Well little Billy, do you know what it’s like to eat peanut butter crackers a lot? The first few crackers are good, but after that, it starts lose its appeal. It becomes boring, and you’ll stop eating them and go eat something else. You like peanut butter crackers, but you don’t want to eat them every day. But what if you had nothing else to eat? You would have to eat them, or else you would go hungry and start to feel really tired and sick.
In war, we have these meals MREs, which stands for Meals, Ready to Eat. They contain an assortment of food that isn’t too bad at first. But when you’re out at war, that’s all you have to eat, and you get sick of it really quickly. It soon doesn’t even taste like anything, you are eating it just to stay alive.
While the lack of awesome food sucks, it’s nothing compared to the pain you may or may not experience. You remember how much it hurt when you broke your ankle playing soccer? Well, try to imagine being on the battle field, and you’re trying to hide from a bunch of other guys who are trying to break your ankle. Many days will go by where nothing happens, you’re just waiting and watching. Then, all of a sudden, they’re everywhere, firing bullets and you’re either running or hiding, or worse, hiding and forced to shoot back. If you’re lucky, you and your friends won’t get hurt and you’ll get away with only fear to follow you back. If you’re unlucky, you and/or your friend is hurt or dead.
Pain varies in war. Some may never experience anything worse than an uncomfortable place to sleep at night. Some will get scratches and bruises. Others will have broken bones and some will even lose their limbs. At worse, some will die. Do you remember how sad you were when your dog, Scruffy, died? Well, war is watching hundreds of Scruffy’s die, and most of the time, it’s not pretty. While Scruffy was put to sleep and died peacefully within a few seconds, in war they may die slowly, crying and begging for you to kill them just to make the pain go away.
Every death or pain caused to your brothers is one you’ll always think about, wondering if you did something wrong and what you could have done to prevent it. Every time you see your friend’s spouse, family, or friends, you’ll always feel that twisty feeling in your gut, reminding you that it isn’t fair that you got to live while your brothers died. You don’t do anything special but play video games all day, and you don’t have a family to support. Why did you get to live but Robert, the man with two kids and a college degree in the medical field, had to step on the land mine and die? Why weren’t you the one walking in front of him instead of the other way around?
Remember how bad you felt when you beat up your neighbor, even though he tried to hit you first? War is kinda the same. Even though your enemies can’t speak your language and they’re trying to kill you, killing someone sucks. You’ll never forget your first kill, and even if you aren’t a religious person, you’ll still feel like you’re going to Hell in every religion for taking someone’s life.
Coming back from war is hard, even if you’re in great shape. Do you remember how when you came back from summer camp, coming back home seemed horrible? You had so much fun at summer camp, and you got used to the routine there, and you made some amazing friendships. When you came home, you were happy to see your friends and family, but it was really hard to adjust to your old routine after spending the whole summer at camp.
War is like that, only you never truly adjust back to your old way of life when you come home. You won’t feel safe without your weapon, but you don’t entirely trust yourself with it either, especially when you wake up thinking you’re back in the trenches, only to realize it was a nightmare. Your friendships are hard to maintain because you want to talk about what you’ve seen and been through, but it’s too painful, and besides, your friends wouldn’t understand. While you feel bad about your friend Steve getting his legs blown off and you got to keep yours, your old friend is complaining about his coworker’s noisey eating habit.
Eventually, you start to resent your friends and their silly problems. You try to care, but it’s too hard to give a damn about who Ashley slept with or who Tina broke up with when you’re still trying to figure out if it was your fault that your Sargent died or if it really was something that you couldn’t have avoided even if you hadn’t fallen asleep for a few seconds. While they’re complaining about how hard it is to get up and go to work every day, you’re holding back your tongue from telling them that while they’re ‘struggling’, there are men, women, and children being slaughtered and tortured right this second. But you don’t say anything, because you don’t want to alienate yourself any further.
You try to get back into the dating girls/guys but it’s hard, they want to know more about you but you aren’t sure what to tell them. Whenever you bring up going to war they either probe you for details you aren’t comfortable sharing or they blame you for all the world’s problems. If you do get in a steady relationship, they usually end because they can’t deal with your constant nightmares or the way you freak out every time you hear a firework or a gun shot in the distance. If it doesn’t end there, it usually does when you almost attack them because you can’t tell them from the enemy until they’re screaming at you to wake up.
You know how you like drinking coke? Well, people out of war love drinking alcohol. It becomes your best friend; it numbs you to your feelings and once you drink enough you finally fall asleep and stay asleep. The hang overs suck, and you feel like shiet in the morning, but all you have to do is drink more alcohol and it goes away again. Before you know it, two months have gone by and you haven’t shaved, bathed, or eaten anything other than pizza and mc donalds. Your friends are either gone or very worried about you.
If you’re strong, you’ll cut back or stop drinking and go to counselling. It will help, but it’s never enough, not really. Sure, you can have friendships now, and you may even have some successful relationships. But it will never stop the way you break out in to a nervous sweat and frantically look around and feel for your weapon every time you hear a loud noise that sounds like a gun. It will never stop the guilt, the way you wish it had been you who had died and not your brothers. It won’t ever quash the anger you feel at the hand full of rich ass holes who paid you to fight their war.
It’s okay though, you’ll learn to fake it to where no one will know how much you’re suffering on the inside. And even though it sucks a lot, there is also some days where you feel awesome, and you may even momentarily forget why you’re so fuked up in the first place.
So, in short, your video game may have realistic graphics and might show some troubles of war, but it will never come close to what it’s like to experience real pain, pain you can’t just turn off when you’re bored with it.
What’s with the look, Billy? You asked the question. Now, go get me a beer and turn off that shietty excuse for a game, I wanna watch Adventure Time.