Battlefield

Hope on the battlefield

War can be summed up as a conflict between two or more parties characterized by extreme violence, destruction and high mortality rates. I don’t think I need say more on that particular topic. Now, let’s take a walk through history and see what ancient warriors faced.

The first war ever documented was in 2700 BC and it occurred in ancient Mesopotamia. It was between the Sumerians and Elamites. In ancient times wars were typically fought between clans, this due to all the too familiar ‘us’ vs ‘them’ mentality that we still subconsciously practice today. This was originally born out of a fear of the other culture. In ancient times war was used as a means to expand, protect or conquer a neighbouring land in order to steal resources. Now up until WW1 these warriors would’ve made use of whatever was on hand. This was where the evolution of weaponry would’ve become extremely urgent. In ancient Mesopotamia they made use of infantry shock troops, which would’ve then fought in hand-to-hand combat. Egyptian composite bows came onto the battlefield. This along with bronze weapons and war chariots all were products of the Hyksos empire that invaded Lower Egypt in 1782 BC. Before the Hyksos, the Egyptian’s weaponry consisted of wood or cane. These early warriors would’ve made use of such weapons as the atlatl (similar to a light javelin), spears, falx, bows and arrows, slings (we’ve all heard the story of David and the Giant Goliath). Then the weapons of close combat would’ve been such things as swords, spears, clubs, maces, axes and knives. In defense of castles or fortresses or in a siege attempt, long-distance weaponry such as catapults, battering rams as well as what was called siege towers. Later on in history we see such ground-breaking inventions as the crossbow, the use of steel swords and shields. Military tactics would’ve also evolved over the years to get us to where we are today. Before I go on let me just say, that although all these advances were made, many men still lost their lives and those that survived got poor medical assistance even dying from the very doctors that were supposed to be helping them. The ancient history of war is a rather vicious tale.

Now let’s jump forward a few hundred years in history, specifically the early 1900s. This would’ve been around the time of the assassination of the Archduke Franz Fredinand in 1914. This assassination caused the First World War often referred to as ‘the war to end all wars’ as well as ‘The Great War’. This war was fought between two warring factions ‘The Allied Powers’ and ‘The Central Powers’. This war lasted a total of 4 years ending in 1918. It has been referred to as ‘the Trench Wars’ due to such new military technology as the creation of mustard gas and landmines. These new weapons only increased the carnage and destruction on the battlefield. If you have ever watched the newly released biographical film Tolkien, you will have been given a glimpse of what these men went through while in those trenches. There are plenty of other films I can mention, another biographical film that gives us a deeper insight into the emotional as well as psychological impact this had is the film Goodbye Christopher Robin. Suffice to say, these men lived in the trenches as they were too afraid to move out and the trauma they underwent was so extreme it lingered for the rest of their lives. In this horrific war, there were however still moments when the soldiers showed that they were still human. One such story I heard was that on a particular Christmas Day, a man from one side waved a white flag to show that he didn’t want to fight, the other man got up and both walked across no-man’s land to exchange Christmas gifts from whatever parcels they had been sent from their families back home. That day, both sides put down their guns and spent the day celebrating this special holiday with whatever parcels they had received from home. So even though there were violent times, there were also times when they were just men.

Now let’s jump to the year 1939, when a certain Austrian-German dictator appeared on the scene–yes, none other than Adolf Hitler. Now, while WW2 is always associated with this cruel and inhuman dictator, the main cause for this can actually be traced back to the Treaty of Versailles some years prior. This simple document, that the Central Powers were almost forced to sign, held Germany accountable for all the damages lost during the war and they were required to pay reparations to the Allied Powers for the losses they sustained during the war. This destroyed not only the economy of the Germans, but their morale as well, making very fertile ground for Adolf to plant his seeds of hatred and for his ideals to quickly become accepted by the majority of the German people. Germany was looking for a leader that could help them and Hitler said all the right words to win the hearts of these desperate people. He soon established his youth league which he brainwashed with his doctrines. These young men were taken from their homes to be educated by Hitler’s own teachers. These youth he sent to spread the lies they had been taught, almost like a cancer, among the German people.

