The Battle Within
By Jon M. Siegrist III
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I am alone... I am alone... I am going to die all alone. It’s sometime in December, and it seems like this war will never end.
Ammunition from an unnamed enemy comes whizzing past my head. I know only one thing: that the enemy is out there, somewhere. The night is black as pitch. Smoke fills the air, making sight even more impossible. My fox hole suddenly feels a lot less secure than it did before. I am one being among many here, yet I feel alone. A million others wouldn’t help ease my panic-stricken mind. I did not ask to be here. I was forced, forced to be someone and something I am not. I was so sure before, sure that I was an adult, sure that I was old enough, and strong enough to serve my country as well as anyone else.
All of a sudden I feel like a child, like a little baby; helpless and afraid. What was I thinking? How stupid.
I want to go home... What a wonderful word... “home.” I see a mortar whizzing over my head, and its blast jars me back to my present self. Suddenly I realize where I am. It becomes all too real when I feel the heat of the mortar’s explosion on my skin. That one was close... I feel like I should be doing something, instead of just sitting here waiting to die. I should be defending myself and my beliefs, defending myself against these beings who seek my destruction, but who am I to take another’s life? Wasn’t I taught that judgment should be left up to God? Wasn’t that what the fight was about? To take the life of another is inherently wrong, right? Why then are we even here? Why am I here? I want to go home... badly. I here a human’s scream from the surrounding darkness. I wonder if it was one of ours or one of theirs. I start to pray. I pray for the person whose scream just echoed into the night. I pray for his family. I pray that he didn’t have one... I pray for my family as well. I know they know I love them, and I know they love me. I wonder what it will do to them when they find out what has happened to me. I hope they will be proud of me. I hope they know that I thought I was doing the right thing.
Another explosion hits close by, this time closer than all of the others. My face and my palms start to sweat. Partly from the heat, but mostly from my terror. The gun fire has died down now. It’s a good sign, I think. My mind is racing, racing for a solution to this problem. What should I do? I need an answer... now. My mind decides. Suddenly my legs bring me up and out of my fox hole; I leave my gun there, hoping it will have no further use. I run as fast and as far as my legs will take me. It really doesn’t matter where. Anywhere is better than here. My body guides and my mind follows. Shadowed enemies fire all at once, from all around me. A bullet catches up with me as I run, and I feel the scorching lead pierce the skin on my leg. I clench my teeth from the pain.
Where can I run to? I need an escape. My mind is dizzied from this. I need to stop and catch my breath. Yes, good. Rest.
I put one knee to the ground to rest and think. The ground here is soft. Maybe from rain; maybe from the blood of the corpses scattered around me. I don’t know. A white light catches the corner of my eye. What is that? It’s so bright, and it’s hot. Incredibly hot. The whole world around me is lit with a light that is blinding. I see others around me whose faces must reflect my own. I see a soldier still holding his position on the battlefield. His eyes are wide and terror-filled, yet they show of his pride and honor. I see the bodies of the deceased all around. Huge numbers lie dead on the battlefield. I know their fate to be my own. An overwhelming force knocks my body to the earth. I fall into the dirt hard. What is that? My body is paralyzed. Darkness is around me once again, and all I can see is the surrounding smoke from the latest explosion. It feels so strange not to be able to move my arms or legs, or to roll over.
Suddenly I find humor in my situation: as I came into this world, so shall I go. Totally unable to provide for myself.
My humorous state lasts only momentarily. I want to be home... Why would God let me go out this way? Please, God, let this cup pass from me. I want to be home. Please, let me go home.
“Now is not the time to doubt my faith,” I tell myself.
One thing I was taught was that during trials, our faith is always put to the test, but true faith will see you through.
My mind is swirling. I find it hard to catch my breath.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” I repeat this to myself many times, finding comfort where so little is to be found. I remember many childhood things. Happy memories of candy and horses. Not so happy memories of spilling milk on the counter. Man, I got yelled at every time that happened. I remember riding bikes with friends. I remember yelling at my sister. I wish I was there to yell at her now. I remember the many years my mom and I toiled over my home schooling material. I remember the Church of Christ we have attended for ages beyond count.
“They were years well spent,” I say, as I try to comfort myself.
I remember falling in love. I remember my first kiss. I remember how I still love her with all my heart.
I think about the son and daughter I will never get the chance to love. The family I will never have. The wife who will never see me grow old.
“The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.” I start to pray again.
“God, I just want to go home. Please, if it be your will, let me go home,“ and then...
He let me go home...