combat writing badge C O M B A T
the Literary Expression of Battlefield Touchstones
ISSN 1542-1546 Volume 01 Number 04 Fall ©Oct 2003

Conjoined Battle

There are incidents which both fascinate and bore us, attract and repel us, excite and disgust us. These moments of witness or experience order our lives. These essential acts and fundamental events will affect all subsequent affairs, such that we will command our destiny to conform to our prerequisites ... or suffer ignominious shame for never having tried. Our naivety is not the problem, rather it is pivotal. Just as most lawyers begin by seeking justice, and become resigned to managing the dynamics of variable truths; so most soldiers embark upon a defense of patriotic idealism, and are inevitably sustained by duty and devotion. Just as we are inevitably altered by the process, we likewise irrevocably alter the process, which perpetuates the continuum. Consequences tend to make a mockery of our presumptive discretion. No matter why we went to war, we stayed because it was unendurable for us to abandon our duty, to dishonor our comrades, to shirk the enemy onslaught.

At some point, everyone involved must become reconciled to the utter finality and absolute distinctions that rule any theater of war. Coincident in any temporal cross-section may be the juxtaposition of sweaty and exhausted extreme contrasted by pressed and polished routines. Some stand lonely vigil while other impersonal clusters act mechanistically. Some rattle their instruments, rattle their weapons, or rattle their bones, and others make a death-rattle that rattles some souls. While some jape and jive, others pause and ponder. While one is suffering or dying, another is eating or sleeping, relaxing or laughing. We must become reconciled to cosmic caprices, or simply go insane. Logic posits formulae and ratios, such as risk factors and skill equivalents, such as the percentage of support to combat personnel, to rationalize the disparities, but no one is fooled by these contrivances. The counterfeit approbation is that all gave some, and some gave all, but that doesn't begin to express or explain it. What happens in war, whether to persons serving beside each other or to ones as dissimilar as possible, is entirely irrational. There is no justice, and no appeal, and to pretend otherwise is absurd! This is why one must come to an accommodation, an acceptance, a conciliation; because understanding is impossible. At some point, everyone involved must become reconciled ... least the battles within and without conjoin, and utterly destroy us.

We cannot resist every powerful impulse or monumental force, so we make a positive virtue of selectivity and accommodation. Our personality predisposes our choices and adjustments, but no one understands the process ... we simply concede and conform. Some instances of coping are sanctioned, and others are not; and we, as unique and sentient individuals, must bear the responsibility for a totally capricious system of morality. It may not make sense, but as long as we continue to be functional in an absurd nightmare, then we've sustained some type of existential balance ... and, on rare occasions, we may hear the laughing echoes of a cosmic joke or the divine comedy.

Men can only be strong when they can keep their fears out in front of their defenses. If fear penetrates their fortifications, men are liable to become self-destructive. Men believe that the preservation of honor ... more than life ... is their last chance at glory. Most men never learn to balance their destructive impulses and motives; to extend credit and to host fear. Most men cannot be comforted by ambiguities, cannot be assuaged by contradictions, cannot be influenced by vagaries, except to escalate their mistrust. Most men do not realize that acquiescence is a form of empowerment, that tolerance increases strength, that commitment enhances freedom, until it is finally forced upon them.

by Pan Perdu
... who is a former soldier and VA counselor; this work has been excerpted from Fragmentations, a book in progress.