Behind the Barbed Wire~ The thoughts and feelings of a WW1 soldier

February 2, 2016
By Vika_Hope SILVER, Loch Arbour, New Jersey
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Vika_Hope SILVER, Loch Arbour, New Jersey
7 articles 3 photos 5 comments

Author's note:

My inspirations are listed in the long summary.  I prefered to consolidate my three answers.

The author's comments:

Comment any revelations... Thoughts.


June 13, 1917
Dear Journal,

  Currently, we’ve arrived at the front.  The trenches were much smaller than Simon (a friend, that I met on the way to the trenches) and I expected them to be.  Right now, all the soldiers are unpacking little things that they’ve brought to remind them of home.  Our leading officer says that home makes a man soft, so I have decided to keep only a sturdy leather bound journal, and one picture of my family.  Their glowing faces are enough to refill my euphoria.  Several of the lads were disappointed to hear that our squadron would be remaining stationary, in the ditches of despair (I added that last bit for dramatic umph).  Many of the young men had this naivete, they thought the war was a way to see the world.  Well, they are obviously not very worldly.  I have a mild mannered cousin, who is a journalist in Russia, has been sending me horrifying letters, filled with tales of destruction and grief.  The cost of war, is never an easy one to be paid.  I am a pacifist, and the only reason I have been sucked into this whirlpool of violence and brutality, is the ridiculous Selective Service Act.  I feel enslaved.  I didn’t know that creating an act like this was even legal!  I would like a copy of the constitution, considering the fact that I am not a natural born citizen.  I am British, and have only been here for 6 years.  Though I have never been a coward.  I accept my role, unlike the masses of men who shoot themselves in the foot, or arm.  Just to stay away from war.  It really places a gargantuan pit in my stomach.  Our humanity is being ripped away, painfully, bit by bit.  Very few of the men realize that we are being pitted against each other, like wild animals.  And all for what?  The vicious acts of tyrants, who cannot seem to differentiate their brains from their bottoms.  Pardon my childish phrasing, but seriously!  Did that German soldier 30 yards away from you send the Zimmerman Note to Mexico PERSONALLY?  NO!  He was probably brainwashed by that hypnotizing propaganda, and doesn’t even know why he is at war, at least, he doesn’t understand what justified the killing of his innocence, as well as killing the innocent.  The United States needs to handle detrimental issues diplomatically, if not, what kind of example are we setting for the weak minded leaders, who hang upon the every word of powerful countries (us being one of them)?  If one is to take charge, they should at least do so correctly.  I have lived in America for 6 of my 21 years of life.  It’s a place of wonder, and joy.  Not hot-headed leaders who do not contemplate the consequences of their actions.  But apparently, all of that has morphed in the face of war.  I believe I have finished my rant, but I would like to include one more detail.  It’s selfish, but I have not complained to anyone but you, dear journal.  I was ready to leave for Harvard, one of the most prestigious colleges for law in the country, I was incredibly shocked that I even made it into the competitive school.  That was three months ago, when I was 20, almost 21.  I had seen the newspapers, read the decrypted Zimmerman Note, and was stupidly optimistic, hoping that it would all work out.  I received a letter, a month after the Zimmerman Note was published, I have stuck the message in here.  It required me to report to a Service Office in Texas, where I endured a series of physical tests, And in the blink of an eye, I was no longer an aspiring law student, but a military man.  It crushed me on the inside, but you have to act tough, for the sake of your family.  My mother, and younger brother we sobbing, salty tears pooling down their pale faces.  My father was hugging me, and shouting not to go.  It pained my soul to see my lovely family in such a state.  And lastly.  My heart, my soul, my love.  Genevieve, my fiance’ is a beautiful, strong willed, extremely intelligent woman.  She was the roughest “goodbye.”  The haunting look in her glittering amber eyes is a memory I cannot shake.  I can still imagine, her soft porcelain skin, the small flecks of gold in her iris’.  To say I am madly in love couldn’t begin to describe this feeling.  The worst decision I have ever made, was not to say goodbye, at all.  I couldn’t face her.  I am brave in most events.  However, in love, I am a downright coward.  So. being the ignorant stubborn idiot I am, I wrote 7 heartfelt pages of my feelings, goodbyes, and farewells and slipped them under her doorstep.  What choice did I have?  You can’t “opt out” of being selected.  On that dreary note, I have settled into my tight space in the trench.  The dirt walls are molding to my back, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were an imprint of my back there in the morning.  I was lucky, Simon is assigned to a space right beside me, I'm so glad to to have a friend in this uncharted territory.  Now, all that’s left is to wait for death to arrive, and take its place across from us, in an even more ominous trench (oops, I meant the Germans, but they’re essentially the same thing by now),  I’m terribly sorry for the excessive pessimism, but I can’t seem to make light of war.  Men all around me, are playing cards, smoking cigarettes, (awful habit, by the way), and laughing, as if this trench were a party venue.  But it’s not.  Simon just elbowed me, around five minutes ago, whispering,”Lighten up, the more you think about the danger, and horror of this situation, the more your own mind will tear you apart.  Think of happier times.”  He’s right, what a simple, yet knowledgeable fellow, I am lucky to have met him.

