Good Solider

I talked to my father the other day, and he asked me how I was doing. When I told him, he said that I had been a good solider for him, and that I served with honor, and that he was grateful and proud. But now I’ve been in combat, in the sense that I’ve seen and heard and done and said and felt and thought things that no one will understand that wasn’t right next to me in the fog of war.

My father was drafted into the Vietnam War. He worked on electronics in Cameron Bay, fairly far from the line. I get my anxiety issues from him, and though the danger he was in was very minimal compared to say, my father in law, who did dangerous work and received several decorations, you wouldn’t know it talking to him. I think merely being in country was too much for him.

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been Daddy’s solider. When he came to get me from the neighbor’s house, at sunset, he marched me home. We sang cadence, and I’m not talking about “the ants go marching one by one, hurrah.” Much of his instruction to me as a child was given in war metaphors, and he would tell me that he was preparing me for battle.

I just don’t really know that he could say anything more meaningful than to call me his good solider. Given our history, that was a huge compliment coming from him. Also, there is a great deal of wisdom (if a a tad bit of melodrama) in what he says about my experience and other people’s capability to understand it.

I have always been a good solider. I’ve always marched in step, fought gallantly on the front lines, and shown no mercy. Daddy’s good little solider.

If you’ve seen Band of Brothers, you’ll remember this:

“You hid in that ditch because you think there’s still hope. But Blithe, the only hope you have is to accept the fact that you’re already dead. And the sooner you accept that, the sooner you’ll be able to function as a soldier’s supposed to function. Without mercy. Without compassion. Without remorse. All war depends upon it.”

So very true, in real war and in the war of life. On real battlegrounds and figurative ones. Here’s the thing, though. I’m not really a solider. I’m a woman. A woman who needs light and softness and love and hope.

It was pointed out to me recently that I’m pessimistic. I see the worst in things. I see the worst in myself. I belittle my accomplishments, I question my attachments, I minimize my worth. Because to some extent, emotionally, I’m already dead. (At least now I can claim my melodrama is hereditary..) I expect hurt. I expect loss, pain, rejection. It’s the only way to survive in this cold, mean world, which is another lesson that Daddy taught his solider- the world is a cruel, ugly place, where you cut throats or get yours cut.

All this to say, I’m not a good solider. I’m a woman, and I’m scared, and I’m haunted, and I need to not be dead inside. I need hope. Everyone says how strong I am, and I hate being strong, because people forget that what keeps someone strong is having a soft place to land, having a time and a place and people that they don’t have to be strong for. I’ve been fighting a war my whole life, and this past month has just been a few large battles in that war, and I have battle fatigue. I need rest, and I need hope, and I need a soft place to land. And I’m scared, because I feel like I’m screaming as loud as I can and no one can hear me.

5 Responses

  1. I hear you.

  2. Have you ever read “Mr. God, this is Anna”? If not, you may miss the reference. But I hear you “in my middle”.

    I don’t know that a soldier would ever admit it, but I think that soldiers fight with the desperate hope that if they do well, those that follow won’t have to fight.

    I hope you find some peace soon.

  3. You know what? Soldiers need all of those things, too.

  4. you can be a strong person without being strong all of the time. let go and break down and tune out for awhile. i’m betting someone will be around to give you a soft place to crash.

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