I wake up in the darkness. I’m not in a room, I’m not in a bed. No blankets, no pillows but for a helmet under my head. It’s my turn to watch and keep others safe. I hear shots in the distance and now I’m awake.
Daybreak brings movement and holding the line. Running scared, running all the time. Bullets are whipping around me and my friends. I hear someone fall, look back and see red. I feel my heart beat in my chest and lungs constrict. I stifle a sob, try to grab him and run. It’s too late, they tell me. Leave him, he’s gone.
Dusk arrives, with it screaming bombs fall from the sky. I wonder if this is the time where I’ll die. Take cover, they tell me. Jump into your fox hole. Praying and shivering, everything is so cold. The ground shakes around me. While in my youth, I suddenly feel old.
Hatred, I feel it. I want them to die. There’s death all around me, it’s hard to get by. The pain that they’ve caused, the loss that I’ve seen. Everything is jaded. Nothing is as it seemed.
Later, in combat I face the enemy. So close, I feel myself quaking in fear. I’ve got the upper hand, watch his life drain away. Overwhelmed by it all, I feel so dismayed. From his hand a picture falls to the floor. I catch a glimpse of it quickly, but see so much more. There’s not much difference between him and me. He also was loved, had a family.
I feel sickened as I sink to my knees in the mud. What is the point of war when all I see is death? Will this be the day I take my last breath? Every day is the same and I wonder if this is what hell is like. I wonder, but there’s not time. It’s time to move on before the enemy strikes.
Nights and days roll into the same. I sleep but I wake when I hear someone call my name. The enemy has surrendered, the war is no more. Rejoicing, but can’t help thinking about what the future has in store. Months pass before its my turn to go home. A long train ride, and I descend all alone. Home.
I wake up in darkness, in a room and a bed. With blankets around me and a pillow under my head. I can’t sleep without dreaming. I can’t close my eyes without seeing. I want to escape, but the visions are clear. And all I can think of is why am I here?
All those years of the fighting and screaming and death. Why am I here when they took their last breath? A hero they call me, but a hero I am not. They died and I didn’t, and so much was lost. The days will pass by but the memories remain. Who will remember? Did they all die in vain?
This is sacrifice.