Bedside Lessons – 15. The Elite Soldier Part 1

Photo by Rob Pumphrey on Unsplash

If he had been a veteran of another war he probably would’ve received The Commonwealth countries’ highest military honour for bravery – The Victoria Cross. He had carried his severely injured comrade over his shoulders and had run at double pace in order to ensure that “no man was left behind.” Any other war he would’ve come home a hero, but on his return he was called many names; murderer, child-killer, Imperialist Puppet. He hadn’t served for fame or glory, he had done his job, he had served his country, and had followed orders. He and his fellow soldiers were shunned and he had to hide the specialness of his training, and he learnt how not to talk about sensitive subjects.

It was difficult fitting into a peace-loving society when you had been trained to channel your propensity for violence into your bread and butter work. The aggression still needed an outlet and society was not too receptive of this. He rediscovered football and was able to divert his rage into victorious feats of gallantry. He became a trusted team-mate and was able to translate this into a successful coaching career, allowing his leadership skills to flourish.

His teams did well, and he won many accolades, but the hurt inside continued to need suppressing. He swallowed it deeper and deeper, until he had almost forgotten it, almost. Life had its ups and downs, success on the field, was not always reflected in his significant relationships off the field.

He had received the worst news just prior to being admitted into hospice. As with all the other bad news, he took it like a man. Face to face, without flinching or reacting, there would be time for that later in private. In public he had to represent his team, his unit, he had to be the hardest of weapons. They had told him that he only had three days left to live.

His face betrayed nothing, his training kicked in. Name, Rank, Serial number, don’t allow them to get any other information. Nothing can affect you, you are a rock. You have to be steady. Inside the facade were many mixed emotions; despair, rage always rage, and relief. Thank goodness there are only three days left, the last months have been terrible, I didn’t think I could take any more of this torture. Three days I can handle.

He went into his hospice room and made his mind up that he would never leave it again. Sure he had pain, but he could take pain. What he couldn’t handle was what he had never been able to talk about. Not to the priest, not to the doctor, not to his first, second or third wives. Forbidden territory, land-mined and protected, to be kept away from. No-one can ever know. Three days and I will be free from the prison of my broken body. I just have to hold it together, for three days.

Day one did not feel any different, well actually he felt a bit better as the new pain relief that had convinced him to try must have done something. He actually slept a bit better, and could move his leg without pain sometimes. Only two more days to go.

Day two, his unit members came to visit, including the chaplain, to pay their last respects. It was always good to see the guys, but this would be the last time, he said his goodbyes and did not let on that he would miss them. Stiff upper lip protocols, no feelings shared, that’s all the training allowed for. You couldn’t afford to get emotional when you are fighting for your life. No distractions allowed.

Day three. When is it going to happen? This morning, in the afternoon? I still feel the same, no different to the other days. People aren’t treating me any differently, I thought they would be…

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