I learned these past two weeks that achieving a higher rank definitely does not make you any wiser. I have seen some incredibly unintelligent officers here.
Sign of the times: In the past two weeks I have seen two people that I know have been in the Army more than 5 years that have not been to either Iraq or Afghanistan. When you have fought in a war, you wear your combat patch on your right shoulder. This makes it easy to tell who has and who hasn't deployed. Eight years ago, it was an anomaly to see someone with a combat patch. Now, those without stand out.
There is a book out there about the psychology and psychological effect of killing people in war. I think it is called "On Killing". I haven't read it and probably won't. But I know that if you see the person you must kill as a person and human, it is very difficult to kill them. You have to have something else. A lieutenant serving in the Philippines during WWII found what "it" is. His name was Henry Lee. Here is a poem he wrote to Mars, the god of war.
“Prayer Before Battle (To Mars)”
(December 8, 1941)
Before thine ancient altar, God of War,
Forlorn, afraid, alone, I kneel to pray.
The gentle shepherd whom I would adore,
Faced by thy blazing plaything, slips away.
And I am drained of faith — alone — alone.
Who now needs faith to face thy outthrust sword,
Bereft of hope, turned to pagan to the bone.
I kneel to thee and hail thee as my Lord.
From such a God as thee, I ask not life,
My life is forfeited, the hour is late.
Thou need not swerve the bullet, dull the knife.
I ask but strength to ride the wave of fate.
And one thing more — to validate this strife,
And my own sacrifice — teach me to hate.
What I struggle with is: What's the cost of that hate?
It's 2 AM and I couldn't sleep. Thinking about this question has kept me awake. I looked around more for LT Henry Lee on the internet. Here is what he wrote 3 years to the day after he wrote the above words. He had spent much of those three words in a prison camp.
“Three Years After”
(December 8, 1944)
“Teach me to hate,” I prayed — for I was young,
And fear was in my heart, and faith had fled.
“Teach me to hate! for hate is strength,” I said
“A staff to lean on.” Thus my challenge flung
Into the thunder of the clouds that hung
Cloaking with terror all the days ahead —
“Teach me to hate — the world I loved is dead;
Who would survive must learn a savage tongue.”
And I have learned — and paid in days that ran
To bitter schooling. Love was lost in pains,
Hunger replaced the beauty in life’s plan,
Honor and virtue vanished with the rains
And faith in God dissolved with faith in man.
I have my hate! But nothing else remains
And what about LT Henry Lee? I found the rest of the story online...
As it happened, there was no escape for Henry Lee. In late December 1944, he was put on a transport ship and sent to Japan as slave labor. Before leaving, he hastily dug a hole under a prison hut and buried his journal of poems, hoping that someday in the future — as a free soldier in a victorious American army — he might come back and retrieve it. En route to Japan, an American plane caught sight of the unmarked boat and unleashed a hail of bombs, sending the transport to the bottom of the ocean — and the young Poet of Bataan along with it. Lee was thirty years old.