Mary C.
Eric F.
Steve L.
Kait S.
Being a Soldier

What is being a soldier?
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“What would you do if they destroyed your home, threatened your family. Where would you draw the line?”
Being a soldier is about fighting for and protecting what is yours, as Benjamin Martin demonstrates in Roland Emmerich’s The Patriot. When the British murder his son, he leaves his family to fight for the colonial militia in the American Revolution.

Although there are many negative sides to war that come to mind when we think about the life of a soldier but there are also a few bright sides to the rough situation. For example in the movie "Forest Gump" Tom Hanks plays the character of a soldier in Vietnam, he not only forms an inseperable bond with a man named Bubba but also grew a love for his lieutenient and shrimp. When you're called to fight for months on end with most of the same guys its easy to find men and women that you become very close to, people that will have scars just like you from their experience.

"Anyone who has ever looked into the glazed eyes of a soldier dying on the battlefield will think very hard before starting a war." - Otto Von Bismarck
This quote has an "easier said than done" tone. You don't truly know about war unless you were there fighting, killing, and dying. In Fallen Angels, one scene particularly stands out when I read this quote. It was the largest ambush/battle in the book that the Americans ended up winning over the territory. But the cost was great, so great that the body count was too large to bag and bring them back to the camp. So they were forced to pile up the dead and burn them. One of the things that was going through Perry's mind, and I'm sure every other soldier, was "They were me. We wore the same uniform, were the same height, had the same face. They were me, and they were dead." (pg 254)

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Being a soldier on the battlefront, you are constantly looking death in the face. They tell you not to think, to be alert and do your job. But when you’re waiting to ambush or hiding for your life, your head starts to spin with thoughts of your family and loved ones. You think about being anywhere in the world but here. I think there’s an internal battle that goes on as a soldier tries to stay focused and do what he’s trained to do, it could save his life. With experience and time I believe they toughen up and it gets easier. Perry in Fallen Angels was getting better as his time in ‘Nam got longer. But he was also thinking about how he won’t be the same guy when he gets back to the world. He wonders what affect that will have on his little brother Kenny and his mother. Will they expect him to be the same as he was when he left? Being surrounded by war and death will either change a man or get him killed.

"Children play soldier. That makes sense. But why do soldiers play children?" -Karl Kraus
This quote reminds me of the scene in Walter Dean Meyer’s Fallen Angels when Lieutenant Carroll was shot and killed. He was Perry’s squad leader and all of them had grown to look up to him, almost like a fatherly figure. With his death, they all sort of fell apart together if that makes sense. They were torn without him but they were brought together at the same time like a family of brothers. It also reminds me of the medic in Perry’s company, Jamal. He was sent out on the field when they needed an extra gun. He ended up crying after the first time he was out with the crew. The boonies were not the place for a guy like Jamal, being on the front was not his thing. So a grown man wept.


“These days I live in three worlds: my dreams, and the experiences of my new life, which triggers memories from the past.” -from A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah pg. 20. I think this quote is a good summary of all that this boy has gone through and all of the things he will have to face in the future due to his unfortunate past. Being a soldier at any age will leave a scar on someone both mentally and physically.

Children are used in wars taking place in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Congo, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Burma.
In the civil war in Sierra Leone children fight for both the rebels - the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and the pro-government local militia, the Kamajors. The Kamajors do much of the front-line fighting for the government and the West African peace-keeping force, ECOMOG.

Often after the RUF attacks a village they abduct the surviving children. The children, many of whom have seen their parents slaughtered, are then removed to special camps. Those children who escape often join the Kamajors who give them shelter and food.

For the last 50 years there has been conflict in Burma between the government and rebel ethnic minorities. 15-year-old Zaw Tun fought in the Burmese army.
BBC World Service
This article is take from the BBC world service website that has been established to inform others about the conflicts not only occurring in Sierra Leone but in many other countries. Although hundreds of these children are captured and forced to fight in wars they didn't start, there is hope for them. Rehabilitation centers are being set up along with orphanages in hope that these kids will have the chance to live with a family again and have a promising future.

Children of War

by Mick Terry

His first contact with an AK,
at the ripe old age- of five,
was the murder of his father outside- their door
by three rebels having a hey-day
as they plundered his- whole tribe,
all- in the names of politics, God- and war.

His mother, beaten & savaged,
had so bravely tried- to fight,
couldn't save his older brothers, both dragged- away.
Through the next two rainy seasons,
he could barely sleep- at night
'til a warring faction came to make him- their slave.

CHILDREN OF WAR, just puppy sol-diers.
A much less visible target, but still all trained- to kill.
CHILDREN OF WAR, just puppy sol-diers.
They're just little boys with grownup toys,
playing war that's all- too real.

