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

What the Veteran Knows
War Teaches Lessons that Most Students Don't Want to Learn

There's nothing like a uniform for anonymity ... for obliterating the individual, for concealing the soul. There's nothing like a uniform for identity ... for representing personal achievement, for assimilating shared values. A uniform is only the most obvious symbol of all our ambiguous traits.

With a suspension of the rules and denial of reciprocity, you send your team into the game with the proviso that they cannot win but shouldn't lose; and you further hamstring your successful efforts by converting your elite into combined advisory coaches and pep-boosters, but prohibiting their play ... and then you wonder why the bitter double-damned survivors manifest a "delayed reactive post-traumatic stress syndrome" ... a champion's heroic restraint is inglorious and anti-triumphal, especially when the adversary recognizes no limits and indulges total resistance ... never ever again! Crucify the demented creator of our pyrrhic martyr, our moribund protagonist, our gelded paragon, our piteous anti-hero, of our intrepid apostate; and save our antagonists the trouble!

A soldier can share fellowship and knowledge with penumbral comrades at a flickering campfire, where the lengthening shadows, which encroach like a stealthy attack by the forces of darkness, are held at bay by honest vigilance. If he insists upon carrying Diogenes' lighted 'lamp of truth' among the public, then the veteran will be shunned into isolation; because no one who hasn't experienced war can understand it, and no one else wants these ugly episodes revealed. Veterans have "seen the elephant" when their magnificent idealism has been exposed as an uncontrollable behemoth of wanton destruction, has been revealed as a pathetic old beast of repulsive habit. Illusions and myths are so much more attractive when cloaked by darkness; and every story, including those disturbing nightmares, can be forgotten at dawn.

I'm not as afraid of death as I am of losing my soul! I don't fear the pain and sacrifice as much as I fear living with inexplicable failure, with surviving my convictions, with enduring beyond my principles. I resent the profligate waste of a noble death for national compromise and individual graft, for allied duplicity and personal cupidity, for bureaucratic hubris and public immorality, for political irresponsibility and economic strategy. I abhor the placid decisions and arrogant conclusions made in sheltered sanctuary which condemn the bloody and violent necessities of conflict without proposing a viable alternative to the inhumane brutality, the ubiquitous barbarity ... without offering either solace or option to the combatants while denying us the dignity of an honorable slaughter for justifiable and meritorious goals. Every war is a mistake, a perversity, a tragedy; but frustrating the devoted and desperate warrior from rendering the best possible solution to an intractable dispute is a disgraceful and shameful travesty of our creed, of our code, our ethics. A nation which betrays the trust of its sons, and demeans their dedication, has forfeited its future; well deserving the infamy of its ignominious demise.

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