TW: graphic content.
You hear them arriving. “Another one,” you murmur under your breath, as dust and dirt on dried sweat slowly flake off your brow… You know that there’s no chance, yet you have to fix this again, somehow.
One by one you see them walking, or carried–maybe, assisted–being herded by medevac into the tent. An arm, a leg, two arms, both legs… an arm and a leg–all missing. Then the ones on the carrier…gone. And then you see the one–if lucky, two–who are so shaken you can tell that they wished they were blind, that there could be Mother’s skirt they could hide behind, but their shock is glossed over by guilt.
“That should have been me,” their eyes tell you, as they pass you by, knowing at some point throughout this tour they will have to–no, they will NEED to talk to you about it. You have seen this, time and again. You, yourself, wonder, “Am I becoming numb of this?”
“Sir, we need you in the tent,” your assistant tells you. You follow him with your Book in tow, knowing it’s time; some are not going to make it but they seek some sort of transcendental comfort before they move on.
“Home. I want to go home. Tell me Chaplain, am I going to make it home? It doesn’t have to be this one. How about the next one? The one you spoke about two days ago?”
So you reassure this young man, telling him that yes, he is going to make it home, as long as he commits his spirit and believes that Jesus is the Way and no one else. Sometimes, you question all these things happening and what you have been preaching in believing after they come back from the field like this, but you quickly rebuke yourself. “Stop, Jack, you know better than to question the Creator,” you chastise yourself.
You go back to your tent in anguish over the thought of the wives and children some of them left behind, the siblings they grew up with, or the parents who won’t be able to know that their child is gone–sometimes their only child–and won’t know about it until a few days, sometimes weeks, after.
Yet, you write about it in your journal. You write to remember for them, and hope that the souls you have spoken to indeed found peace and did enough–most importantly believed enough–that they could be where peace lies. Past the blue skies, that encompass all the the earth that somehow cost them–and demanded–their lives.
And now they lie in peace.
Enjoy that barbecue. The sun, the beach, the drinks, peace. But remember the fallen, remember the fallen.
Enjoy the sky’s blue hue. The sand, the grill, the food, calm. But remember the fallen, remember the fallen.
But don’t just “Enjoy.” Live your life worthy of another life. Don’t burden yourself with living it too perfectly, though.
Live it in a way that reminds you of how they were when they were here.
Live your life to help those in need, to fight for those who don’t have a voice, to not stand on the side when those who are discriminated against struggle. Be their voice–those alive and those who’ve gone.
Live your life, and take care of yourself. Your life is precious and you know that because those who did not have to, gave theirs so you can have and keep yours.
Live for them. Don’t make it your sole purpose, but live a life that thanks them for what they did.
Remember the presence they had. Remember how they were at home. Remember how they were in training. Remember how they smiled, ate, laughed, breathed, joked around, cried, chewed–every little thing they did that made them who they were, what they were, to you.
Remember the fallen–the brothers and sisters that were not your flesh and blood, but did more than your flesh and blood. Meant more than your flesh and blood.
And don’t forget those who felled themselves, too. They were still fighting that war when they got home.
And to those who are still here–just remember it, but don’t live in it.
Live in the now, in remembrance.