With Battle, Comes Shame

The only ones proud of battle,
are the ones who were never scarred,
never traumatized, burned, or shot,
ones with no guilt or remorse.
The only soldiers with happy tales
from the times they actively fought
are the ones who believe
everyone’s fights are not relative,
and you can measure them by discomfort.
The only warriors with all their dignity
have never truly had to struggle.


A Nurse in the Time of WWI

*This is a fictional letter written from the perspective of a nurse to her husband during WWI*


I’ve been in France for a while now, and it has been way harder than you can even imagine. They assigned me to what they call around here as ‘the tent.’ Though I’ve never seen them (we aren’t allowed to leave the tent, always available if need be), I’ve heard talking from the doctors who help bring in the wounded that we are somewhere near the trenches. They dug trenches to fight from, and it’s so loud. There’s screaming and crying and sometimes, we hear the drones overhead, the other nurses described as little planes used to fight with. I’m writing this over the course of a couple nights, so you’ll have to excuse any inconsistencies.

Before I continue, I need you to know that I care deeply for you. I miss you dearly and couldn’t imagine being in the position of these soldiers, or their wives at home. I understand their pain to a certain extent, but could never fully understand. I hope all is well with the kids. Please make sure that Gabe is eating well, and that Alex is watching out for her brother. Oh, I hope you’re dealing with this well, I hate that I left while you were so sick. I volunteered with the VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment) because I wanted to help people where my expertise would be better utilized. I feel that these soldiers need someone empathetic to work on and with them. They are all so worried, being without their loved ones, not knowing whether or not they’ll ever make it home. I just want to make it at least a little bit better here for them, and give them some hope for a future. A shoulder to cry on, quite literally.

I work with a lot of nurses and doctors. The male doctors are rather rude. The think they’re better than us just because they’re male and we’re nurses. The only thing the other nurses seem to care about is going home, or swooning over the doctors. It’s a bit infuriating and sometimes I just want to go home too, but I always put my patients first. I just keep telling myself that these people need me, but it just keeps getting worse and worse. Yesterday, I saw a portable xray machine for the first time. A remarkable tool, really, but today, I witnessed a man with burns everywhere, and oh, the smell. It was horrible. They called me in to try and help him out, and I learned what a flame thrower is. It’s a horrible weapon they created that blows fire. He was a lost cause, and I cried for hours.

I fear that I might start becoming numb to others pain, a stone heart like the other nurses. I no longer cry or cringe at the wailing from the injured. They’ve had me working on the US and French soldiers and those that don’t speak English are harder to operate on because I don’t really understand what they need. I still do my best to give them the company they need while fulfilling my job as a nurse. Most of them are so grateful, and it makes me wonder how they got here. I guess most of them were deported, sent to war against their choosing.

I hope this makes it to you,