Anxiously, Victor

The author's comments:

A bit dark, I know, but bear with me.

December 20, 1917
Dear Journal,

It's terrifying, twisted.  A complete bloodbath, and the mud that surrounds me is mixed with a crimson tone.  The blood of the men who surrounded me, laughing, drinking, and playing card games.  Gone.  Gone is the merriment and lightheartedness.  I have never had such a heavy feeling in my chest.  That of grief, and illness.  It has rained.  Everyday,  For roughly two weeks.  However, time does not seem to pass in this hellish wasteland.  You end up losing your concept of time.  The only way time moves on, is how fast the bodies rot.  How long ago your comrade was killed.  How many moments ago, when you realized you could no longer imagine your loved one’s voices, how they felt, how they laughed.  It tears your mental health away, just as quickly as your physical health wears down.  I am one of the lucky ones.  At least, I would like to think that.  It’s difficult some days, when the trenches seem more like graves than anything else.  Simon says that agrees indefinitely,  It is amazing how strong he is, through these heartbreaking massacres, that occur every day. his brother was killed, the other day, by poisonous gasses, near squadron 5,  It seems that the more the war escalates, the faster mankind is out to murder each other, with weapons of mass destruction.  It is an extremely devastating notion, really.  I am counting my blessings (the few that exist, anymore) each and every night, it gives me a sense of security, that of contentment.  I can only hope and pray that there is a force above, who is embracing the fallen, with open arms.  Raindrops are becoming fuller, now hitting the journal parchment like watery bullets.  My bad, it is an unsettling analogy. There is rarely time to right any more, I have felt ill constantly, ever since the day the after effects of a nearby poisonous gas bomb hit our squadron.  I am so lucky to be in a group of men with spirits so tough, that their souls can never be extinguished, even if their Earth bound bodies are.  I am concerned about Simon.  He has been coughing, and gasping all throughout the night.  I just finished my shift, on watch, when I began writing.  How can the generals expect us to sleep when bullets are whizzing over our slumbering bodies.  I obtain a dreadful case of insomnia whenever I cannot cease worrying about something.  So I lie awake, listening to the unnerving, ill coughs of the men around me.  At this moment, the silence is deafening.  I’ve never really understood that paradox until I experienced it, the men had all held in their coughing, after a loud click just sounded in the distance.  We all think that a terror is brewing, this is simply the calm before the storm.

Journal.  It is raining bullets.  Not the watery kind.  My gut was clenching, as I tried to push other men out of the German fire, I am sure it is a plane, shooting down at us, with the addition of ground men.  I rolled, along with a few others to the side of the trench that wasn’t as visible.  We could not fight back.  We are heavily outnumbered, and I can’t stand the thought of mindlessly shooting the Germans.  They’re all misguided young men, who have families, and friends, and soulmates.  I only shoot to defend.  I will never shoot purely to kill, I couldn’t live with myself..  I am not sure if there is a God above.  No pain could match what I am feeling in my heart.  The sorrow is flowing through the smoky atmosphere, pellets of water rain down on us, and one man screeches in agony as a bullet penetrates his heart.  There is more blood, pooling in the filthy mud and muck.  I have to look away.  You must be wondering why I am documenting this tragedy.  Well, honestly, it is the only thing able to distract me enough.  Otherwise I would gladly put a bullet in my head.  I am attempting to visualise my darling, for it may be the last time I ever see her.  I’m trying to hold in my tears, but it is hell on Earth at this moment, or something pretty close to it.  I can’t face the scene before me.  I feel that I have contributed enough of my life, and my courage.  I am allowed to be frightened for a moment.          
                        Aren’t I?

i ii have beeen struckk…...

