Lessons for Living From an Old Warrior

Damned cold night …

damned
WWII

 

I  stooped down and began to tie the shoe  of the old man outside of  the nursing home, after all  that’s what we do when we have to, when those who have already lived the much anticipated lives that we hope and dream of doing  need us.

The old grizzled and bearded man  said, ” I can’t even tie my own  shoes anymore, son .” Thinking as quickly as I could,  I looked up at him and said, “That’s okay, we all get to the point when we need a hand don’t we ?”  and he smiled, though  a bit sadly, making me feel a bit better. I noticed the long blood red scar running up the side of his thigh to a place above the  shorts  he was wearing  and before I thought better, I asked.

“What in the world  is that scar on your leg  there, my friend ?” For  a while he didn’t say anything and I thought perhaps he was going back inside himself as  old men sometimes do , but after a moment he said, ” I got that ole’ thing  in the Battle of the Bulge in WWII,  son.  Seems like  one of those German boys wanted to slice me end to end don’t it ?” I looked over  at him again and his eye’s clouded over for a second before he spoke again.

“A young boy ran his bayonet into me one night in the coldest damned night I believe I’ve ever seen.”

For a moment  I didn’t speak  thinking  and  wondering at the same time. Yet  after I looked at his face, I knew somehow that he wanted to explain  what happened,  so I merely waited  while he  looked me in the eyes  before continuing.

“No one ever tells a soldier in training that he will have to fight young boys. I suppose if they did, though, no one would want to go off to war  would they ?  ……….I was on watch that night when those damned SS troops  came out of the darkness and  well,  before any of us knew what was going on the night lit up with mortar fire all around us and everyone was screaming something different. The machine guns opened  up  behind us, the rifle fire  exploded ,  ……….just about that time  I saw them coming out of the  pines. Well,   before I could even react  I saw that one of them had chosen me  as his next victim ……… he came right at me  and before I knew it  I saw that damned bayonet  flash!”

The old man went kind of quiet for a few moments, took another  puff or two from his pipe  and his eyes misted over. His voice broke as he continued  with the memory.  I wondered  for a moment  why I had asked about that scar  to begin with. I looked down in shame  and as I did he continued..

“Somehow I was faster than he was and although  just as that cold steel blade tore it’s way right up through  my thigh  I  thought …. So this is how it all ends …… This is how I’m going to die, right here  in his open field , in the middle of winter ,  on some damned Frenchman’s  farm ……you know , it’s one hell of a thing to realize that just in one moment in time as your whole life  flashes right in front of your eyes, that all I could think about was I don’t want to die  on a night so cold as this. It was twenty degrees below zero  that night!”

By this time I was  wondering  different thoughts  and didn’t want to ask  any more but he continued.

“Of course ,  I had never dreamed that  I would ever, ever have to  shoot a  boy either. When we finally got control of the battle we began to  check out the  bodies , ours and theirs  too ……..that “soldier ” that had bayonetted  me and that I had killed  with my own  knife, well  he couldn’t have been more than fourteen years old.”

And with that ending I couldn’t look the old man in the eyes  for long  moments and  although now I ‘m  sure he has grown used to that reaction  from any of those  he has trusted that story to,  I could still feel his pain.   I could still taste  his tears  and  would always  have the thought in the back of my own mind .  God, I hope I never have to send my son off to a war .  With the end of this story though , the old man  looked away for awhile  and just as I thought that he might be drifting into another world that only old minds seem to fully understand  and perhaps drift off into a slumber of old  dreams or nightmares, he spoke again.

“Do you suppose you could push  this damned wheelchair into the cafeteria  for me ?   I hear that on today’s menu  it just could be ‘Shit- on -a- Shingle’ today. I sure don’t want to miss out on a delicacy like that again!”   And with that   he  laughed softly. I thought “Sure, why not?”

Remember the old soldiers .

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EdF

Sometime in my life, I started to write about my life journey, in poetry, in story perhaps to sort them out and enter them into a place of safekeeping. The soul of the writer is perhaps best described in their words, emotions and thoughts. If these poems or stories touch something inside you then maybe I have succeeded in sharing. I will not write about my self in profile, because self isn't so important in writing. Only the journey in words and the sharing are important. Why would weever say " Now about me !"........I'd rather write about life, nature, serenity ........

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EdF

Sometime in my life, I started to write about my life journey, in poetry, in story perhaps to sort them out and enter them into a place of safekeeping. The soul of the writer is perhaps best described in their words, emotions and thoughts. If these poems or stories touch something inside you then maybe I have succeeded in sharing. I will not write about my self in profile, because self isn't so important in writing. Only the journey in words and the sharing are important. Why would we ever say " Now about me !"........I'd rather write about life, nature, serenity ........

6 thoughts on “Lessons for Living From an Old Warrior

  • August 30, 2016 at 3:11 PM
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    Oh thank you Phyllis , you are so kind , now if I could only get my avatar&*$&^@ figured out . ……:-}

    Reply
  • August 31, 2016 at 4:15 AM
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    I love this, Ed. I think it is your best story yet. I can totally relate to that old veteran.

    Reply
  • August 31, 2016 at 5:11 AM
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    Thank you John , The old veteran WAS actually my father and he suffered greatly the costs of war . Of all the stories he ever told us about “the war ” this one has always stuck in my mind. he told us the blond haired boy was actually about 14 yaers old , He would also tell us today there is no glory in war , that only the deeds and personal sacrifices of a man , or a boy in this case , are what glory is all about !

    Reply
  • August 31, 2016 at 7:31 PM
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    What they have lived through is a wonder to us, who have been lucky enough to avoid that kind of experience. Well told Ed, and it makes you appreciate our lives and what we have. Nicely told.

    Reply
  • October 8, 2016 at 10:55 AM
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    This is superb writing, Ed.

    I was in my mother’s womb when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and my personal destiny was forever altered that day. Instead of being born in Seattle, where my dad was working on the new Boeing plant, I was born in Missouri for fear that the Japanese might invade on the west coast. After that, we lived in various places for the rest of the war as Dad was shuffled from one war construction site to another.

    I’m going to recommend this piece on Facebook. It’s very good.

    Reply

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