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Saturday, November 9, 2013

"Why the hell would I kill this kid" One Canadian Veteran Remembers the Horror of War.

I have never been one to fully embrace Remembrance day. I find, oddly enough, there to be to much glorification of war within this day. Do not think me to be ungrateful or disrespectful to those who gave and give their lives, but I shudder and my insides wrench when I think of all that went into and makes up war. While I am thankful for the benefits and freedoms that we all share in, I struggle to embrace the idea that we gained these because of war. Could we not have done so without war? 

On days like Remembrance day, we tend to become overly patriotic, as if being Canadian, American or British is what won us the war. As if being these things gained us some sort of right to be human, or worse, be winners of some sort of game. I can not emphasize enough that there are no winners in war. 
We tend to think of other nationalities as the opposers, the enemy or those to be conquered. We tend to bunch all the Germans into the category of being those 'evil Nazi's'. While we are not the only ones guilty of this type of thinking, we all have the tendency to bunch a community, culture and/or nation into one category. On Remembrance day we remember the fallen soldiers, we recall the stories, and we honour the sacrifice. However, on Remembrance day we often forget that we are all human and that we all share in on this same humanity. On Remembrance day we must remember that all are children of God, including our enemies. We must love them and also remember them, for they hunger, thirst and bleed as we all do. 

The following is an excerpt of an article from the National Post( Article)sharing a perspective I have not ever heard during this time of year, Remembrance Day. If you enjoy it please click the above link to continue reading the story.

"Why the hell would I kill this kid?": One Canadian Veteran Remembers the Horror of War

It is the strangest thing, Frank Johnson tells me, a memory he can’t shake because he can’t make sense of it, can’t understand why what happened to him on that long ago day in wartime Germany happened the way it did.
Here he was, you see, old Frankie Johnson — Johnny to his fighter pilot pals — shot to bits after being shot down over Germany on March 30, 1945. His back was busted, there was shrapnel in his right shin, a bullet in his left hip and he was bleeding from his forehead and covered in mud and blood and aircraft oil.
He was a “goddamn mess,” he says, and he didn’t really care whether he lived or died since he felt like he was already dying anyway. But a German farmer’s wife, some middle-aged lady, she cared whether he lived or died and she took a shot-up enemy fighter pilot who was dumped on her doorstep by two German soldiers and cleaned his wounds. 
Washed his entire body like she was washing her own “goddamn son,” Mr. Johnson says, like it didn’t matter one slice that old Johnny boy had spent the war taking out “German targets” and killing God knows how many Germans along the way with his Hawker Typhoon fighter plane.

“What gets to me, what really gets to me,” Mr. Johnson thunders, in a voice made for radio even though he sold insurance for most of his post-war life, “is when people go on about the German people and how awful they were. Yes, there were the real Nazis and the Gestapo, and they were nasty pieces of work, but the ordinary Germans in the countryside were just like you and me — and I don’t think they really knew what the hell the war was about..........................


Anonymous said...

I loved your intro to that very perceptive article. Very respectful yet thought provoking words to many who just remember out of cultural duty or political gain or whatever. But for those who remember because of loss... You still gave dignity and gratitude for those sacrifices without supporting war.
Sometimes when I used to sit thru the Rembrandce day services... It felt like army recruitment and country boundaries time... And other times all that loss was just too sad and tragic for a young gal to take. I think there are other just as respectful ways to remember our mistakes and move forward in peace...
Thanks for sharing

Grant said...

Thanks Phil.

Too many thoughts crowd my mind to make a response or comment. It is a story worthy of wider readership. But 'just sending it' wouldn't give it enough context for it to be readily accepted. It definitely needs dialogue and argument with it.
(I have a problem with Churches and "Christians" justifying be a soldier and going to war. And yet I appreciate every one who following their conscience and what they thought was a call to duty, died "for my sake". But from a Biblical perspective I believe believers were called to "suffer" under despots until they were released from their temporary dwelling place by death, natural or otherwise, including war, and to go "through it" rather than escape... or fighting back. A hard teaching and one I am not sure I would stand up to if I were threatened,... or my family was.. But it IS what I believe.

Miriam (Pete) Rashleigh said...

That's a great story - happy ending; probably one that is very different from 99.99 per cent of stories. I love hearing those true stories; I watched "Defiance" with my kids last night, in honor of Rememberance Day - I warned them there will be violence and some strong language, which is all a part of war; the story line centers on two brothers who hid Jews in the forest in Russia until the end of the war - they made an agreement at one point not to become like their enemies, killing for revenge; but at many points they had the need to kill or allow the group of a hundred or more Jews to be killed. They had to make that tough choice, which we thankfully don't have to make in our peaceful setting. But we often can make the choice to stand against bigotry in its many forms, verbally or through written material, or by withdrawing from a certain setting, so that hopefully we can stop the thought processes that promote fear and hatred due to the bigoted mindset.
It is true that war and rememberance of war can mean the wrong things. I try to focus on our blessings in remembering how most of the world suffered because of war in so many ways and still does (in Syria the civilians are now eating grass and leaves trying to survive as the government keeps the food from getting to them.)

Sabio Lantz said...

Great post. Totally agree.
Well, accept I don't have the need for the metaphor of "all children of God" -- though I may have used it in the 1800s when it was a bit more unsafe to show you don't buy into the dominant religion.

CalledtoQuestion said...

S.Lantz - Thanks and I live in a very religious community, so once and a while I have to throw in phrases like "children of God" just to appease the masses.