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  • Rafael Aneev

The Unsung Hero

“And that’s how we beat the Japanese back in World War II.” Martin finished his story as his grandson Alex sat before him transfixed by his war stories. 

Martin was an unsung World War II hero who lived out his days thinking about his old life. A visit by his grandson Alex, who had grown into a tall teenager with a keen interest in history, allowed him to recall his war stories. 

“But Grandpa, was the war really necessary? Isn’t it possible to solve problems without violence? I mean we’re humans, not animals, are we? And even animals are kind...” Alex trailed off. 

Martin sighed and replied “Look child, if we could solve our problems without bloodshed, we would do that, but often, it isn’t possible. Ever since humans started ruling the planet, killing has been part of our journey. Look back into history and you will find conflict everywhere. Even today, wars take place over issues that only concern the leaders of the nations or certain religious groups.” 

“But what about all the innocent civilians who are killed for something they have nothing to do with?” replied Alex.

Martin was surprised at being contradicted by someone so young. He replied, “War is far from ideal, and a lot of innocents do get caught in the crossfire, but all major issues have been solved by wars since the beginning of civilization. All those people died for a good cause.” 

“Would their families and friends think the same way?" Alex asked, looking straight into his grandpa’s eyes. 

As a child, Martin had always heard that families of martyrs were proud, if sad, for their loss. Anyone who said otherwise was frowned upon and treated like an outsider. However,  the current generations had not dealt with war in their lifetime, making them soft and sympathetic. In Martin’s eyes, reality was far from emotion.

He sighed, “Their families knew that they were heroes. They were honoured, and lived a comfortable life knowing that their son had died a hero.” 

“Wouldn’t it be much better for the families to not have a medal but to have a living child who gave them company and love?” 

“That is true, but without their sacrifices we couldn’t have won any war.” replied Martin. 

“What if there wasn’t any war in the first place?” persisted Alex

“NO WAR? So, you just want every dictator who tried to take over do what he did without resistance? That’s impossible!” 

“N-no," replied Alex, “But couldn’t it be handled in a better way? What if instead of responding through violence, we resolved it through a treaty? Surely, even the most aggressive warrior would respond to reason! It would have been hard but wouldn’t it have been worth it to save millions of people, as well as a lot of money and natural resources? Besides the loss of human life and property, so many trees and animals were killed for the sake of war.”

Martin laughed out loud, “Trees? Animals? Who cares about those when there are bigger things at stake? 

“I do,” replied Alex calmly, “ and shouldn't we all?” 

Martin stared back in silence. 

“Our planet is home to other beings and without trees and the air we breathe there would be no human life to wage war with anyways.” continued Alex.

Martin sighed and answered, “I guess you're right here, but that’s against the point.” 

Alex cut in “What about you? Did the war leave you completely unscathed? Were you not traumatized as well?”

Martin fell into thought. Though he tried to hide it, the war had scarred Martin for life. He still bore physical scars that reminded him everyday of the violence he faced. He still woke up with nightmares of shells exploding around his head while friends he had known for years were burnt to a crisp in front of his eyes. 

He wondered how young Alex was so intuitive. “Well, it wasn't pretty. A lot of my comrades were mercilessly killed, but I always consoled myself that it was all for the better good of the world. I still shudder at the cruelty and inhumanity from time to time, but I try to remember the victories and not the losses.” Martin concluded.

“The fact that you still remember the losses means that there were losses. Were your friends' sacrifices really worth winning a war where you had no personal enmity with the opponents? It was a fight between two powers and very few of the powerful were actually affected. It was the armed forces that bore the brunt of the war. I ask you again, was it really worth it?” 

Martin paused to look at Alex, pondering over this new generation. They were different from his surviving friends. Alex’s generation had an urge to question everything. They argued passionately and yet, they were extremely sensitive and concerned about the world around them. 

He came back to reality and told Alex “Well kid, at the end of the day it’s a point of view. Until now, I was not ready to see the subject of war in any other way. There is some truth in what we both said, but the important thing is to see multiple views on the same story. You have shown me that and for that I thank you.” 

“It's never too late to see a new perspective.” Alex replied, awkward at the display of his grandfather’s emotional side. All Alex was trying was to question an age-old perception and bring across another way of seeing the world. “Maybe, we all just have to be kinder and the world will be a better place for everyone. Maybe we will see peace breaking out on this planet.”

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