in conflicts. We are asked to do things that police officers should do. We are asked to eradicate the enemy but not be seen to kill them. We are asked not to fight but to complete the mission.

Once we fought wars.

Wars have ended, wars have changed, wars are more clearly the mechanism of politicians.

But still.

We go.

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