The questions are almost always delivered by the young without guilt. They ask them in classrooms, living rooms, car rides, anywhere and everywhere it comes up. As my nephews have grown, they have asked more and more. They now understand, in the weakest sense of the word, that those tin bracelets wrapped around my wrist are those sacrificed. They are my “friends who were killed in war.” When we wrestle, they no longer grab at them. I often catch them staring at them, twisting them, reading them, trying to understand them, trying to understand me.
The young always ask the questions without an inkling of guilt, yet the honest answers would shock them, despite their inability to fully comprehend them. The young always seem the ask the questions I think many of us want to answer, honestly, without an inkling of guilt. The young seem to ask the questions the old refuse to confront. The young ask the questions I so desperately want to answer, so society might begin to understand. How many wars have you been in? How many friends have you lost? How did they die? Did you kill the bad guys who killed them? What is war like? Have you killed anyone? How many? What is it like to kill someone? How do you know who the bad guys are? Why did you leave the Army?
They are the questions quickly hushed away by the old. The guilt is forced upon them and the questions wane. When they might comprehend the answers, they are too guilty to ask. We all stand and watch as the old hush them into guilt. We stand and begin to understand that society does not want the answers. They do not want to understand the wars we fight in their name. With every hush we understand. We understand they are not just hushing guilt into the young, they are hushing guilt into the warrior.
Jake Smith is a law enforcement officer and former Army Ranger with four deployments to Afghanistan.
As the Voice of the Veteran Community, The Havok Journal seeks to publish a variety of perspectives on a number of sensitive subjects. Unless specifically noted otherwise, nothing we publish is an official point of view of The Havok Journal or any part of the U.S. government.