The author's comments:

Thank you for reading, I would love any feedback.

Dear Journal,

Well, Uh, this journal has transferred ownership I suppose, but before you jump to any conclusions, (not sure if a journal can do that but…) Victor is alright.  At least, for right now.  Victor directed me to the journal in the his coat pocket, he whispered in a frail voice to,”keep him alive.”  Unfortunately, he was shot in the gut, 5 days ago, and went unconscious during the attack.  I’m so glad to see the old sport awake again, but the guy is incredibly pessimistic, and doesn’t think he’ll live much longer.  We were taken away to to medical tent, a couple yards back, when the Germans had to restock on ammo, the nurses and doctors who carried us were unbelievably brave. I was very fortunate, I was pierced in the elbow by a single bullet, but my buddy Victor, was hit twice in the gut.  I don’t want him to die away and fade into the group of those forgotten soldiers.  He is a bright guy, and smarter than I will ever be, so why am I alive?  The roles should’a been reversed, from the moment I met ‘em, I knew, “this guy,” I thought,”Is gonna change the world.”  He had that look of intelligence, ya’ know?  Sorry my handwriting is quite rough, my right arm’’s in a cast, and that’s my writing hand/arm.  I don’t think too much, but the war has changed me.  When those bullets are flyin’ above your cranium, it gets you thinking about what’s really important in life.  So, I guess, I gotta say goodbye, Victor wants to see you right now, haha.  G’bye journal!

Sincerely, Simon

The author's comments:

As my novel comes to a close, I wish to recieve ratings and feedback from my lovely readers.  Thank you for reading.  Keep thinking, dreaming, and advocating for peace.

I have no time for a trivial introduction, I need to cut to the chase.  I apologize if my wit isn’t top notch, for I was shot 5 days ago, in the “gut” twice, or so I am told.  I had never realized how short life is, until the day so many of my fellow soldiers were picked off mercilessly, their life, ripped out of their hands, and into the Germans’ hands…. and I could do nothing.  I know in my heart that they did not die in vain, because I will make sure that the world learns how wrong and dastardly the whole process of war is.  The leaders must learn from our sacrifices, that there is no benefit to humanity, when it comes to war.   Hopefully my wounds will heal quickly enough to see that utopia, when it comes.  It’s hard to hold onto life when I see nurses scurrying up to the doctors near my cot whispering,”fatal? What more can we do?  So much blood.”  I know they are trying to help, but the pain is enough already.  I have had enough.  I just want to be free of this mess, this sorry excuse for a makeshift hospital.  I wish to lay in a calm field, alone, and free of pain.  I wish to die alone.  Having people around me only makes the concept more painful.  Because seeing those concerned people makes you realize, “In order to die, I would have to leave these wonderful people, who want me to stay, more than anything.”  And that’s my will to live right now.  It’s weak, but with a will there’s a way.  And so my unremitting optimism returns, annoyingly, but it’s a bit of a relief, because being unremittingly optimistic is one of my most redeeming traits.  Or so, I think.  If I do die away, send this journal to my family and friends; I love you all very much, do not grieve, I wish there to be celebrations of my life, rather than mourning my death.  It may be difficult, but please, take care of yourselves and do not worry about me, any pain I am going through now, is minimal compared to the other soldiers, some were paralyzed.  Finally, my dearest Genevieve, I love you with every existing fiber of my being, and never stop smiling; for the world seems to glow whenever you do.  Never stop laughing or loving, because the Earth is fortunate enough to witness your grace, compassion, and wit.  I hope there will be many more journal entries to come, I wish to live on, and spread peace throughout the world.  However, if I have any chance of surviving, I need to rest.  Thank you journal.  You have been my faithful companion through all the hardships, and consoled my mental health during the worst of times.  I am eternally grateful for that.

Contently, Victor Charles Van Brooks

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This book has 3 comments.

Halloimjane said...
on Feb. 25 2016 at 9:32 am
hmm. gloomy, but cool gloominess

on Feb. 25 2016 at 9:30 am

Bookdiva said...
on Feb. 7 2016 at 10:14 am
This is an incredible book. Reading this, I feel as if I have time-traveled to this place & time. Keep writing!!!

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