To the Men on the Battlefield

We just finished reading All Quiet on the Western Front in English, and usually the topic of the book corresponds with what we are learning in history class. The other day my history teacher imposed a frustrating hard to answer question:

“Was a soldier in World War 1 braver not knowing what he was getting himself into versus the soldier of present day that chooses to go into the war willingly already knowing what awaits?”

Can there only be one right answer? when Austria declared war on Siberia in 1914 no one knew that the end result of the war was going to be millions of casualties, poverty, divided countries, and for some Revolution and freedom. So is it fair to say that all of this was obtained through one soldier and one rifle? If there’s one thing I learned from All Quiet on the Western Front is the amount of courage all of these soldiers had. They were marching straight into the face of death unknowingly, urged by their teachers, parents, and friends to enlist for the pride of their country. Wanting to make their loved ones proud they signed up thinking they would return as lifetime heroes. Their reality was completely shattered once they heard the first bomb fall in their trenches. The men who enlisted were mere children, and at the age of 19 they were looking for adventure, not a death sentence, but for most of them the grim reaper was already waiting on the field tapping soldiers for death left and right.  For that same reason I commend all those who fought, but I agree that there is no single right answer.

The soldiers that fight for the freedom of our country are just as courageous, and brave as any soldier who has fought in any war.  Reading the last paragraph of the story:

“He had fallen forward and lay on the earth as though sleeping. Turning him over one saw that he could not have suffered long; his face had an expression of calm, as though almost glad the end had come.”

Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-R05148,_Westfront,_deutscher_Soldat_crop

It definitely shook me. This could have been any one of the mens stories on their experience through the war. The stories might have been different, but I believe that all the stories would have had the same long impacting effect. It does not come down to who is braver, but the real answer is the appreciation we should have for all of these soldiers. They fight to give all the people back home opportunities and  all of my gratitude goes out to all those men.

–Laura

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