I can do all things, suffer all things, give up everything and still be me if I so determine it. Something inside so strong. Can’t crumble under pressure when I know the strength inside.
The Indomitable Human Will
Strength expressed is often seen, by others as a noble thing
Strength contained is hardly seen,
Its power at rest, Controlled and tamed
It takes much more than meets the eye
To turn and walk away from strife
To deem it fit to keep one’s peace
No matter how provoked one may feel
It is beautiful to watch and indeed to see
This silent strength we all can have
The will to do and the will not to
Is strength beyond the popular show
The human will can move a mountain
There’s always a way, where there is the will
You can survive almost anything, anywhere, at any time
If you just know how to draw, on that treasure, the human will
So next time you are tempted to say out loud, It’s all too much, I cannot cope
Draw on the strength from deep within
Stand tall and dignified, if only on the inside of you
Your will, its strength it will lend to you
To carry on, when hope has died
Don’t let it break, ’tis a treasure indeed
Stand tall inside, your future is for keeps.
They were all smartly dressed in their colourful celebratory military regalia. Graduation day! Thought David. Finally. I am now a full fledged soldier. He turned to look at the young man on his right. His colleague Carl. They arrived as young recruits almost 10 months ago to start their training and despite the many who have fallen out of the race, they both managed to keep up with the gruelling regime and have graduated today.
David, aged 20 was set to take on the world. His military career was just the beginning. He will not succumb to living a dull life, like his parents and some of his friends. He plans to travel around the world and do life the way it was meant to be done, living on the edge, by the seat of his pants, never settling down.
He garnered and begged for his first posting to be an exciting one and by exciting he meant dangerous. It was not long before he was posted to Afghanistan for three months. And so began the great drama of his life. A drama to surpass all other dramas he could have drummed up for himself in his wildest imagination.
His was a moderately comfortable life prior to enlisting in the army. He was still living with his mum and dad in what he felt was an average house, average town with no potential for excitement. He did not have to be concerned about where his next meal was going to come from, or about dangers lurking in the night. He thought the rest of the world was not so different from his, perhaps just a bit more exotic. He thought that all young men just worried about being popular with the girls, being lauded by their mates and spending time being football mad and strategising how to lay hands on the next season’s football premier league tickets. In his world, game boys and virtual war lords were heroes. Jumping off cliffs and going sky diving were the best thrills in life. He was constantly seeking scarier thrills until he decided an army career was what he wanted. No one dared tell him otherwise. His parents felt that at least he will learn some discipline, and after a few years settle down and have a life like theirs. A good life with strong family ties and children and a good job making a decent living. That was not David’s dream.
So he set off for Afghanistan that autumn month last year. How wrong he was about the world. It did not take him long to see that the rest of the world was quite different. It was plagued with, poverty, real poverty, people living in dirt houses that get smashed in whenever it takes others fancy to dislodge them, school was a luxury for young boys his age, everyone had to fight, one way or another, fight to live.
The Horrors of those three months will always remain vivid in his mind no matter how much he tries to forget them. He saw horrible things that no young man should be exposed to. Decapitated human heads, children’s limbs hanging loosely on their bodies, body parts strewn in bits and pieces all over a compound, a place of laughter and communal family meetings now turned into a grave site, whole villages that have been abandoned now ghost towns. David thought to himself, where’s all the love gone? No community of people should be made to live like that by their own people in the name of freedom fighting. His young mind could just not make any sense of it. It seemed that over here betrayal is punished severely, children are treated like comrades in war. Mothers become detectives and war casualties who have to find the bombs before the bombs find them and their children. As a soldier, as far as David was concerned, that was just one side of the story, the enemy’s side. You could not help but feel sorry even for them. These were people whose culture and orientation to life was so different from the carefree, let’s have fun, all is well with the world attitude he and his friends grew up with back at home.
Then came the day he will never forget. The day he became a man. The day he learnt all his lessons at once.
It was to be the day that his life will be irrevocably changed. The morning call went out as usual. His regiment were based in a remote area and everyone knew the morning drill. A splash of cold water on your face, a quick tidying up of yourself, group breakfast eaten in a hurry, after which soldiers dispersed to their various patrol areas. He was with the bombs squad and theirs was a small team and he was the youngest in this very specialist team. Their main job was to go over old grounds, detonating bombs and grenades that have been buried by the enemy some as a trap for foreign soldiers and ‘traitors’ and others which were still buried and forgotten right there where their own children and new communities now venture to rebuild their homes. These go off all the time killing civilians, and often travelling indigenous people along with their children. David’s squad are trained to detect such bombs through a painstaking process of sweeping whole areas one little bit at a time. Every single step they took was an exercise in threading a path between life and death. He witnessed first hand a colleague being blown apart by a bomb that went off because his equipment did not detect it. In this area of work your equipment and your attention to every minute detail were the two most important components of what kept you alive.
