The Soldier


I watched some of the TV programme last night which dealt with the life of a Guardsman officer on and off duty in Afghanistan, his time on leave, and then his time working at the Barracks.

You were able to see the terrible stresses he underwent in combat against the Taleban; as he saw some of his colleagues killed or injured severely; how he handled the local militia whom he was supposed to help train; the constant close presence of an unseen enemy; the possibility of a sudden painful and violent death; the constant looking-forward to leave back home; the heat; the indifferent food…..all of these became very evident, and most of us would have been unable to handle even a small proportion of the deprivations and fears.

Before he left for his leave, he attended the ‘repatriation’ of one of the young men killed in action. This was a very personal ‘Remembrance’ service. When he did return home, he had to face the boredom of barrack work. Then he was told he was to be ‘mentioned in despatches’ for his bravery, and a short time later he was courtmartialled for some fracas in which he had unfortunately been involved!

Ho can we expect the human animal to be able to handle such a vast range of emotions, fears, experiences etc within a short space of time, and not react somewhat differently to what the rest of us do as a matter of course.

I find war abhorrent, but the reality of our world that sometimes it is necessary, and is carried out generally within an  international framework of laws which can satisfy our natural distaste for killing, by professional and disciplined people who hope to minimise ‘collateral damage’.

We therefore surely should be able to forgive them when they transgress briefly from our norms.