The only war stories I ever heard firsthand were from my grandfather. He shot at a Japanese plane once from the deck of his ship in the Pacific in World War II. That was it. That was all of the action he saw.
I remember interviewing him for the obligatory school project, listening to him tell me how awful war was, but not believing a single word of it. How could he really know? He barely fought in it.
War was romantic.
Instead I visited the library for my war education. I poured over books about Vietnam, the Crimean War, WW II, the Korean War. How did those people feel about the wars they fought in? What made them so terrible?
The horror of war was sexy and interesting.
Then, I tried to join the Navy. Not because of some noble sense of cause or desire to give back to my country. No. The uniforms looked nice and I wanted the US government to pay for medical school.
Thankfully, I failed the medical screening for tachycardia.
Now I understand why.
My heart was beating too fast because it knew what I did not understand yet. That I did not want to look someone in the eye and take their life. That I could not see the broken bodies of blown apart patients and help them try to put their lives back together when I could not give them their limbs back.
Because I am not brave.
Determined, yes. But not brave. Can determination translate into bravery? I did not want to find out. Not that way.
When did war get so messy?
Now I can understand what my grandfather was saying.
I am exceedingly grateful that there ARE people, men and women, who regardless of what put them there in that uniform, find the courage to fight. I hope that they find peace.
And I am grateful for those who are the peacemakers, who save the lives of the living and the dead before they are lost.