This Memorial Day Weekend, I have been doing a lot of somber reflection back to my days of active duty. It was a time that I not only lived and worked with a diverse group of people, but it was the unspoken awareness that no matter how varied our differences — we trusted one another with our very lives.
I can’t help but think about what that means.
We were all well aware, that on any given day, especially serving at sea, we could have been called into a hostile situation, and some days, we were. On those days, I had no doubt my shipmates would have died to protect me, as they knew I would have died to protect any one of them. I’m not talking death in the figurative or poetic sense — from the moment a ship left port, death, real death, no longer taking a breath, a notice sent to family back home death, was a real possibility. Trusting each other, to the point of dying for one another, is a level of devotion I have not experienced since.
There are no relationships that can ever compare. We were closer than friends. Hell, we were closer than family — we shared a bond which defies definition.
The more time that has passed since I had the honor of serving, the more I think about those days and the more I realize it was the last time I actually did anything of that level of deep, genuine, meaningful purpose.
From the first day of boot camp, the military changed us. From that day, military training began the necessary purpose designed to strip away our individualistic attitudes and concerns. It was then the military broke us from a group of “Me’s” and rebuilt and repurposed us to an individual “We.”
I set War Springs Eternal in WWI because I knew it was going to end with the beginning of WWII. The final scene was a dream which woke me from a deep sleep. The dream so much shook me, that immediately I hit the voice record app on my phone, and recorded what eventually became the novella’s tragic, closing scene.
Additionally, the WWI setting gave me a chance to explore a military person’s suffering in a historical context. By taking it away from the today, it allowed me a bit of temporal removal, making the fictional content easier to write. I was not writing a history book. I wrote a story to help those who have not experienced the military lifestyle a way to become part of the story. In using first person narrative, I took it a step further and allowed the reader to become the main character of the story.
I am a non-combat veteran. While I was in one or two hotspots, I never experienced the trauma of combat. Yet, serving soon after the Vietnam conflict, I knew many who saw the horrors of war. Being someone who utilizes the VA system, I see those who have suffered the impact of war. And being one of the few who did serve, the bond with my patients who currently serve, gives them comfort to open up to me, and share not only the horrors of what they saw – but what they, for their very survival, were forced to do.
Thankfully, as of late, PTSD has gotten more and more attention. However, sadly, only once the symptoms manifest into often times horrific actions. What I strived to accomplish with War Springs Eternal, was to expose and explore the inner workings of the mind of a returning military person dealing with “The Shell Shock” caused by actions in combat. How a normal life was no longer possible. And the simple fact that even though that person left the war, the war never left that person – that War Springs Eternal.
Memorial Day honors those who have fallen in war. Something those who have never served in combat may not know, or realize, is many who have physically survived the horrors of warfare and returned home, may have, in a harrowing and unimaginable way, experienced another, and for some, worse type of death.