BOOKS: Band of Brothers
I'm watching the whole series all over again. I don't know how many times that is that I've watched it now, but I'm still enraptured by the whole thing.
Steven Spielberg is an epic filmmaker. Saving Private Ryan was one of my favourites.
I know why this Band of Brothers appeals to me. Because it gets to the heart of what a soldier's life is all about. It's real, it's gutsy, it's about the closest I'll ever get (I hope) to what it might to feel to be in the thick of fighting for your life ... as well as those of your 'brothers'.
It makes me wonder what those guys think when they sign on the dotted line and I'm privileged to be in a position to actually find out. I often ask the guys who pass through my life what made them join the army. Some say 'work', some say 'money', some (but not a lot) say 'cos i love my country'.
The core of a soldier's work is to train to kill - the enemy.
But the repercussions of that are tremendous. Immense. Heartbreaking, almost.
Let's take for instance the guys who were sent to the Falklands in the 1980s. Prior to that, the bulk of this country's folk didn't think we'd ever have our young boys sent off to fight in another battle (apart from Northern Ireland, at the time), particularly one so very far away. I think that was when I first heard the phrase being wailed by an anxious mother
"My son never joined up to fight a war!" (which was repeated in the first Gulf War too).
When the news reels started to file back home - of ships being blown to smithereens, of men being bombed, burned, shot and shelled ... people were horrified, terrified, shocked. But while it was going on all I could think of was - what is going through the minds of the actual men. The individual's that are walking over that land as I slept safe at night in my cosy bed, men were loading their weapons with bullets that would pierce flesh and end a life.
Of course, all of these thoughts were brought home to me when my own man went off to fight in the first Gulf War a whole ten years later.
Even after a million man march on London to stop the Gulf War, Tony Blair still sent him off to a land of sand far, far away from me.
As my man marched off all handsome and proud, the only thing I could do was write and cry. My precious little blueys would be sent every day, sometimes several at one time. I wanted him to know that he was loved by a woman who cherished his very existence and to encourage him to realise that he had something to fight for – himself. So that he would find a way to survive and return home, safe to me.
But the more I watch Band of Brothers, I see how precarious that effort was/is. How life can be wiped out in an instant. How, with one little piece of metal entering this carbon matter we call our bodies, life can be switched off. Immediately. No questions asked. And it’s all by chance.
Those who live can look at those who have not. They pick up the bodies of those who’ve fallen to their final resting place and lower them into the ground, cover them with earth, and thank whoever or whatever it is they believe in, that it wasn’t their turn - this time.
Soldiers - the world over - have always been trained to do their very best. They are a different breed of man and it shows. Some end up on the streets (heck, most of the guys you see littering the pavements of London are ex-Army boys), but some realise the precarious nature of life and make a niche for themselves. Some hunger for freedom from the restraints of society, more though are haunted by the sights they have witnessed and never will be able to forget. There are also others who hate the civilisation that caused those feelings and will always have a ‘wronged’ nature hanging about their aura. Still others, though, forge on ahead by carving a life within the restraints, and live with what exists and make the best of what is available.
But at the end of the day, they are still only men. Men with feelings (even though they don't admit it half the time). Men with hearts (yes, they do have them) that do get wounded. Men with souls (even if you don't believe it), that will remain ever torn because of the trauma they endured.
In Summary, little old me can never hope to do any of them any justice. And I don't know why Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers (albeit from the Yanky perspective), gels with me so well - perhaps because they both bring it home, the nature of war and what it actually is, how the individual realises what is going on. Those films show the terrifying fear that goes on in someone's head - as well as the hope and the pride and the tremendous bond that men can have with each other too.
Kaye is a freelance publisher, author and certified psychotherapist with over three decades of experience. She is also a writer for various blogs about writing, publishing, travelling and health care.
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