They drilled him with wooden rifles,
drugging him to follow commands
with a sergeant barely older than his- own age.
& they showed him tricks of survival
in the forests &- the sands.
And they filled his growing heart with a lot- of hate.


"Hey, this be fun-. All this killing and fighting.
Yes I lose some friends, but we not that close.
Hey, this be fun-. For sure, it be exciting.
But it be my two big brothers I miss most."

Through sickness, death & attrition,
he progressed up through- the ranks.
By the age of thirteen, he was Lieuten-ant Duan.
& he never knew both his brothers
were both soldiers in- a tank
that his RPG took out early one- gray dawn.

This song by Mick Terry makes a good connection to the children that are taken from their families and forced to fight a war they didn't start. Instead of playing with toys and friends, they're shooting guns and killing innocent people. These kids are stripped from their childhood and forced to do things no child should have to do.

I feel like I'm fixin' to die rag- Country joe and the fish
Well, come on all of you, big strong men,
Uncle Sam needs your help again.
He's got himself in a terrible jam
Way down yonder in Vietnam
So put down your books and pick up a gun,
We're gonna have a whole lotta fun.

And it's one, two, three,
What are we fighting for ?
Don't ask me, I don't give a damn,
Next stop is Vietnam;
And it's five, six, seven,
Open up the pearly gates,
Well there ain't no time to wonder why,
Whoopee! we're all gonna die.

Come on Wall Street, don't be slow,
Why man, this is war au-go-go
There's plenty good money to be made
By supplying the Army with the tools of its trade,
But just hope and pray that if they drop the bomb,
They drop it on the Viet Cong.

And it's one, two, three,
What are we fighting for ?
Don't ask me, I don't give a damn,
Next stop is Vietnam.
And it's five, six, seven,
Open up the pearly gates,
Well there ain't no time to wonder why
Whoopee! we're all gonna die.

Well, come on generals, let's move fast;
Your big chance has come at last.
Now you can go out and get those reds
'Cause the only good commie is the one that's dead
And you know that peace can only be won
When we've blown 'em all to kingdom come.

And it's one, two, three,
What are we fighting for ?
Don't ask me, I don't give a damn,
Next stop is Vietnam;
And it's five, six, seven,
Open up the pearly gates,
Well there ain't no time to wonder why
Whoopee! we're all gonna die.

Come on mothers throughout the land,
Pack your boys off to Vietnam.
Come on fathers, and don't hesitate
To send your sons off before it's too late.
And you can be the first ones in your block
To have your boy come home in a box.

And it's one, two, three
What are we fighting for ?
Don't ask me, I don't give a damn,
Next stop is Vietnam.
And it's five, six, seven,
Open up the pearly gates,
Well there ain't no time to wonder why,
Whoopee! we're all gonna die.

This song is a pretty good example of how powerless a man can feel when a draft makes him a soldier. You're forced to fight for your country even if you don't agree with the cause of the war.


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Probably the most prominent mental impact on child soldiers is Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, "Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. Traumatic events that may trigger PTSD include violent personal assaults, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents, or military combat." In Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone, he confirms this impact by his recount of terrible nightmares and an inability to sleep. Those whom PTSD has affected may experience flashbacks to their traumatic moment(s) in addition to nightmares and sleep loss, among others. Beah chronicles his own PTSD bouts, saying, "I had a dream that . . . a gunman stood on top of me. He placed his gun on my forehead. I immediately woke up . . . and began shooting inside the tent, until the thirty rounds in the magazine were finished . . . I was sweating, and they . . . gave me a few more of the white capsules."
Aside from this disorder soldiers that are removed from war and put back into society, face many other challenges such as adjustment disorder, personality disorder, eating disorders, or depression.

Some men choose to fight and others are forced to. At the age of eighteen you can be drafted into the service if needed, which would without a doubt have an adverse effect on you if you don't have the mental capacity to fight. Basically, they just send a letter to your house telling you that you're going to be a soldier.

"You can't be a soldier and skate by, the military way of life forces you into a new world of hard work and determination. It changes who you are, and if you spend enough time duckin' under shells in 'Nam you're bound to come back missing a part of yourself." Robert J. Lownie (Pictured below)

“They carried the emotional baggage of men who might die. Grief, terror, love, longing- these were intangables, but the intangables had their own mass and specific gravity, they had tangible weight.” –Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried (Pg.21)


Being a soilder often means countless hours of training. And devoting your self to a groups needs, in order complete whatever mission your on. Often snipers would have to wait for hours and sometimes days in one space with out moving or making a noise in order to wait for their target.

Being a soilder