My torn coat flaps in the vicious breeze as I walk slowly back home, my four year old brother running and skipping ahead, oblivious to our suffering. Pain shoots through my empty belly as I jolt and shake with each jagged step. My skin feels burnt, despite the cold, as I stride to what I humbly call my home. Disappointment reddens my face every time I walk the broken garden path to my front door. The door is dull and weathered, the lock all but broken. My sunken eyes blur as I notice the torn curtains and empty closets. I check for letters then hurry inside to start dinner for my little brother. My father is in the army. He will not be back for supper. I pour water into an iron pot and open the pantry door. I stare at the same thing I stare at every day. Nothing. I stifle a sob, not wanting the carefree nature of my brother to be corrupted by my hopelessness. My mother is dead. She was shot protecting the daughter of two complete strangers. The fruits of a country too long at war. She will not be home for supper.
On 6th June, 1944, allied forces undertook what became the biggest seaborne invasion in history. In what was known at the time as "Operation Neptune," 160,000 American, British, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and other allied soldiers stormed a 50 mile stretch of heavily-fortified coastline in Normandy, in Nazi-occupied France, landing in amphibious craft and immediately coming under heavy fire. The operation has been re-imagined in countless movies, TV shows and video games—perhaps most famously in Steven Spielberg's 1998 film Saving Private Ryan.
I have been working with ex military vets who have kindly shared their horrific war stories with me. As Soldiers... We soldier on. This was a repeated phrase used by many of our heroes. I have been connecting with soldiers and turning their stories into monologues working with a company called Iconic enterprise. With the stories, I have written them into performance pieces for our event to bring awareness to these outstanding people. I have shared three of my monologues below to help bring awareness of the pain and suffering our soldiers are put through, many suffering from PTSD.
The Corps probably has—it probably had long before I’d gotten there, too—I don’t know what punishments the cadets inflict upon themselves today, but in 2002 the approved method of masochism were area tours, colloquially referred to as “walking hours.” An Area Tour was the most common punishment for both minor and major infractions; the severity of punishment rose in accordance with the egregiousness of the crime. The punishment was to spend time, reflecting on your misdeeds, walking back and forth across the center of the campus. You hefted your rifle upon your shoulder, walked about one hundred paces, switched shoulders, faced about, and repeated the exercise for as many hours as your sins warranted. Being late to class garnered you five hours or so, or missing formation ten, or something like that (it seemed arbitrary to me at the time).
The tale, as far as I know it, started in 1979. It started with Saddam Hussein. It started with conflict, with war, with struggle, hostility, bloodshed. It started with death. My grandfather, then 25 years old, was in combat for six years. He was married and left behind six beautiful young children. I talked to him the other day about the Iranian Iraqi war and he had told me that he had fought in the defensive position and shot down Iranian fighter aircrafts to protect his base. He had told me that at some point during the war, the Iranian military had surrounded his base, and that for three days, they were left to starve. The soldiers had to resort to eating grass and drinking muddy water.
Two nuclear explosions. 80 million dead. More war crimes than any other event in human history. Entire continents turned upside-down. That's World War II in a nutshell.
World War II was a traumatic time in the history of the human race, but if you don't have quite the right stomach for the best war movies streaming right now, then there are many heartbreaking books about WWII that still tell the tale. These great books of war and tragedy want to bring you back into that time period to experience it as if it were first hand. The purpose of literature is to try to reenact a moment in time or to create a fictional story through the magic of words. The best authors are magicians with pen and paper. Many famous writers even joined the military to fight for their respective country. Whether they lived it or not, however, writers can take us into the concentration camps, move us with a love story, or guide us along the war path of soviet officers. They show the reader what it was like for all involved in the war. It was a heartbreaking time, but these books are worth reading because, heartbreaking or not, the time period needs to be remembered.
Military recruiters, like any profession, are a mixed bag. Some, most even, will do their best to answer your questions honestly and give you the most accurate picture of the military that they can provide. Others, however, are ill equipped to answer all of your questions, and you may not know what questions to ask. Furthermore, some recruiters are apt to bend the truth, and are more inclined to feed you lies to fill their quotas. To that end, there are strictly some things your military recruiter won't tell you, or can't tell you, that you should keep in mind as you decide whether or not to enlist.
When the Department of Defense decided to track data on sexual assault in the military, they were overwhelmed with requests for the data to be made available to the public. The United States military, since it has started tracking this data, has implemented numerous sexual assault prevention programs. The volume of sexual assault in the military, though, struggles with the same issues that the public faces when it comes to reporting. How can you identify sexual assault survivors who haven't reported the attack? How can you ensure that sexual assault claims aren't false? More than anything else, how can you prevent future attacks and help the survivors? The military is attempting to answer all of these questions.