David was fully geared up today. They, all seven in a group were ready to begin the tedious, step by step accurate horizontal walk to clear the area. It was one of the previous villages where one notorious war lord was known to have been hiding. Now, deserted, there was nothing but debris left over from when the rebels were here; broken pots, pieces of cloths, even tobacco pipes, pans, burnt out remains of food and campfires. The team has to patiently sort through each thing they could see because you never could tell what was lurking underneath something inconspicuous. Anything could be a trap. Even more dangerous were areas of ground that looked cleared and immaculate. There was almost always something buried at such places. Nothing is considered irrelevant or disregarded and one has to have a keen eye and great focus. You had to be fearless, not the jumping off the cliff kind. You needed to be calm, focused, unflinching, accurate hardheaeded person to do this job and David was learning fast.
He thought to himself as he inched forward; back at home, his friends always called him a daredevil, never afraid to try dangerous stunts. He was considered fearless. Now, he realised that one did not know what fear is until you see colleague decimated by a bomb and you think to yourself, that could very easily have been me. The mental torture of not being able to predict what will happen next was enough to drive a grown man crazy. It was a relief at the end of each day to go back to base with no casualties. Due to their skill and level of training, casualties were rare but profoundly traumatising if you happened to witness one.
David saw a patch of grass just a few steps ahead of him and thought to himself ‘that looks suspicious’. No sooner had he had the thought than he heard his commanding officer yell out a command for everyone to stand still. David’s heart begun to beat erratically. The patch of grass was directly in front of him and it will be him who will have to step towards it as they worked in one single file, going straight ahead only with everyone concentrating on what was directly in front of them. There was no way he could swap places with an older more experienced soldier. All eyes were on him as everyone understood that this patch was his patch to tackle. He was the youngest among them all and the least experienced. He considered himself lucky to even be part of the team. Funny he was not feeling very lucky right now. Sometimes, such patches were clear traps and had something buried there but other times it was a distraction to keep them away from looking at where the real trap is.
The captain knowing he had their attention seemed to be speaking directly to David now. He spoke as softly as he could, reminding him what to do with his equipment. His voice for some reason was soothing and put some much neded confidence in David. The command was given and they all went forward one step. Shouts of ‘clear !’ rang out all around. Another step. ‘clear!’, a third step and he was right in front of the path of green grass. Finding green grass anywhere here was a miracle of nature, but this one seemed to be firmly planted, not a trap, but you never know. Command was given, next step…. As David moved forward, for some reason which he will never fathom, just one of those quirks of fate, he turned to look at the soldier next to him and realised that he was frozen on the spot. He had not taken the next step as ordered, he looked petrified and was shaking profusely. David noticed that the red alarm light on his sweeper was blinking. Soon it started beeping, a sign that there could be something buried right there where he was standing. David could hear him muttering to himself , ‘ I don’t want to die’ ‘no, no no no I don’t want to die’ David called out his name and said ‘come on man’ do your job, man’. All attention was now on him. This was no time for delay. If there was a bomb in front of him, it has to be detonated and there was no time to spare. David’s mind played back a conversation he had recently had with him back at base. This man had just received news the previous week that his young wife had delivered their first baby, a baby boy. They all saw the picture of his smiling wife with the beautiful baby boy in his arms. He’s had a huge smile on his face all week and was looking forward to going home to see his new baby as soon as this assignment was over. He had everything to live for.
The captain backed out an order! The distinct tone of urgency could be heard in his voice. David for the life of him could not remember a word of the order. All he could think about was the picture of his colleague’s wife with the new baby in her arms. He had to do something now.
Against all his raging natural instincts, David stepped sideways to try to clear the ground in front of his colleague. It was the wrong move. The time had run out. He heard the captain’s loud shout at the same time as he heard the bomb go off. Boom! The whole earth shock, and then there was…. Nothingness. David thought to himself. This must be what it is like to die. I must be dying. Then he had no more thoughts.
That was three months ago. It’s a miracle he did not die. What is left of him is hard to live with. As he lays here in hospital back at home having had so many near death episodes, in and out of comas, surgeries to save his life, with his life still hanging in the balance, blind and limbless, fighting to wanting to live, even more so after each of the numerous surgeries he has had, he realised he desperately wanted to live.
He was satisfied with what he has seen of the world so far. Now he was ready to settle down. To really live. His progress everyday was a surprise to all. Any one visiting him comes away with their faith in human kindness restored. David makes sure he tells them that he is no hero, he simply followed his natural instinct and that instinct tells him that there is so much more of life for him to live. He will fight to live. He is not about to give up now.
David is happy that, through his actions the life of a new father and husband had been spared. This whole experience has peeked his desire to live despite the seemingly un surmountable disabilities he will have to live with. No matter what the doctors say, he knows he will live. This was meant to be. His life now counts for something. He is survivor. Not only that, he has stared death in the face and refused to let it take both him and his colleague. David can barely talk, but his speech is so clear to anyone who listens. Life is for the living, you can fight both for yours and that of others. Never give up. Never give in. Once a hero, always a hero. Come on soldier. The battle is not over yet. That is the voice of his commanding officer ringing in his head even now lying here, half dead. It is an order he intends to obey.