“My body felt numb. The dirt over my green uniform made me feel sick. The innocent people's blood, stained the piece of fabric the military granted me. Crest of freedom; Homeland crest; for me the betrayal of humans. Do I regret the day I accepted to wear that uniform as an honour? Yes. I should have fought and stood by my ideals, but I was weak. We were all weak for following the rules so blindly.
Kill or be killed.
Instead, there shouldn’t have never been that phrase. Don't go, don't fight, don't kill, and we would all live in peace.
My heart was heavy as my eyes were scanning the bloodied and wounded soldiers crying for help on the ground. Calling their friends, their loved ones who they left behind for sake of seeking peace.
We sought peace, we endured the war. We sought love, we endured pain. We sought hope, we endured despair. That is what war taught me. But I have never thought that it would teach me how to end life. It never taught me how to deal with it; how to not feel pain as foreigners’ blood stings me.
Foreign man. Distant in my cold heart, in many of the cold hearts on the field stained with impurity. But that foreign man was someone's love of the life, someone's dad, uncle... someone's whole life. I caused someone the pain that never leaves, that nestles in the dark corner of the soul. I made someone cry, scream into the void of grief. How can someone live with that? Me? The killer? The one who grieves, the one who yells into heaven thinking they could bring back the one they have lost? I have lost someone; someone lost me. The war takes from you; it rips up everything you are, leaving just pieces of your past life….
Many people lost their lives, fighting for the land, for the people, for the air that they would never have, ever again.
Few of us left and many remained. The ground was their grave. The battlefield soaked with nature’s loss, red stains that penetrated the hearts and souls of the living.
We shall live, we shall forget. My friend used to say on our way here. There is just a cold and unknown presence of him, here somewhere, near me. He lost the fight, he died, in my arms. His eyes seemed strong, his mind was sharp and his spirit was bold, but he lost. We shall live, we shall forget. I couldn’t stop repeating his words as they broke me so hard that all that was left of me made me look like a doll, empty and heartless.
I still had a heart, but it was cold. It froze even though it was warm. It worked even though it stopped a long time ago. My life had stopped the moment I betrayed nature. I killed the men who only wanted to protect themselves, and they were attacking me while I was trying to protect myself. Kill or be killed. That is what it was.
There was nothing left for me to do, except to turn my back and go home, to the place where I sought love that I hoped would make me whole.
I made my way into the truck. The driver promised he would return us home, I believed him. Because I chose to trust and not to betray, but at the same time I broke the trust and betrayed. I broke the trust I made with nature, to never hurt it and I betrayed my kind, I betrayed humankind.
That was why we all had left from that battlefield were cold hearts.
“You okay?” A man sitting next to me asked me. I barely uttered a word; that is how weak I was. “Yes” was all I could say.
Ten of us were in that truck. My eyes tried to meet theirs, but they seemed lost, looking to the sides not showing their emotions. Bland and dull expressions. Anger, disappointment, despair… all lingered in the air.
I wanted to look in their faces and not see anything more than what meets the eye, but my mind projected the images of fallen warriors, mutilated faces, blood… I could hear screams and yells.”
“Are you okay grandpa? We can stop here if you don’t feel like continuing?” His granddaughter asked him. He patted her on the shoulder; smiled creasing his skin, and said “It is okay, I want to say more, I want to tell you a bit more of the story.”
She smiled, but she was worried about her grandpa's well being. She could see small tears trying to break through, but he was still holding up.
“A man you don’t know, a man who has a family, a wife, a daughter, who is a teacher of grade-schoolers, who lives his innocent life in his house far away from you, across the sea from you, cannot be your enemy. The war tells you he is, but he is not.
I was heavily wounded by someone. I still remember how it felt. A blazing hot metal piercing my stomach. The adrenaline in me skyrocketed. The sounds around me were muffled, bombs exploding, bullets being fired, people, yelling and crying. I was lost. I fell and watched the sky. I truly thought that I was going to die at that moment, feeling the warm liquid under my palms. I was thinking about my lovely wife and our future child. Don’t cry. I would have wanted to tell her if she had been by my side. I was scared of dying alone, but I wasn’t scared of dying in nature, looking at the sky.
I am sorry. I would have said that too. I am sorry I wasn’t stronger.
Before I had closed my eyes I felt someone’s presence. I didn’t have any idea who it was, but I thought it must have been someone from our side. My vision was blurred so I couldn’t see his face promptly. I firmly closed my eyelids as the pain struck me. I clenched my jaw almost breaking it. „Hang in there, I’ll help you. Stay with me, you hear me?!“ I couldn’t recognise the voice, but when I opened my eyes once again, instead of gazing into his face I looked at his uniform and saw his crest. It wasn’t like mine.
That was my enemy, helping me survive. He was running through the chaos of the battlefield, carrying his enemy so he could help him, me, he wanted to save me. That was my enemy, a dad, a husband, a teacher, a human. We were all people, just trying to survive. None of us deserved to die fighting for who knows what. Peace? That wasn’t the peace. You can’t get peace with chaos. I never found the peace I was promised because my enemy died trying to save me. His daughter lost her father, his wife lost her first love, his students lost the man who knew how to teach them about life. That man lost his life trying to save mine, and he was supposed to be my enemy.
A man you don’t know, a man who has a family, a wife, a daughter, who is a teacher of grade-schoolers, who lives his innocent life in his house far away from you, across the sea from you, cannot be your enemy. His words till this day echo in my ears.”
She was crying. She feared he would get upset for remembering the past, but she was the one that ended up crying. “I am sorry. I am so sorry that happened to you. And I am sorry that I made you tell me all of this even though you tried to forget it!”
“Don’t cry, sweetheart! I should be thanking you for making me tell my story. I thought I would feel better if I were to forget, but I never did and that is why it ate me up from inside. I could never forget even though I have wanted, and I've never told this to anybody thinking that it would save me, but it just hurt me even more. My enemy, no my savior, saved me and I never thanked him by telling someone his story. I believe that now his soul will be in peace and that our cold hearts will be at peace we sought since the war." He cried.