Letter Home From a Soldier
I hope this letter finds you in the best spirit possible, considering that I have been away from home for so long. My three-year enlistment is almost up and my thoughts constantly turn homeward to you. I know you are eager to have me back at the homestead fixing things, tending the sheep, and keeping the water running on the property. Hanging out with my buddies here has helped take the edge off my loneliness. The long distance calls you and I enjoy (while wonderful and encouraging) really aren’t quite the same as sitting next to you and talking face-to-face. I look forward with eagerness to giving you the biggest hug and sitting down for a good long while to catch up on old times.
As you know, this crazy war has been moving my unit deeper and deeper into enemy-held territory. I can’t lie to you, Pop, I have seen a great deal of trauma and suffering. Working as a medic has been rewarding, but I have to confess that I have been overwhelmed with calls for aid. Still I was taught by the best, Dad—you always had the touch for healing others and easing their aches and pains. I guess being around you so much kind of rubbed off on me.
Recently, there was this one kid who tried to fight his way out of an ambush and was set on fire. Other soldiers had been blinded, some deafened, several were crippled by their wounds, and a few appeared to be dead—but I remembered the skills you taught me. I am pleased to report I haven’t lost anyone yet! Everyone who has made it under my tent has survived. For weeks on end, soldiers have been carrying in their wounded on stretchers from all over the battlefield. The field hospital is swamped with the walking wounded. It seems like every time I turn around, there is someone else crying for my help. It is weird hearing my own name ringing in my ears so often. Joshua! Joshua! Help us!
How can I refuse them, Dad? I know you never would. And remembering all those people you’ve helped in the past really helps me stay focused on the task at hand, when the action in the field has been so intense. There were a number of times the enemy took aim and fired at me, but I have been able to escape so far. I don’t know how much longer I can avoid being targeted, Dad. That is why I am writing to you now, just in case—I want you to remember just how much I love you. And I know that you love me even more!
What a motley crew of guys my unit has been! Jimmy and Johnny are my real go-to guys when the bullets are flying. They always jump into the thick of the action like lightning. But my pal, Pete, takes the cake. I have told you about him in other letters. Pete is a bull of a man, brave and headstrong, strong as an ox! Sometimes I have to pull him back when the enemy is in close, otherwise he would run off and get captured or worse. Of course, there’s Phil who is always complaining about the lack of chow, Tom who argues about everything, and Andy who loves to fish.
Bart’s the quiet one, but he has a good heart. The others are a pretty reliable bunch when there is action. Unfortunately, I cannot trust Izzy. For one, he is very sneaky—the little devil wanders out of the perimeter when he thinks I am not watching. Who knows? Maybe he has friends in the enemy camp. All I know is that I have to watch my back with him. I’m afraid Izzy will be the death of me soon.
And that is also the reason I am writing to you now, Father. You were right to encourage me to sign up for this fight. This is a good and just cause and I am helping a lot of people here. It’s just that I can’t stand being so far from you, from home. There is nothing here like there is there, where my home is! I tell everyone I meet how wonderful the place is and how great a father you are. Some of the guys can’t wait to get out of this mess so they can come visit our homestead—to meet you, Dad! But things are just so awful here, right now.
Father, if there was another way to save all my friends, I know you would find it! Every day I see the burdens everyone carries, the wounds and scars of battle, the shock and horror of fighting the enemy, and the carnage when night falls. When will it end? I do not know. But I cannot abandon my friends—I will NOT abandon them! And Dad, I won’t let you down! Trust me in this, I came to do a job, and I will see it through to the death, if required.
Dad, I pray for victory for the sake of my friends and all that is right and good. A great sacrifice for this just cause, on this battlefield, will surely bring peace to many some day. I just know it! I wonder though; if I am not afraid to die for this just cause, why are so many afraid to live in the victory should I succeed? I am sure you know better than I. There is no use agonizing over my decision any longer.
It is dark now. But there will be light soon. There always is! I haven’t been able to sleep at all. We spent a lot of time together in the mess tent before posting watch out here on the perimeter. Pete, Jimmy, and Johnny were supposed to be pulling guard duty with me tonight, but it looks like they have fallen asleep again. This is the third time they have dozed off tonight. What will I do with them?
I better wake them up. I hear someone coming. O Great! Looks like Izzy is up to no good again. And he has brought some of the enemy soldiers with him.
There is no time left! I have to go wake the others. The end is upon me! Pete will have to carry this message through the enemy lines for me.
I love you, Dad. Until we meet again, I remain your faithful, one and only, loving son,
(copyright 2014, Gregory Allen Doyle)