Back in the day…
When a war came along somebody would whip up the spirit in all the young men. In a long line they would sign for the duty to defeat the evil enemy. A local old man would be made Colonel because he served a long time ago. They would all go out to a field near town and practice drill for a few days.
On the day they leave to go fight, the town’s people all turn out. The local band plays patriotic tunes. The mayor & important people would review the troops from a little stand in the middle of town.
Moms & dads deliver their son to the muster ground. All in their new uniforms and shiny weapons. The families meet downtown while the unit works out last minute kinks.
Every eye turns as the troop comes marching to a drum, up the street, all young. The band strikes-up an anthem. Mothers have hankies to their nose. Dad stands proudly like a ramrod.
The boys halt before the town’s celebrities. The mayor makes a little speech reminding everyone what a hero he became in the last “big” war. Then the Baptist minister lays a blessing upon all the young warriors. In the end, the troops are called to attention, right face, and just for an instant, they hesitate. Then, for-hard! They make that fateful step into a war none understand.
For months, perhaps years, these fine young men, the best this town has to offer, slowly filter back. The first are the caskets. The bright young person inside is not fit for viewing. These they bury in pomp and glory, taps and tears, bugles and shovels of dirt.
Then the wounded. The poor boys with arms or legs blown away or sawed and torn away. And, more caskets.
Eventually, those who have fought until they can no longer kill. The come in on the train with dark faces and cannot meet anyone’s eyes. These will linger a few days and, one day, they are here no longer.
The war is over! The war weary men pull in on the train also. They drag their possessions behind them. Someone meets them. The mayor has asked that they parade down the street again. Not one of them feels like parading, they just want to go home. But, they form-up or try to form-up one more time.
The band is back, the remaining proud families are here. The mayor awaits, yet, they do not stop. The reach the old muster ground. Most realize they have made some sort of circle and this damn duty is fulfilled.
These fine boys stand and look guilty at each other wondering what to say. In the end they say nothing. One then another shuffles in their own individual way. Soon the field is empty.
The breeze blows and spirits sadly pass in review. The field stands ready to welcome the next batch of proud warriors.