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You’re Still Here? | Army Voices


Kelly Draper is a British teacher who came to Denmark for work. She acts informally as a critical friend to Denmark. This has not gone down particularly well with Danes, who often tell her she should like it or leave it. Her blog is at adventuresandjapes.wordpress.com.

December 8, 2013
07:24

by Kelly Draper


One of the first things my boyfriend told me when he met me was that he was a soldier. I inwardly rolled my eyes because I am a pacifist and that is what pacifists do if they meet soldiers at parties, apparently. Immediately after meeting me, he went to war. This was pure coincidence, I was assured.

We were not a couple at that point, but we were friends. Out of my window, I could see the barracks’ flag, and whenever it was half-mast, I would have to go online and see if my new friend had been killed. A fun fact you learn on dead soldier watch: the flag is at half-mast on several Danish holidays.

He came back from war, we started seeing each other and it got serious. The idea of him being trained to kill other people for money squicked me – I did not want to think about it. I had just hoped that he would do his work-a-day soldiering and stay out of war zones until he quit and got a more pacifict-friendly job. I remember the day he rang to say he had signed up to go to war again. I dreaded the day he was leaving in a way I have never before or since.

Politicians talk about it being a ‘lifestyle’ – being the partner of a soldier. Takes the sting out of our suffering for them, I think. As if worrying that my boyfriend might be maimed is a hobby, rather than anguish caused by their misuse of military resources.

Now that autumn has begun, the memories of that time are coming back. When he left, I reached out for support, but the language barrier got in the way. Even with all that dread and anxiety before he left, I could not really imagine how hard it was going to be for me. Even though he was able to call me quite often, I could never call him and he could not arrange a time to call me. If I missed a call from him, it might be days or a week before I heard from him again, so I hated doing anything out of reach from my mobile.

Once my doorbell rang and I absolutely believed that it was the Danish Army coming to inform me that he had died. My flat is above a shop, and you have to negotiate a lot of stairs and hallways to get in my front door. All I could think about in that moment was how awkward it would be to have to show a stranger in full dress uniform up to my flat, all the while with us both knowing that the news was bad. I was so certain he had died that I was actually confused, rather than relieved, when it was the postman.

I wished I could be one of those ‘lifestyle’ relatives who really invests themselves in the given justifications and reasons for a conflict, but I was just some pacifist who had not believed her new boyfriend would really go back to war.

Now the Danish government seems to be preparing for a possible new conflict. I feel, given how expensive a war is, how much suffering war causes and how war rarely achieves the aims of any of the belligerents, that it should be an absolute final recourse instead of a purely political or economic manoeuvre. It is easy to wage a war if you are not directly affected by it and do not have to listen to those who are.

I wish my experience was not co-opted by politicians as ‘sacrifice’. What I went through – missing him, thinking he had died, worrying he might be injured – was not a sacrifice. Sacrifice means I gave away my emotional well-being for a more important cause. Instead, I feel I went through turmoil so that a proxy war could be ineptly waged on the behalf of a minority who seek to maintain global hegemony.

The autumn weather brings it all back. I wonder if I will ever forget how frightened and alone I felt, but I hope I never forget how angry I was.




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