Saturday, August 13, 2011

Real troopers

Last night, I was a crying mess. My eyes were mere slits, I couldn't breathe through my nose, my sinuses were clogged beyond belief, and my head hurt. There was a little pile of used tissues as well as an entire box of unused ones beside my laptop. I still have weird eyes the day after.

Why, you ask? Why?

In a grandiose manifestation of my stupidity, I subjected myself to four Soldiers Surprising Their Loved Ones videos, almost back-to-back. Haven't heard of them? Here they are, for your viewing pleasure. Prepare tissues, if you're the crying type. (If you want a recap of everything, watch the fourth. If you want to watch the best one, watch the first.)

I've always had a soft spot for soldiers. (World Invasion: Battle Los Angeles was horrible for me.) For the longest time, I wondered why anyone would voluntarily sign up for a job that required you to:
          a) kill other humans,
          b) leave your family, friends, pets, and home
          c) risk death or injury every single day
among other things. Then, a while back, I heard that some soldiers were recruited against their will. They didn't want to be soldiers and certainly didn't choose to be; but when you're a physically fit man whose country needs him, well, I suppose you're just going to have to serve. And that sucks.

Imagine, please, this scenario:
You are an eighteen-year-old boy, walking the increasingly fine line between teenager and adult. You are (relatively) young and free, with your whole life ahead of you filled with endless possibilities. Your life isn't quite charmed, but you are most certainly blessed in the sense that you have a family, a roof above your head, and enough to eat (which, since you're a boy, is a lot).

Life's good.
(From Super Stock.)

You just got done with your secondary education and are looking forward to either getting a job or going to university. In the midst of making applications, it's announced in the news that your country is somehow getting involved in some sort of war or attack. Troops are needed to be deployed to some faraway land you've maybe never heard of. Every day, you keep your fingers crossed and pray, pray, pray that you won't be called.

You are.

Before you know it, you're somewhere hot and sunny, but not in a good way -- here, everyone is perpetually bathed in sweat, and there are very opportunities to clean yourselves. Life is hard. You have to move around lugging your essentials and a gun, something you never would've thought you'd so much as lay a finger on. Right now, you're more than laying a finger on it -- you're depending on it to save your life.

The bare essentials.

When faced with an enemy, it's either him or you. You have morals and a conscience, yes, and both of them are screaming at you as you raise your gun, but you think of home and family and friends, and you pull the trigger. Everything happens so lightning-fast, and then, there, you've taken a life. Just like that.

You see the bodies of fallen comrades and mourn. They were friends, maybe; senior ranking officers who were alive and issuing commands mere hours ago. They were living, breathing hard, a vein in their neck prominent with the stress and pressure they were under as they rallied their troops for battle. All that, gone. They had wives, parents, friends, maybe kids. They weren't gone. What was going to happen to them?

Then you think of your own parents and friends and life in general, and how far away everything you ever knew seems to be. Maybe you've left that life and started this new one, this terrible one. Maybe you can never go back to that life. Maybe you'll fall in battle in this life and start yet another life, or go to heaven, or sleep forever. You think of home again, and the backs of your eyes prickle. There is, you realise, a high possibility that you'll never get to return.

(From Mocha Dad.)

And that's why those videos get to me so much. There's the unspoken, horrible thought in the minds of the troops and their loved ones that they might not ever come home, so when they do, it's like a dream come true. Especially for the kids, oh man; seeing their joy at having their daddies home again is just incredible. I don't know anyone who's managed to watch the first video up there without crying, even a little.

If you did, you're a heartless prick.

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