“Those who have journeyed far to fight in foreign lands know that the soldier’s greatest comfort is to have his friends close at hand. In the heat of battle, it ceases to be an idea for which we fight, or a flag. Rather, we fight for the man on our left, and we fight for the man on our right. For when armies are scattered, and when the empires fall away, all that remains is the memory of those precious moments we spent side by side.”
– Jack Durrance, The Four Feathers
When the ancient legions of Rome, or the armies of Greece before them, were facing a vast horde of barbarian warriors, the raw numbers tended to be stacked ridiculously against them. Yet they triumphed, again and again. They were armed, armored, trained, coordinated, disciplined… and they all had a singularly basic mission to protect the man next to them even more than themselves.
Thus has been the bond between soldiers ever since.
I actually meant to post this on the Sunday before Veteran’s Day in my country. Having messed that up, I suppose the Sunday after will just have to do.
Jack Durrance is a soldier who has served the empire of Great Britain. He and his friends signed up for king and country, and together they did as he describes: they journeyed far from home and fought. He speaks from experience, and that experience has taken a toll on him and each of his friends. Jack himself lost his sight, another lost his life, another was condemned to suffer and die if not for some outside intervention on his behalf, yet another had his arrogant pride broken, and still another was transformed through a great journey in which he overcame his own cowardice. All of these things, they endured, and those who survived came together to lay their fallen to rest.
They began as friends, and became steadfast comrades. They passed through many pains, but carried them together, and so those were able to fall away in the end. What remains is the joy, the comfort of that connection, that time together, that bond between men, which drives away doubt and solitude and even sorrow. With that in one’s heart, one, and one’s friends, can stand firm in the face of all the hordes of the abyss.
Such men certainly are to be honored. Not that their flaws are excused, but that their humanity is praised, their sacrifice is accepted, and they are met with gratitude and respect.
For what it is worth, coming from one such as I, a soft, untried man who has spent his entire life safe beneath the shelter built by their sacrifices, I cannot say thank you enough to our veterans. For everything they have risked, and suffered, and sacrificed, and lost, and especially for what they have accomplished, I am truly and utterly grateful.
Thank you, veterans.
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.