World War 2 has been noted as the deadliest conflict in human history. With a death toll in the 70 – 85 million range. In a previous article I mention a book called The Silver Sword, this story took place during the Second World War. Hitler made the same mistake made by a previous man of great prowess–Napoleon Bonaparte. Like Napoleon, Hitler sent his army–young boys–off into the harsh Russian winter with hardly any provisions, which ended in the death of thousands of boys. You see the farmers, in their wisdom, had adopted what was called ‘the policy of burnt ground’ so as the army advanced they had no means by which to get food or shelter from the harsh conditions. In the very end this policy was what killed the boys as they had no means of survival. A harsh reminder of what we lose in war.

On the other side of the coin, in order to stave off the advance of Hitler, there was Winston Churchill who stood stalwart. While the House of Lords were willing to give in to Hitler’s promises, Churchill, looking for the desire of his fellow countrymen, took the train on the way to meet with Parliament, on the very day they would decide what to do. He was obviously recognized by all the people on the train and started talking with them, asking them what they wanted him, as their Prime Minister, to do . Their response was that if it came to it they would fight Hitler’s forces on their very doorsteps, even the women were willing to fight alongside their husbands. Churchill took this response to the House of Commons and convinced them that the people did not want this and actually turned the tide in the war. Churchill broke Germany, not with power or weaponry, but by boosting the morale of his people and they were able to hold out until Hitler’s forces became so convinced they would never take England. Churchill encouraged his people to remain steadfast, this boosting of morale alone caused them to win over Hitler. When Hitler realized he would never take England, this compounded with the war within his own ranks, he was led him to take his own life and that of his wife in his bunker underneath his Berlin headquarters by cyanide capsule.

Now that I’ve covered two of the most brutal wars in history, I think I’ll take a look in detail at what the aftermath of the war did to these men. So, what happened after the war?

As well as physical wounds, such as the loss of limbs, eyesight and various other physical scars, they were left scars that could never heal. The most well-known of these psychological wounds is called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD for short. Life was hard for men who came home with this condition (A.A. Milne creator of Winnie the Pooh, himself had this condition after his return from World War 1) and had no one to identify or help them deal with this horrible condition. There were also some who were rejected by their own hometowns. Some men have come home with no one to help them cope with what happened or what they were forced to do to survive. Sometimes, these men had to kill their own injured comrades in order to save the lives of their fellow soldiers–these scars they will always carry in their hearts. Some men that came home couldn’t sleep on beds, because all they had had to sleep on was the cold, hard ground. These horrific conditions affected men in more ways than just how they slept. Sounds were also something that could cause an immediate response in these men. Balloons popping, for example, could cause a flashback to trauma caused by events on the battlefield. One symptom of PTSD is sleeplessness, caused by nightmares, and extreme anxiety. Thankfully, PTSD became a recognized condition by doctors in recent years and now these brave souls who came home could get the help they needed in order for them to readjust to their lives at home.

It’s important to note that men who went to war aren’t the only heroes, what about the men who stayed home and maintained order in their countries? The men who guarded the borders from terrorist attacks or the men who had to go into the riots to either pick up dead bodies, try to defend innocent civilians or risk their lives in order to break up fights before they turned into full-blown riots? Aren’t they heroes, too?

A war can never be won, wars are fought daily in our minds, whether we were in battle or not. We all fight all kinds of mental wars daily. Only by God’s grace can we find the strength to fight these battles. He won the greatest war that has ever been fought, the war for our souls. He had no reason to do what He did, but He sacrificed everything He could give so that we could be free. He knew we’d already lost the war, so He came down and fought for us. He bears the scars in His hands and feet, where He sits beside His Father. One day He’s coming back to fight the last war that will ever be fought. We fight wars for peace, but war only breeds more war. True peace can only be found in Jesus Christ, who fought the war for us, died for us, yet rose and won the war for our souls. Now, we have the choice are we going to carry on fighting our wars on our own or are we going to ask for help? Because there is always someone who can fight for you and He is always there, hands out-stretched ready to help you fight the wars you can never win on your own.

Have an amazing weekend and God bless you, my avidReaders.

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