by Jeffrey Denning
from my column at http://newscornerusa.com/jdenning.html (no longer operable)
The warrior is taught and trained and encouraged to destroy. His skill lies in battle. A physical battle between bodies and of souls--his own soul, his own life or the life of his comrade, and those enemies seeking his destruction. In seeking death, the warrior dies. 'Tis possible to die, but to go on living. Those select veterans and their family members understand what that means. They "get it." They understand the significance of it.
Or do they?
The warrior's greatest asset is to shut off a portion of his own yearning for life. This is the ultimate sacrifice. Dying is not what the warrior seeks, but to be skilled enough to kill, and to kill well. The most effective and efficient warriors will begin to not care for life. Not that they will murder intentionally, unjustly injure those who do not "deserve" it, but that they can dispose of the life and the body of the enemy, at least to some degree--to raise their rifle, to look him in the face and to watch the enemies' body go flaccid and limp. Such a mental image and such a physical act--including the training for such up-close and personal ending of life altercations--has its repercussions. Of course it does. It should.
The greatest fear may not be that life will end, but that he will end the life of another or that he will fail his team. In some aspects, and under some conditions, this transforms the warrior where he now considers himself less civil. Unworthy. Unable to cope with himself--whether he couldn't save a buddy or whether he took a life or many lives in war. Certainly more circumstances exist than these. Regardless, the warrior now views the world differently. He is a changed man. His life has already ended although he remains awake. Although alive, he may feel dead. He may feel life is over.
But this is not all. Much deeper is the departing life and energy he once knew.
The searing that comes under war can paralyze. Such a fear of being wounded or the fear of the unknown--what shall occur upon death of his own body--can cause acute physical stiffening. In such a mental position the warrior physically freezes. But training will force him to continue on, if not for someone beside him yelling at him to attack or retreat.
Naturally he may want to run. To flee. To get to safety. But the most effective warrior will cease to live. He will neither care for his own life nor the life of his enemy. He may only care for his comrade and brother-in-arms. He is professional. He is emotionally numb to some degree. That is survival.
Once such a warrior has ceased to live on the battlefield, his emotions become fluid to physical acts, his nerves become more relaxed. Instead of freezing, he can now muster the energy to kill. His reactions improve. His instincts develop.
In the state of his own lifelessness, beginning first in his mind, paradoxically he is now in greater control of life--at least while in the war zone. His skill melds with his mind, and vice versa. The chemistry and physiological nature of his mortal body now work in harmony with the mission he has. Target discretion improves; target acquisition improves; readiness and willingness improves, for he is willing to die but more willing to kill.
In short, he doesn't care much anymore. He ceases to care about his own physical injuries. He ceases to believe in the hope of his survival, although he holds on to the daydreams of yesteryear. He stares death in the face. And he feels that sooner or later he will depart. The fear and willingness to live dies before he dies. That makes an effective fighting warrior. But it has tremendous setbacks after the battle is over. The battle never leaves him entirely although he may leave the battle scene.
In a constant state of battle, his mind and psyche change. He is altered emotionally. He becomes conditioned to living war. That is where he lives. That is where he thrives. War becomes him and he becomes a part of war. He becomes effective at this work, although he may not believe it himself always. And for some reason his experiences in the foray will alter the course of his life forever.
His survival instinct grows. Or rather his instinct for physical war develops in a way that he becomes a hunter...and the hunted. It is not simple survival. It is man against man, warrior against enemy, man against the machines of death and carnage. This survival is the most complex of all, latent in some, swollen in the minds of those who understand and have lived the work of death.
The lack of reprieve, the semblance of normality, is bereft. Even a short R&R will not bring him home again. Physically he may be there. But he is not there. He may mask his own development from those who know him best. But it cannot hide forever. He cannot hide in war. And his war continues on within him. The course of his life is altered forever. He may find coping mechanisms; he may find emotions and changes will adapt over time to his peaceful living; but that which he experienced and that which his mind altered (chemically, emotionally and psychologically), have forever changed the course of his existence.
In war he is nice to have around, for it would not take long for those survival instincts and deft reactions to be stirred up again. But without a war to fight, he may be lost. He does not want to fight anymore; he tries to let it go. Or, he will volunteer to go back to the battle, in some way or in some form.
In seeking the work of death he has died himself. And unless he can find a meaning and reason and a purpose for living, he will go on living as though he is dead.
Be sure to check out Warrior SOS, the book.
on Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00D3WO7VK
on Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00D3WO7VK