Chosen Soldier

I’m in the process of reading a very interesting book called “Chosen Soldier”, by Dick Couch.  It details the selection process and the initial training that goes into the making of a Green Beret.  Green Berets are one of the US Elite Special Forces, and are held in high esteem both within and outside the USA.  Make no mistake, these men are highly skilled and highly regarded by anyone with a military background.

Now, I expect you’re wondering why I’m reading this material?  What does it have to do with Malmaxa?

Well, I consider myself a student of human nature. I find the motivations people have for doing things often to be of greater interest than the things they do.  I look back on my youth when I served in an army I believe was the best in the world at what it did.  We were young, patriotic and motivated to defend our country.  Before going on a patrol in which I had a premonition of dying, I once wrote a line by Horace in my personal diary.  It read “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori”.  Like many premonitions it was proven wrong.  However that is not the point.

So, what is the point then?  Well, put simply, it is that when I entered military service I truly believed that quote – it was the principle motivator for my volunteering for service before my allotted time came.  Others I knew dodged the bullet by avoiding or delaying service.  Back then, I held them in low esteem.  Today, I simply accept that they saw things differently than I saw things.  Where I believed I was serving the greater good, they believed otherwise. It saddens me to say that I now believe they were more right than I was.

Perhaps neither of us was right, and neither of us was wrong.  We just weren’t on the same team.

Nowadays I am adamantly opposed to war, yet I am even more opposed to injustice.  Please do not hold the volunteer servicemen and women of any country in low esteem.  They truly do serve their people.  The ones deserving of your derision are those in power who are willing to sacrifice the lives of these honorable soldiers in unjust wars. And yes, I firmly believe war is never just.

In case you haven’t already looked up the translation of Horace’s quote, and even if you have, here is mine “Sweet it is, and fitting, for one’s country to die.”  In Malmaxa there is conflict. There is a war in which people fight and die. And just like here on this planet we inhabit and treat with no respect, the inhabitants of Malmaxa and do not know or ask why there is war.

If you are drawn to National Service then by all means serve your compatriots with pride and honor.  But do not serve blindly without question, while believing yourself to be without blame.

About C.G.Ayling

Born and raised in a country of five names, a citizen of the world. A thorny old man.
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5 Responses to Chosen Soldier

  1. Susan A. says:

    There are certainly people who are not cut out for the military. That’s okay that they recognize it in themselves because not everyone is the same. Some people prefer pacifism and that’s their choice. I wouldn’t want them by my side in a dangerous situation, but I believe in defending myself and fighting for what is right. Having said that, some wars have no real justification and shouldn’t be fought. Most people agree now days that Iraq is a good example of this. We shouldn’t have been there. Yet soldiers like I was at the time couldn’t simply leave the Army in protest. We all swore an oath and had a duty to serve whether we liked it or not. Without a military, this country would not last long. People need to recognize that.

    I served in Iraq, but I never harmed a single, innocent person. Heck, I gave out my personal stash of Snickers bars to the kids I saw. Considering the food we were being served was so horrible I was practically starving, I’d like to think that was a generous thing.

    Sometimes, we may be put in bad situations, but there is a way to still be honorable while doing our duty. Nothing in this world is black and white. The good can be made bad and the bad can be made good. It’s up to us to decide how we handle ourselves as individuals.

    • C.G.Ayling says:

      Hi Susan, there are a couple of points I’d like to make about your post.

      The first regards that short and sweet word, “service”. Would the world not be a better place if one’s compatriots recognized the service of their fellows? I think it would be, and that is precisely what those who volunteer do for them – serve. Sadly, too often these very volunteers take the brunt of a misdirected rage against war. To paraphrase Susan’s words – soldiers fulfill their duty, regardless of how they personally feel about it. They are not the ones who make the decision to go to war, yet they are the ones who will pay the price. Think about that before you lay an additional burden of blame on their shoulders.

      The second point regards “a way to still be honorable while doing our duty”.

      To every young soldier out there, regardless of nationality, I say this – there is only one way to fulfill your duty, and that is with honor. As soon as you abandon honor, you abandon your duty. Honor is a terrible thing, you treat it casually while you have it, yet once cast aside it is not easily regained.

  2. j smith says:

    ah ha! our paths cross agian! my dad is a Vietnam Airforce Vet and my husband is an Army Vet (served in Afghanistan, got out in ’07). Anyway, a good friend of ours and fellow soldier of hubby’s wrote/published a book called “Blood Makes the Grass Grow Green” about their time deployed and the REALITY of what goes on when guys aged 18-25 ish are put in that situation. Good read, if you’re interested (has a Cather in the Rye feel).

    • C.G.Ayling says:

      What a strange world we live in. The old send the young to war, and the young often go willingly.

      I wonder what percentage of the old people who are so ready to sacrifice their youth have served in the military. I suspect it is small.

      I further wonder what percentage have seen combat. I suspect it is even smaller…

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