By the time you read this, we may have already launched missiles into Syria for something they may, or may not have done. We have troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea, just to name a few current hot spots, as well as bases all over the world. We have …
By the time you read this, we may have already launched missiles into Syria for something they may, or may not have done. We have troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea, just to name a few current hot spots, as well as bases all over the world. We have become the world’s police force. The United States has not fought a declared war since WWII. All the rest have been “interventions” or “police actions” or “conflicts,” but no matter what you call it, it is war.
I am sick of war. It has been with me all my life. My father served in the Pacific in World War II, I served in Vietnam. Both of us know people who died in those wars. War was in our home. It was uninvited, but it was there, and whether we like it or not, it is part of who we are.
My boyhood friends and I would raid construction sites for scrap wood and a few nails to build machine guns, carbines, and pistols. We would fill discarded beer cans with sand and dirt. These were grenades. They made the coolest clouds of dust when you threw them, but really hurt when you were hit with one.
We would have wars that would last all day, dying many times in the battles. You had to count to 30 before you were “alive” again, 15 if you were wounded. No one ever did, and we would argue about who had killed whom and for how long. This resulted in loud negotiations, also part of war.
War was hell. I remember being parched with thirst as we ran about the neighborhood and adjacent fields slaughtering each other repeatedly. Much later in my life, I would get just as parched running around fields and jungles and hearken back to the time when it wasn’t “for keeps.”
We backyard heroes were relieved when someone’s mom would call us in for lunch. We would eat and then stay in the house for a while in front of the fan or air conditioner, watch a little television if we had one, then go back outside and start over.
When we weren’t running about the neighborhood killing each other, we would get the little green plastic toy soldiers that you could buy in large, bagged, quantities and let them kill each other. We built elaborate forts out of cardboard boxes. We would attack and defend them for hours.
One day this got out of hand, we set fire to the forts and the soldiers. I still get sick when I remember it. This was my first taste of “real” war and loss. The fire distorted the little figures in the most grotesque ways. I felt I could hear the screams of the soldiers as they died. It smelled, was hot, destructive, and loud. It was war. I hated it, but it was nothing compared to the real thing.
I watched in horror the first time one of my fellow Marines went down in a firefight. He hit the ground and lay still. His buddy was yelling for him to, “Get up!” No amount of counting was going to bring him back. This was for keeps. No one’s mom was going to call, “Come in for lunch,” and we would all go, friend and foe alike to share sandwiches and Kool-Aid. There was hate here and sometimes survival depended on it. This was war.
I am sick of war and wish it would go away and we could all get along, but at this point in history, when there are wars and rumors of war all over the world, it is here, it is real, and it will stay. We have to live with it, and we had better not ignore it.
I think Mark Twain’s “War Prayer” should be required reading for everyone in the world. It is a short story or prose poem and is a scathing indictment of war.
An unnamed country goes to war, and patriotic citizens attend a church service for soldiers about to leave. The people call upon God to grant them victory and protection. An “aged stranger” appears and announces that he is God’s messenger. He explains that he is there to speak aloud the second part of their prayer, the part they have implicitly wished for, but have not spoken aloud, the prayer for the suffering and destruction of their enemies.
What follows is a grisly depiction of hardships inflicted on war-torn nations. The story ends with the man being ignored, and people thinking him mad.
War has been necessary in our history, and I am thankful for all those who stood up to tyranny and said, “Not on my watch,” and were willing to give all for our freedom as it was threatened. Today, we don’t have to be threatened. I don’t know where to draw the line, nor how wide, or narrow to make it.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we had scrap lumber guns, nailed together and we could only make gun noises with our mouths where the danger would be drooling on yourself, or spitting on your enemy? You would have to fall down, and go to the sidelines as a “dead” guy and you were out of the war. We would all fight until a universal mom would call, “Come in for lunch,” and the team with the most “live” guys would be the winner. That would be nice, but someone would get mad and then it would be for keeps.
I am so sick of war, but if called upon, I will fight ... again.
David Wilson Atwood is a local writer whose human-interest columns offer a unique perspective. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.