"But, nevertheless, the generation that carried on the war has been set apart by its experience. Through our great good fortune, in our youth our hearts were touched with fire. It was given to us to learn at the outset that life is a profound and passionate thing." Oliver Wendell Holmes
"I'm sorry I must leave, but I must do what is asked of me by my God, my Country, and my Corps.. and so, the war blog begins, again." ~B
21 April 2010
Bestie is now well over two months into his deployment. He has settled into the routine and his responsibilities. I have actually had a chance to talk to him for a couple of lengthy periods of time recently, which was comforting. We talked about the things all best friends talk about-relationships, worries, future plans, our favorite childhood tv show, the current projects of our favorite bands.
Then, as is inevitable, we turned into us. We discussed Lt. Col. Grossman's book On Killing: the Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society. It is one of his favorites and I had just finished rereading it. It served as a segue into more serious topics, like "how are you." The answer is, as good as can be expected. He talked about doing missions and standing guard. The potential of orders that could end the lives . He of the responsibilities of his job and its outcomes. He spoke of courage and cowardice. He stated offhandedly that he doesn't feel much of anything out there in the way of emotion, just numb.
Delia Falconer wrote in The Last Thoughts of Soldiers, "There was a part of his soul that would always stay out on the plains. It was so frozen he thought a little bit had been torn off." These are heavy burdens we ask our men and women in the military to shoulder. And we ask them to take them up again and again. Then we ask them do it one more time. To paraphrase Sgt Cruz-- What is a Marine? His uniform? His stature? A Marine is a human being, a man or woman--one asked to do extraordinary things, and then move on from them. Robert Leckie wrote in his WWII memoir, Helmet for My Pillow, " It is to sacrifice that men go to war. They do not go to kill, they go to be killed, to risk their flesh, to insert their precious persons in the path of destruction." What then, do we owe these men who have inserted their precious persons into the mountains and plains of Afghanistan and now risk their flesh on our behalf, on our request? We owe them a debt we cannot pay. We owe them our attention. We listen to their stories with compassion, not judgment. We send the letters and Ring Pops when requested. We take a moment of our day to read or write these dispatches so our friend overseas knows that we remember him. That we love him. That he is not invisible, nor has he disappeared. We read, and write, and send to reassure him that he is still in our hearts and minds. And that we will be there for him when he returns home.