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Don't Let Them
Don’t let them trick you into believing that war is glorious. You have no idea what it feels like to watch your best friends fall around you. You can’t know what it’s like to know that there’s nothing you can do to help the wounded, because you’re too busy trying to keep yourself alive. In war, no one honors your last request.
Don’t let them say that you can be compassionate. Yes, soldiers are fighting for their country, but during combat, they are the most selfish people in the world. Men lay dying at other mens’ feet, but those still standing cannot help. Even bending down for a second to give a wounded friend a drink of water can cost you your life.
Don’t let them tell you that war is constant action. In war, there are moments of excitement, of fighting. But most of your time is spent waiting and wondering. When will you be home? Will the next battle be your last? What is your family doing right now? There is no way to divine the future, and there is no way to see what is happening back home.
Don’t let them say that war is clean and perfect. Unless you experience war firsthand, it’s impossible to imagine the sights, sounds, and smells. Every way you turn you see nothing but smoke and bodies. The ground under your feet is stained crimson. The moaning of the dying barely reaches your ears, nearly drowned out by the gunshots. The air reeks of blood.
Don’t let them tell you that you’ll be smarter when you come home. There is no time to think. The only thought running through your mind, over and over again, is stay alive. If you lose focus one moment, you will be dead the next. Even at night, there is no reading or calm thinking time. You can only worry that this night may be your last.
Don’t let them say that you’ll stay rested. Your body is exhausted when you lay down for the night, but you cannot sleep for the fear of an attack. Your friend in the next bunk over is tossing and turning, screaming at his nightmares. You know that you would be doing that too if you were to fall asleep.
Don’t let them tell you that you’ll never hear from home. You don’t know how amazing it feels to finally receive a letter from home. Your hands shake so much you can’t open the envelope. You’re crying, but no one will mention it. They are jealous of you. Most of the soldiers only keep themselves alive with the thought of family, and you are holding your family in your hand. Letters are the only connection you have with home.
Don’t let them make you believe that there is no “if.” You may die. That is always a possibility, never forget that. There are always “ifs.” IF you survive. IF you don’t lose your mind. IF you still have a family by the time it’s over.
Don’t let them say that “once it’s over, it’s over forever.” Even years after the war ends, the images will still haunt your dreams, even when you’re awake. “Do not hide from me, Daddy,” your daughter will say. “It’s just me.” But you won’t know that. In your eyes, her sweet face will be the face of the enemy. Don’t hold still, or she’ll shoot me, you’ll think. These are the effects of the war.
Don’t let them tell you that it’ll end. Even decades after your victory, when you begin to lose your memory, the visions of battle will be the last scenes to escape your mind. You will jump out of your skin at the sound of a car backfiring. These are the effects of war.
Don’t let them say that you’ll be okay. Although no doctor will diagnose you as crazy, you will be. You will see scenes of war in everyday situations. Behind the shelves at a grocery store, an army of a hundred is waiting to kill you. That airplane flying above you is about to drop a bomb on your home. You can never be the same after experiencing battle.
Don’t let them trick you into believing that war is glorious.