After all the pain and all the suffering, what did we have left? Some of us were lucky to be alive. Many though were unlucky to be alive with wounds too severe for any working life and depending on the charity of others for survival. We who survived – more or less – intact, felt both pity and shame when we came across one of these invalids sleeping in some doorway, or starving out in some roadside ditch. Often we did what we could, but sometimes it was better to look away. Especially when the thought came that it could so easily be one of us sitting, reaching out an empty hand pleading into an indifferent world.
It is true, a soldier fears wounds more than he fears death.
I know even some soldiers still do believe the words of the priests, despite the horrors of the battlefield. They still believe even when the priests tell them the afterlife is a paradise for brave warriors who die with honour in battle.
Although, many would say that dying in battle is infinitely preferable to the life of a wounded invalid beggar.
There are times to in a long war, a campaign far from home, when we have all – at some point – wished for death to take us. We hear so many stories of the great heroes, but not of the endless trudging half-starved through thick mud. Nor the illnesses that rip the guts apart, leaving a man barely able to stand while facing a horde of the screaming enemy.
And – as I said – for what?
So our lords and kings get more lands, lands that we have to die defending. So men can shower a few foreign whores in gold, because those men cannot believe it is all over and they have somehow survived. So the ordinary folks like us can make our lives a tiny bit better through robbing corpses and sacking towns.
Yet, even now, when the rumours of war come, there are those of us – old enough to know better – who begin polishing our armour once again.