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A Disastrous Fate
Background: (Robel Yohannes is a 25-year old Ethiopian born on October 31st 1966. He is fighting in the Ethiopian and Eritrean War. His parents send him off to fight in the war without his consent. He struggles in the war and he is forced to adapt to his new environment).
Why me? Why should I sacrifice my life for this? What have I done to deserve this? I have done nothing wrong, nothing wrong at all!
The war is a cruel environment. There are many days that I do not eat. The cooks do not have enough food to feed the 10,000 soldiers that are forced to fight for our country. The food is not good at all. People say that the cooks mix the food with dirt and soil in the ground, in order to fill up the plates. I do believe this, because I did find a grasshopper on my plate before. But, what can I do about it? Complain? No, it is not my place to complain. I should be thankful for what I have got.
Thankful. What a silly word! I have nothing to be thankful of! I am here because my parents have forced me to fight for this stupid country! I am here because my parents are greedy. They would rather send off their one and only son to the war and receive money in exchange from the government! What a selfish request! My parents are not affected by my pain and suffering! I am sure of this! Why else would they have sent their son straight to his grave!
The war has not changed me, it has transformed me. It is amazing how a war can alter a man’s appearance and attitude. I look at the reflection of myself in the river, and I cannot help but notice the extreme weight loss that I have achieved. I am as skinny as a rake. My cheek bones are prominent. I can see my collar and rib bones through my tight shirt. It is astonishing how the war can change so much of me in so little time. I have never been selfish before the war; I was always willing to help others. But now, since I have fought and seen my comrades murdered before my very eyes, I cannot help but try to save myself from this dreadful experience. I need to save myself before anyone else, I need to live. I need life. When my fellow comrades ask for food or water that I have saved, I do not share it. When a soldier asks me to give him my new boots, I refuse to give it. Yes, I am selfish. But, how else will I survive? My duty and priority is to leave the war alive.
I can no longer sleep at night. I am terrified of surprise attacks by the Eritreans. I lie there, on the cold, winter nights and open my eyes without sleep. I cannot sleep, because I always dream of the soldiers that I have seen brutally murdered. I have gruesome images in my mind of the stabbings, shootings, and rockets that have blown my comrades into tiny, little pieces. I say to myself that I am protecting myself from any harm, from any damage that comes my way. This is how I survive, by protecting myself from the enemy.
But, can I survive? I often think about how my life will end. I wake up every day and fight for this country. I sacrifice my life for others. Somehow, I have a feeling that my life will not end well if I continue to stay here. My thoughts and feelings about life and the war have drastically changed. I look at my dead comrades lying on the floor and think to myself “that is me next.” I can’t help but wonder when my time to die will come. I can see my comrades’ last words escape their lips, they say “help” or “do not leave me” or even “tell my mother I love her.” Words like these make you cry. No, words like these make you mourn. I cannot explain how deeply affected I am to see soldiers die right before my very eyes. It is as if for every person that dies, part of my soul dies with them. I have lost my innocence, my youth. I have lost all things that are important to me the most. All because of the war that I am forced to fight for.
I think that my head is not right. I may even be insane. I know this because I almost tried to kill one of my comrades for food. I threatened to slash their heart with my knife if they did not hand me the last roll of bread on the table. I blame the intensity of the war for my behavior. I can no longer think straight. The war is my life now. I eat, sleep, and fight for the war. The war has caused me to act the way I do. I know I am different. I know I have changed. But, what can I do? The only way to escape this death-defying experience is to overcome it. I must win. And to win, I must stay alive.
We march all day long until our feet are sore with blisters. Many of the soldiers cannot afford boots, so they are forced to march barefoot, causing them to have deep cuts and burns from the rocky terrain.
The days are sultry and hot, as the emblazing sun burns along our flesh. Ethiopia is extremely humid, causing many of the soldiers to die of dehydration. The spread of malaria is not helping out in the war either. There are rumors that 75 percent of our soldiers have died of this disease. I am just surprised that it has not taken my life yet.
I can only hope that I will leave this gruesome war alive. I hope to overcome this major tragedy in my life. The war has changed me, not only mentally, but also emotionally. I want to escape this nightmare. Flight is essential. I have no purpose in life when I am in the war.