Looking into the Eyes of a Soldier

Please note: This piece is dedicated to soldiers and their families. We are thankful beyond words for the sacrifices you make. We have the freedoms we enjoy because of you. I am thankful for your willingness to serve. I salute you.

only-dead-seen-end-war-plato

On Remembrance Day we take time to be thankful for those who gave and continue to give their greatest sacrifice – their lives. In our town of Matheson in northern Ontario, Canada, it would seem we are far removed from the damage of military conflict. Yet, if we look closer into the eyes of the veterans, of Royal Canadian Legion members, it is clear the scars of war remain. The physical wounds are easy to see. The hidden ones are etched upon their faces as they think about buddies lost to the horror of war.

I reflect today on the life of my grandfather, P.F.C. Sandford Dobson, who was a member of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces, which was the forerunner of the Canadian Armed Forces. He lied about his age to become an infantry soldier in World War 1. My grandfather was only 17 when he signed up. He was a man with a quiet courage. He sought no glory for himself. His was a life given to others whether it was threshing hay for 50 cents a day during the Great Depression to provide for his family or studying to become a boiler engineer, which required traveling a few days to Toronto and writing several exams.

The soldiers of war both on the battle lines and behind the scenes wince when they are told they are brave. They would say they were doing their job. They remember the inner agony of losing buddies, who had grown so close to them. There are tears they seek to fight back as you take time to really look into their eyes, and feel even for a few moments, some of their suffering. But we can’t take it for very long; it’s too painful to look at.

As I remember those who have served their country in such wars as World War 1, World War 2, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf War, Afghanistan and now our common struggle to defeat the malevolence of ISIS, I’m reminded of Louis Armstrong singing the song What a Wonderful World. Indeed, what a beautiful world it would be if we put down the weapons of war and learned to live in peace, brotherhood and equality with one another.

When I watched the Remembrance Day ceremony on C.B.C., I was deeply moved by the citing of the casualties of Canadian soldiers from the Boer War to peacekeeping missions. The sheer volume of deaths is saddening. We can easily lose sight of the horror of war focusing merely on the number of lives lost. These are real people with lives and families stricken down, many in the prime of their lives. These are men and women who had dreams for their future that will never happen. That career will never be pursued. Their university education will never be completed. Please take time to reflect on these deaths as I give them to you.

More than 100,000 Canadians soldiers have died in conflicts since 1899, including:

  • More than 240 in the Boer War.

  • More than 66,000 in the First World War.

  • More than 44,000 in the Second World War.

  • 516 in the Korean War.

  • 121 in peacekeeping missions.1

There have been countless millions of civilian and military deaths in all the wars since the Boer War. The numbers are overwhelming. However, we need to look at the personal tragedies of soldiers, civilians and their families. This goes beyond looking at the statistics to really take time to look at how lives have been affected by the brutality of war.

As I close my eyes and recall my grandfather smiling at me and the lessons he taught me about what it means to be a man of honesty and integrity, I pray for a world without the need of bombs and guns to resolve conflict. We must not allow our hope for that to be burnt out like a flickering candle; it must be kept alive in our hearts. We cannot have our hope destroyed if we continue to live the example we have been shown by those who serve their country with honor, that no evil in this world can eliminate. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “ I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” That is the kind of world Dr. King was willing to die for. Can we dare to dream of any less of a world than those who are willing to die for the freedoms we enjoy?

Plato wrote, “Only the dead have seen the end of war.” Sadly, many of those who have survived physical conflict carry the wounds of PTSD. Some soldiers who can no longer deal with the unrelenting inner pain of what they have seen have committed suicide. Their war continues after the physical fighting has ended. Mental health services need to be expanded to deal with this terrible situation.. We need to give them all the help they need to heal within. As we remember our soldiers and those behind the scenes of conflict, we have a collective hope for a world where we will put down the weapons of war and fight no more.

That is I believe the hope of us who know what freedom costs, as we look into the eyes of a soldier.

Kevin and Karen Osborne are Christian pastoral counsellors and psychotherapists. Kevin is studying to become a chaplain and professor of Psychology specializing in Pastoral Theology. We have started You Can Hope Again Counselling. Karen enjoys doing cross-stitch while I like writing and singing songs. Karen makes me laugh when she sings the kitty bed-time song saying, “It’s that time. It’s the bestest kitty time of the day!” Kevin enjoys teasing the kitties and making them do kitty dances with music. Their kitty, Catherine, loves it when kitty daddeh sings All Things Bright and Beautiful. Kevin likes doing impressions. He tells children’s stories and helps others with their problems using his hand puppet, Dr. Teddy, who is a therapy bear. He is a partner with us in our counselling practice.We are available to assist with worship and preaching to give busy pastors and ministers a much-needed break. We offer in-office, and phone counselling to anyone in the world.

http://www.youcanhopeagaincounselling.com/

  1. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/remembrance-day-ceremonies-honour-war-dead-1.1012280

Co-author on Mind’s Seat, a Christian inspirational blog

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