Transformation?

       Although I have never served in any branch of the military, I have several very close friends who are either enlisted in the military currently or wake up every morning finding themselves living another day in the life of a military wife.  I remember getting a phone call from one of my best friends [she is a military wife] early last year, regarding her husband who had recently deployed to Iraq for 15 months.  She was distraught over something he had posted on a homepage describing his transition from a normal, peaceful outlook on military life to a war-devoted, thoughtless product of the military. 

      I could never begin to understand the thoughts that must run through the mind of a soldier at war.  I have never even travelled overseas, let alone for the purpose of leaving my family behind for months at a time so that I can gamble with my life.  Perhaps this isn’t what it feels like for all soldiers: I actually have several friends who recently came back from deployment to Iraq and they said it wasn’t so bad: “Just like any other job,” I remember hearing from one of them.  Maybe they were in a safer area.  However, the transformation seems inevitable for some.

      Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth includes excerpts from letters she receives from her fiance whose presence the War has robbed her of.  In one particular letter, Roland–unbeknownst to himself at the time–exposes the transformation that has taken place within himself because of his awful experiences:

      “I wonder if your metamorphosis has been as complete as my own. I feel a barbarian, a wild man of the woods, stiff, narrowed, practical, an incipient martinet perhaps–not at all the kind of person who would be associated with prizes on Speech Day, or poetry, or dilettante classicism.” (216)

Roland seems to be subconsciously saying that his talent for writing would be of no use to him now; undecipherable to those whom he used to impress with his wordly ways.  The poetic, well-versed Roland of yesterday had transformed into the war-torn, mechanical existence of today.  Although this was certainly upsetting to his distressed lover–to imagine him this way, so lifeless–it may have been necessary to him to keep him moving and to help him handle what the war was putting him through.

     In a post by Zachary-Scott Singley, he describes a similar inside-outside look at himself:

      “In my head are swirling memories and thoughts, things that I cover up with my charisma and my freakishly large ego. . . Go ahead all of you who have read my blog and decided that I am someone you’d like to meet, tell me how wrong I am, or how I’m a good person, but you are not me, you don’t really know what is in my head or what my eyes have seen.”

      Just as Roland had grown tired of Vera’s poetic tributes to his wonder and presence, owning up to the reality of what he had so tragically become, Singley expresses frustration over the true identity his experiences with war have given him.  Their realizations are bitter, and unkind to themselves and those who see them.  However, they also seem to convey a sort of humbleness that is admirable.  The guilt that seems to be tearing away at them in understandable.  Although commending them for their honesty with themselves seems to be the polar opposite of what they are trying to accomplish with their words, it is difficult not to.

Works Cited

Brittain, Vera. Testament of Youth.  New York: Penguin Group, 1933. (pp. 216)

Singley, Zachary-Scott. “EYES.” gocomics.tyepad.com. 29 January 2009. A Soldier’s Thoughts. 9 February, 2009. <http://gocomics.typepad.com/the_sandbox/>

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