I’d meant to review Dean Koontz’ Your Heart Belongs to Me tonight, but it’s Veterans Day, and instead I’ll share a short excerpt from Grossman and Frankowski’s The Two-Space War, which I reviewed not long ago.
Across the countless centuries warriors have taken their cues from the “Old Sarge.” There was always an Old Sarge. He was the veteran of twenty battles, and he was calm. Weeping and becoming emotional at the memory of combat was not acceptable because, across the centuries, warriors found that the way to continue performing the desperate, wretched, debasing, dirty job of combat was by controlling your emotions, dividing your pain, and making friends with the memories. Every night, around the campfire, or over hot food with their messmates, this age-old process continued.
In these sessions the men also sorted out what had actually happened. In Alexis Artwohl’s twenty-first century law enforcement research, almost a quarter of the combat veterans she interviewed had memory distortions. They actually “remembered,” sometimes with vivid intensity, something that did not happen. And half of these veterans had experienced memory loss, with significant gaps in the memory of what happened. Left to their own devices, there was a tendency to “fill in the gaps” with guilt-laden acceptance of responsibility, sometimes even with a greatly exaggerated sense of guilt. “It’s all my fault.” “I let my buddies down.” “I was a failure.” These were the kinds of responses felt by many men after combat. Only their mates, the ones who shared the event with them, could help them fill in the holes accurately. And only their friends, their comrades who had shared the searing experience of combat, only they could give understanding, acceptance, and forgiveness of the events that had occurred.
Every day, day after day, this is what occurred. This is what warriors did.