There is no right. There is usually only the wrong.
There is only the pungent, durable odors of hot metallic blood, burnt cordite, smeared shit, and sweaty bodies unbathed for weeks- because somebody had to hold the line.
Fragile temperament struggling against inhospitable, improvised environments. Soft flesh against rigid alloys. Malleable bone against tracked vehicles and hovering drones.
Just meat against metal. And metal always wins.
Glory holds little meaning when a friend claws at the twitching stump where a healthy limb used to be. There is nothing glorious in hearing a 22 year old whimper and cry out for the loving embrace of his mama. Because he knows for certain that he’s about to die, while a chorus of words from friends ringing round him urge him to just fucking hang on.
But, they always know.
Thirty years can pass and it doesn’t fucking matter- you can still hear the screams.
Honor contains little value when lives are held in such cheap regard. Always expendable. Always counting and collating the collateral damage until the ever-changing parameters of “victory” are obtained. Always another folded flag processional waiting ceremoniously at the end of the line.
And for what?
A valor polluted can never be truly virtuous. Because it is impossible to remain clean when boxed inside the confines of kill zones. Values shift in the pressure cooker of constant, uncertain dangers. Calculations of worth become skewed under the brunt of incoming rounds.
The idea of nobility in war is a fallacy too often perpetrated by those too afraid to fight. Or too old. Or too rich. There is nothing noble about entire generations condemned to suffer the most egregious levels of inhumanity imaginable. And yet still we send children out to break their budding manhood against cultures and histories they aren’t even experienced enough to understand.
Cynicism dictates that maybe it’s a good thing they die so young- because then they don’t have to suffer quite as long. Within the ghoulish efficiency of modern weaponry, it isn’t often clean. But it is almost always quick.
For the lucky ones, anyway.
Because they will never be burdened with the crushing weight of survival. They will never have the nightmares- haunted by triggers, jumping at every unexpected noise and pissing the bed. They will never have to carry the enormity of the guilt of still being alive, when so many they fought beside aren’t. And, they will never have to struggle to rejoin polite society with only animalistic brutality listed as their only resume.
Because no one wants to hire a killer.
They can easily teach you to pull a trigger- learning to take a life is not a difficult skill to master. But they can never teach how to become human again once you commit to that pull. When that innocence is gone, it is gone forever.
Honor…duty…valor…sacrifice…patriotism. All just meaningless words used to entice the inexperienced and manipulate the young. They only hold value because society has collectively decided that they warrant significant worth. But when you strip away the flags, and the ceremonies, and the medals, and the flowery speech, it becomes plainly evident that dying for a country is arguably stupid.
Living for one is a far more noble path.