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CyberWar
May 25th, 2015, 03:54 AM
"Corporal S.!"

"I!"

"Come forth!"

"Aye, ma'am!"

A dozen paces forward. A snap to attention. A salute.

"Captain - ma'am, Corporal S. reporting for duty!"

"You are hereby awarded the National Guard Medal of Merit, Second Class, for exemplary courage and selflesness demonstrated in recent action, where you single-handedly covered the retreat of the company above and beyond the call of duty, in the result of which the Escort Company of the 19th Motorized Battalion suffered no casualties. Congratulations!"

As Beast pins the medal to my chest, I feel a mix of pride and loathing about myself.

---

I've always wanted to earn a medal in my service, sure. Back in the day when I still talked to my mother, I hoped to earn one in order to show her that I'm actually good for something. Even later when we no longer spoke, I still wanted that goddamn medal to prove myself that I was good for something. When the war broke out, I still wanted that medal so that when I died, it could be sent to my mother along with a letter of condolences, and she would know her unworthy eldest son died a proper man, for once doing something good and useful in his life.

But now that I stand here, finally with a medal of my own, it really doesn't feel anything like I had hoped it to be.

Seems like I have hoped my first medal to be much like a teenaged virgin hopes her first time would be like, only to have the harsh reality ruin all the joy for her.

I've lost count of how many people I've killed to get that medal. And women. I'll never forget those dark-brown slanted eyes of a Central Asian woman who was the first human being to die by my hand, the foaming blood flowing from her mouth as she struggled to utter her last words, even though I know not whether they were the names of her parents or children, a call for help, or a curse to me, her slayer. I'll never forget the 19-or-so-year-old Russian boy, fresh out of high school, screaming for his mother as flames engulfed him, trapped in a truck set alight by me. I'll never forget those two teenage girls, cuddled together in the trunk of a car and shredded by a burst from my gun, hidden there by their father out of mistaken fear that we would rape them. And worst of all, I can't remember a single instance where I would have felt bad about doing it until much later, too consumed by bloodlust to even have the decency to feel sorry as my finger depressed the trigger.

Sure, as a soldier I have apparently performed admirably. I've done what I've been trained to do, and done it exceptionally well. Which is why this piece of bronze is now being pinned to my chest. I am being rewarded for things that would have put me behind bars for the rest of my natural life under other circumstances. Sure, that's what war is like, that's what soldiers do in a war, people may argue - but does that absolve me from any of it as a human being.

As Beast pins that medal to my chest, I realize I will never be able to look my mother in the eye again, should I live to see her again, without thinking of myself as the goddamn bastard that robbed many other mothers from being able to behold their children again, that anonymous man to whom they will direct all their curses for as long as they live.

"Honour to serve!" I exclaim, snapping around and saluting my brethren, as protocol requires after receiving an award. They applaud me as I return to the ranks.

But what honour is there, really? Maybe it was the case back in the days, when men of noble birth met in single combat on the battlefield and called out their names, so that the winner would further his fame by announcing the noble name of his slain adversary, and the loser would die with the knowledge that he has been bested by a worthy foe. But today... today it's just another torrent of hot metal ripping into flesh, parting limbs and shattering bones, a torrent delivered by an anonymous nobody to another anonymous nobody who will be lucky to even have his own grave afterwards.

The lads applaud me, but I feel no joy. They pretend to feel I am a hero, but we all know better than that. I am no hero. I am an evil man, a monster hidden under the thin varnish of civility.

---

I never thought receiving a medal would make me feel like a goddamn bastard. But it does. It really does...

Bevo
May 25th, 2015, 12:18 PM
Well timed with the US Memorial Day today.

Speaking with soldiers who have gone through battle killing others I found a few different thing, some have accepted it, some have problems with it and some like it. It's not a job I would want but to serve my country and family it's a job I would take and do well I would hope to be in the first group and accept.
Bloodlust is a real thing where some go specifically to kill, at home they may be in jail or worse.

This was a great peak into the mind of a soldier with conscious.

For those who served, thank you for your service.

Aliandra
May 26th, 2015, 12:10 AM
Whoa, some powerful stuff here. Couple things I would change: the fourth paragraph after the break, first line: ...how many people I've killed.... And women. I think you could word that better, after all, women are people, too, but if you said something like how many men I've killed...and women. Or how many soldiers I've killed....and innocents/civilians. I hope you get my drift.
"As Beast pins the medal to my chest..." is this a real Beast? Or a person named Beast?

All in all I was very moved reading this. You build it all up very nicely, the sense of importance, what the medal means in the beginning, and the truth it really hides.

That being said, I have great respect for those who serve.

CyberWar
May 26th, 2015, 12:38 AM
You point out correctly. My original sentence actually involved "men... and women", before I decided to shorten it with the generic "people", apparently forgetting to edit the other half of the sentence.

Beast is the nickname of the unit's captain, a recurring character in my other stories narrated by the same protagonist posted here.

Aliandra
May 26th, 2015, 12:44 PM
Ohh okay. Thanks for clarifying Beast for me :)

ismith
May 28th, 2015, 02:18 AM
I would change "cuddled" to "huddled" when referring to the two teenaged girls. Cuddling evokes pleasant thoughts of intimate pleasure, huddling reminds me of being wet, cold, tired, scared and otherwise miserable.