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The Sound of War
The last big war in the United States was WWII. It was the first time we were attacked on our own soil, and we wanted revenge. It was when we were in the middle of the Holocaust and we gave hope; it was when we served our country and lost lives; we lost brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, friends and families.
It was a war to be remembered , and remembered it was, because veterans recited their stories like Christmas tales of Santa Claus by the fire. They repeated names of fallen comrades, because someone had to remember, someone had to repeat those memories, speak the heroics that were done on those days. If no one did, then those names, those stories would disappear, be carried on the wind and never heard by curious ears again. Those men and women would no longer be remembered because their stories died and no one told of their deeds, or their deaths.
I am one who did not get to pass on my story. I made it out of the war, but died later without seeing my family. My comrades passed on my story to you.
The war was a great and terrible thing, it was ugly and beautiful, cruel and peaceful, tormenting and tranquil. Anyone who was there would agree with me.
War was never a pretty sound. It is uttered in the harshest of tones, in scorn, disgust, anger and fear. It is the rattle of machine guns, the cries and screams of dying men and women. The stamping of hundreds of boots, marching on the packed dirt, marching to their deaths. It is the sound of drums, long and foreboding; the sound of rifles, pistols and automatics, all shooting toward the same thing; the end of war.
War is the sound of suicide and murder, of pain, anger, fear, courage, loyalty and respect.
War is the sound of death.
War. Was there ever a word with more clear intentions? With a more clear view of the future? But that same future is an overcast sky, one you cannot see beyond. You cannot look beyond the curtain to see who will die, who will live, and who will be destroyed; physically or mentally.
You may say that the outcome will be good or bad, and it will be for some, no, for all. The outcome will be good for those who won, for those of us who still live. It will be bad for the ones who die, the ones who are wounded, it is bad for those who have lost loved ones, for those who watched friends die on the battlefield. It will be bad for those who lost.
War will never come to an end, because even when the world just started, before the world started, there was war.
And after the world ends there will be war, it will no longer be between humans, but no matter who fought it, and who fights it, it will always be the same war, it always was. Good vs. Evil. Right vs. Wrong.
The camp is brutal. The only way to describe it. Dust covers everything, our clothes, our beds, our food and our tents. Blood is everywhere, it is on the ground, in dried clumps that no one has the energy to clean up. It is in our clothes, previous wounds that weren't washed out, it is on the bandages that cover the gaping sores, in our shoes as blisters form then crack, as our feet are gouged with rocks.
A shrill whistle pierces the night air, and immediately everyone is up. We grab our shirts, shimmy into our pants and quickly slam our shoes onto our stockinged feet. We grab our guns and helmets and quickly and neatly file from our tent. A hand slaps me on the back, and I turn to see my buddy, John. We enlisted in this war together, and although it was far from over, we would not see each other again.
"Off again, eh Bret?" John asked, laughing.
"Which trench you going to John?" I asked, ignoring his jibe.
"Same one as you today." John said, serious.
"It's been quiet lately, so we shouldn't have any problems."
"Alright, good. I've had enough skirmishes this past week."
I looked at his face; he was cut and tired looking, he had deep bags under his eyes, even worse than normal. His mouth was set in a hard grim line, his clothes were ripped and covered in blood and dirt, he was moving stiffly. Just then, I realized he was limping.
"What happened John?"
"Shrapnel in the knee. Hurts like hell; I think it's still bleeding."
"When'd that happen?"
"Yesterday night. I was out on patrol with the boys and we got ambushed."
"Damn. Is everyone else alright?"
"Yeah. Sam got shot in the arm, but he's alright. Not too bad of a wound. Just nicked him. He should be back in action soon, but the sergeant's keeping him in the infirmary today."
"Good, we need Sam. He's our boy, quick witted, able to think clearly under heavy stress, doesn't shy under fire; a natural leader that boy is, and not even a veteran yet, like us two."
"Sam's got a gift he does. It's a shame that it's a gift for fighting."
"Damn shame. What else happened --"
I was interrupted as a loud explosion sounded outside our trench, I felt the walls shake and dust rained down on our heads. I could hear men yelling, either calling for medics or the new recruits screaming in fear. Before we even had the slightest chance to cope with the first bomb, we were rained on heavily, explosion after explosion, and soon you couldn't even hear them yelling anymore. I looked around and saw John ducked down, hands over his head to my right, a new recruit to my left, curled up into a ball, his arms around himself for protection. His head, though, was sticking out like a sore thumb as he stared at me and John in terror.
"Get your head down!" I yelled at him, cursing when he didn't listen. "Keep your head under cover! Put your chin to your chest dammit!"
Finally he seemed to understand, or maybe he could finally hear me since the bombing ceased for an instant and his head ducked down beneath his arms. The silence lasted long enough that we began to shift, reaching for our weapons and waiting for the signal. When it didn't come John and I stepped out of the cubby and peered into the settling dust. The watchtower to our right was a mass of wood and flames, bodies were scattered all around it. John ran forward and jumped up onto a sandbag and poked his head up over the edge of the trench.
"We're under fire! Grab your guns and get out here!" I heard him yell. I ran up beside him and began firing toward the enemy. Before I even got a man down I heard John grunt painfully next to me and I turned toward him. He fell backwards off the trench, blood seeping from several bullet wounds in his chest. His foot caught and he stumbled, then slowly fell to his knees, his gun falling to the ground.
"John!" I yelled jumping down next to him and lowering him to the ground. "I need a medic!" I screamed, but there was no one to carry the stretchers, no one to supply the first aid kits, all the men that were still alive were defending the trenches and keeping the enemy at bay. I felt John's hand grip mine as he slipped a small fold of leather into the palm of my hand.
"Give this to Lissa." He choked out, blood coming from his mouth. I opened the wallet and looked to see a small picture of his wife and two children, in the billfold I saw all of the letters he ever wrote to her, but never had a chance to send.
"Promise me... you'll give this to her."
"I promise John. I promise." He nodded slightly, his head bobbing funnily, and then with a small gasp I felt him go limp in my arms. His eyes slid slowly shut and his head lolled back as he breathed his last breath.
Oil Springs, Kentucky
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