• author
    • Donald Sanders

    • February 10, 2015 in Columnists

    A part of the team

    Life has its little twists and turns. Sometimes they are for the good and other times they are not so good. You never know when something is going to happen that might change things enough to affect the direction your life will take. Things like falling in love, falling out of love and the death of someone dear to you will definitely qualify as life altering. There are many other things that might change your life in unexpected ways.

    When I talk of such things, I only have my own life experiences to go by. My life experience is typical, in many ways, of the thousands upon thousands of American Veterans of Foreign Wars. It is true that one experience shared by two different men will sometimes draw different reactions. War sometimes affects one man differently than another. Some men seem to handle it better than others. I don’t know why.

    The exact same experience will sometimes drive one man to suicide while it leaves another seemingly unaffected. I, for instance, have had great trouble dealing with what I saw and did in a combat zone. Because of this, I have always felt myself to be a lesser man than those that were left unaffected by the brutality and inhumanity of war. I don’t know what happened to me, but I seem to be broken somewhere inside where I cannot see it for what it is. I have been this way for many, many years.

    I once shot a man in the neck. I didn’t know I had shot him until it was already done and the brass was lying on the ground. I remember how he was spun around in the manner of a drill bit as he went down, his legs buckling under him like a twisted lariat. I wanted to say I was sorry, but I found myself gasping for air like an elephant was sitting on my chest.

    How easily the flesh can be opened up and shoved to the side. I had underestimated the strength of the thin layer of skin that covers our bones and muscle; under that arteries and veins. I know he had a soul, but I try not to think about that. Instead, I think about how the skin covers our ribs and thousands of other little bones. How beautiful is the human body with everything in its place. It jiggles when you laugh.

    I believe in second chances, but I think they are only for little things like lying or cheating. If I could have a second chance, I would take it. I’d climb right up and take it. I’d fall upon my knees and hold up the arms that held the weapon of death and cut them off at the elbows. Like I say, I believe in second chances but there are none for things like this. Ask any man with a similar experience, he will tell you that this is true.

    I tried going to church, thinking God would make it go away. I was on my own, for even Jesus couldn’t help me. The Army spit me out because I was all chewed up. Besides that, there were fresh troops to take my place. Fresh troops don’t hate themselves yet and they are eager for action of any type as long as it involves shooting. In the end, some will be like me and others will not even think harshly about it. That’s just the way it is.

    There is a saying, and I don’t know who said it, but it goes like this, “The soldier’s heart, the soldier’s spirit, the soldier’s soul, are everything. Unless the soldier’s soul sustains him he cannot be relied on and will fail himself and his commander and his country in the end”

    Once a veteran has been spit out, he is no longer a part of the team. He is not essential for the survival of the group, the platoon. The team is everything to a soldier. The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime and for some teams, this means death.

    Once you are off the team, the only things you know is the fact that a five second fuse only last three seconds and if your attack is going too well, you have walked into an ambush. Or, when the pin is pulled, Mr. Grenade is not your friend. You know there’s no honorable way to kill, no gentle way to destroy. There is nothing good in war, except its ending.

    Some General said, and I believe this to be true, that, “No profession or occupation is more pleasing than the military; a profession or exercise both noble in execution (for the strongest, most generous and proudest of all virtues is true valor) and noble in its cause. No utility either more just or universal than the protection of the repose or defense of the greatness of one’s country. The company and daily conversation of so many noble, young and active men cannot but be well-pleasing to you.”

    Another guy said, “A perfect soldier, a perfect gentleman never gave offence to anyone not even the enemy.” “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation. Your character is what you really are and your reputation is what other people think you are.” “We belong to talking, not what talking is about. Stop talking and you are out. Silence equals exclusion.”

    “The army is the true nobility of our country.” I believe this to be true. Another thing I have found to be true is (this is for my fellow veterans) “If you don’t want to kill yourself, keep busy.”

    Here is my last quote. “If I missed a parenthesis or two, please forgive me, for I am no English teacher and they are not important to me.”







      • Kelvin

      • February 10, 2015 at 1:21 pm
      • Reply

      Amazing piece. You are no lesser man, Donald. I’m honored to know you. Your work is so moving, so powerful and so relevant. This piece needs to be seen by many. I hope we all promote it.

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