A story of war by FWR
Nothing It Seems Ever Changes
I sat at base camp idly kicking sand from my boots as I looked around at my brothers in arms. Some, no more than children, nervously adjusted their body armour and checked weapons for the umpteenth time that morning, grim faces set and drawn. Others, veterans of the desert war, huddled together, swapping tales of glory and horror in over-loud voices, each vying to outdo the other with ribald humour, attempting to hide the sickening lurch we all felt in our stomachs.
I turned the small pin brooch over in my oily fingers; a small delicate flower captured the light from the harsh desert sun. A present from my wife: an English rose from an English rose. I had been away from home for so very long. I smiled as I remembered her face.
She had cried when I had enlisted, cried again when she had seen me in uniform for the first time, but cried until I feared her heart would burst when I told her I would be part of the Great War against terror and would be heading off into the deserts of Arabia.
My early training had consisted mainly of weaponry drills and tactical skills with a few lectures on the enemy. Tales of massacre, torture and a fanatical belief in a God that condoned and rewarded such acts of barbarity made my blood boil. Decent Christian and Jewish folk forced to bend to the will of this strange god or suffer agonies beyond mention. Nobody would sleep easy ever again until this scourge was put down and eliminated for good it seemed. I knew that the devil awaited us in the barren wastelands of sand and I had made my peace with God and begged for the faith and strength to do His will.
Amassed on the Syrian border we were given short lessons in Arabic and the geography we would face on the drive to Baghdad. I am ashamed to say that my resolve faltered when we were introduced to our native interpreters and guides. In our free time, whilst waiting for French and German troops to arrive, I had the opportunity to chat to several of these guides. Each painted a different picture of the peoples we were to war with. Gentle and kind folk, taught to respect and help all men no matter what god he believed in: an innate respect for all life and a loving caring god to teach them his ways. Could these truly be a part of the same religion that threatened the very foundations of the West?
Fighting a fanatical monster was one thing, going to war with peace loving civilians a totally different matter. I struggled with these doubts, wondering when the time came would I be able and willing to kill for the cause? I reassured myself that I was not only fighting for my life but for my way of life.
The signal went up, jolting me from my thoughts, I pinned the rose to my tunic, crossed myself for good fortune before picking up my sword and shield and heading into the desert. Riding proudly under the lions of Richard’s flying banners to face the devil Saladin.