The Threat Remains the Same…

      The threat of being recalled to active duty is something that remains omnipresent for many military veterans today.  A deadly ailment may eradicate and allow one of its sufferers a period of remission, but the possibility of return will always be there.  Those who have served in the military, even those who have already been deployed to the welcoming dangers of war, face the same difficulties having faith in their futures as everything can easily be lost to a recall to active duty/deployment.

      Alex Horton, an Army infantryman, discusses the effect that this threat has had on the life of his best friend Steve in his 2 February 2009 post, “Best of Friends.” Horton explains the risk that he and his friend took upon the completion of their active duty: bypassing the option of joining the Reserve or the Guard, opting for the IRR and hoping to be one of the lucky ones who would not receive orders for individual reactivation and deployment to Iraq.  Horton’s best friend was not that lucky.  Instead, he was one of the individuals whose attempt at starting a new chapter in life was stopped dead in its tracks by a single brown envelope.  Horton explains his feelings toward this disheartening selection process:

      “There is no warning that a former soldier is about to be recalled. There is no way of knowing that the       game of Russian Roulette is over and your brains are splattered all over the wall. There is only an unassuming brown envelope left on the front porch to say what is already known: Uncle Sam doesn’t run out of bullets.” (paragraph 7).

       Russian Roulette.  I imagine this is what it must feel like to any soldier who faces the possibility of returning to war. There’s more than one way for a soldier to dodge a bullet.  Even outside of the literal meaning of avoiding being shot while at war, some enlisted in the military may not be deployed to war during their active duty.  But what about those who have already been separated from their families at home, their friends, their past lives. . . only to return home finally with an unending fog around them threatening a repeat of historical horror. 

      Horton’s post reminds me of Robert Graves’ “To Lucasta on Going to the War–For the Fourth Time.”  A few lines in particular make this connection:

      “Lucasta, when to France your man/Returns his fourth time, hating war,/Yet laughs as calmly as he can/And flings an oath, but says no more,/That is not courage, that’s not fear–/Lucasta he’s a Fusilier. . .”

      These men returning to active duty courtesy of the IRR are not trying to be heroes.  They are not running from a civilian life or out of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  They are simply replying to a request for them to return to active duty.  This request is quite rhetorical in the sense that there is only one response.  This game of Russian Roulette that these soldiers are playing can be connected to succeeding lines in Graves’ poem:

      “. . . But he must be stout-hearted,/Must sit and stake with quiet breath,/Playing at cards with Death.”

      Whether playing Russian Roulette in the Iraq war, or playing cards with death in World War I, the constant threat of return to war does not seem to cease for any soldier.

Works Cited

Graves, Robert. “To Lucasta on Going to the War–For the Fourth Time.” World War One British Poets. Ed. Candace Ward. Mineola: Dover Publications, 1997. (pp.  39-40)

Horton, Alex. “Best of Friends.” Army Of Dude.Blogspot. Posted 2 February 2009.  Visited 9 February, 2009.  <http://armyofdude.blogspot.com/>

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1 Comment

  1. April 13, 2009 at 11:30 pm

    […] Comment #1 By Small Connections to Big Problems 0 Comments Categories: Uncategorized Comment #1 […]


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