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Welcome Home, Soldier

Connor Menard

I heard the shells whizzing through the sky. Every time one hit the ground, it felt like an earthquake. I was just lying there, unspotted, undercover, and unscathed. It would be a blessing, if I made it back to the trenches. Suddenly, it stopped. I heard dogs barking and the slight purr of tanks in the distance. The Germans were checking the bodies to make sure everyone was dead. I knew, I needed to play dead and wait for my chance. It felt like I was waiting there forever. Then it happened. They were all distracted. I scurried from my spot and bolted, running as fast as my feet could carry me.

“Schau dorthin!” yelled one of the Germans. I knew that wasn’t good, so I just kept running. The whistle of the bullets flying past forced me to go faster. I didn't stop running until I landed face first into a trench. Then I slept. Sleeping could've been one of the worst decisions I could've made. Luckily it wasn't. I woke up and attempted to get out of the trench. That's when I felt the sharp pain in my shoulder. I looked over to see a chunk missing. It was just a graze, but it still hurt like nothing I’ve experienced before. I didn't even realize I was hit until just now.  With all that was going on, I wasn't surprised that I hadn't noticed I was hit. If I had known, I would have run right to camp to get it patched up. Now I would risk the wound getting infected. I decided that this was not something I wanted to deal with, so I found the lowest point of the trench and began to get out. I managed to crawl out safely and make it back to camp, where I passed out in a medical bed.

A subtle bump of the train awoke me from the nightmarish memory. Not the first bad memory, but definitely not the last. The war is going to leave shock on everyone, not just the soldiers. Especially given all the horrible things that have happened. I could bet that the death count for both soldiers and civilians had to be pretty close. I tried to forget about it at that moment and focused back on what I was doing. I rubbed my shoulder where there was only a small chunk was missing. The doc did a good job patching me up. Normally they would just give you some painkillers and wrap up the wound. If the injury was serious, they would end up just sending you home. I was lucky enough to stay and help out until I had healed. The thought of this made me think of home again. I almost thought about going home once I was injured, but I decided it would be better if I had stayed till the end. I was already committed to the war and there was no going back now. It had really only been a few months since I'd been home, but it seemed like years. The very last thing I did before I had to leave was say goodbye to everyone. Judging by the low chatter on the train, I assumed it was later in the day. I've never slept so much in my life. Not even when I spent countless hours working on the farm back home. I settled back down and took an unopened letter out of my pocket. It was the letter I was going to have sent home, if I was killed. Just thinking about how close I had come to being captured sent chills down my spine. I couldn’t imagine my parents’ reaction to hearing about me being captured, or killed on the front line. I opened the letter and read it to myself. Upon reading a few tears leaked from my eyes. To believe I could have died. Not while working, or of old age, but of the bullet fired by a murderous enemy soldier. As the train bumped along the tracks, I saw the sun setting lower into the horizon. I couldn’t wait to be home. The unsettling excitement inside of me cause my foot to tap the side of the train repeatedly. After a few minutes I realized what I was doing and stopped immediately. The nightmare of the war caused nervous tics in many of us.

As the train rounded a corner, I could see the next station. There were tons of men and women waiting. Children crying for their fathers to get off the train and greet them again. Brothers and sisters longing to see their siblings’ faces and listen the all of their war stories. Sad mothers and proud fathers holding hands and waiting for their child to step off that train. I was disappointed to learn, that we were still farther away from my home, than I thought. However, It was still great to see the amounts of love being shared between soldiers and their families. At that moment I thought about the families who had lost people to the war. It's amazing how one little bullet can take a man's life. It's also amazing what people are willing to go through for their country.

I put these thoughts away and settled back down into my seat. I saw the other men looking out upon the station and wishing they, too, were down there with their families. I almost felt bad, but then I remembered I was also one of them. The train started to take off. The sound of the engine reminded me of one of the newer vehicles, that I had seen whilst upon the battlefield. These vehicles have been called tanks. The tanks had treads, so they could get over a lot more terrain, than most other vehicles that we used. Tanks were like giant metal boxes, but with guns attached to them.  I wondered what it would be like to be part of a tank crew. I couldn't imagine driving over the trenches and sending shells over No Man's Land inside of that tank!

As the train pulled away, I wished it was a plane, like I had seen used in the war. Flying far up into the sky, battling other fearless pilots that are hungry for blood. If I could fly a plane home, I would definitely be home by now! I settled back into my seat and watched the town drift away in the corner of my eye, getting farther and farther as the train went on. Once more I drifted to sleep. I woke up just in time to see my own little town appear in the distance. As the train neared, I gathered my gear. I didn't have much really. None of the men coming back from the war had much to bring with them. As the train pulled up, I was able to see my little brother standing at the station. I was filled with joy. The train pulled to a stop and I thought, “I've been longing for this moment ever since I stepped foot onto the battlefield.”

I walked down the three steps from the train to the platform. Before I could even say a word, my brother ran up to me and gave me a huge bear hug.

“Careful there bud. You might break my ribs.” I said to him.

“I can't break a military man’s ribs!” He said.

I chuckled and said, “You sure? With all the work you had to do while I was gone I'm surprised you don't have more muscle than me!”

“Well” He said nervously,“I haven't been doing as much as you think, especially because both Ma and Pa are working now.”

I  knew, my mother was working. As she had written to me. It was a surprise, in fact any woman working was a surprise, especially if she had a man's job. It was something that just didn’t happen, before I left for war. I guess the change had to be made, because so many men had to leave their jobs for the war. It was all for the best. She had also written that she believed that women might gain the same rights as men. They might even get to vote! Things were sure different!

It tooks us a while to make it back home. There where so many people who wanted to see the soldiers coming home. The people wanted to ask question and hear stories, that we soldiers didn’t want to tell.

We finally managed to make it back the the barn, where peace and quiet greeted us. There wasn't much movement inside the barn, so I assumed most the animals had settled down. I knew now that I was home, I would be needed for the harvesting. One of the first things I would do is purchase one of those new tractors to help make things more productive. Especially since most food was sent overseas for the soldiers. Not only did the food feed American soldiers, it also fed the soldiers from Britain, France, Russia, and Italy.

Once in our farmhouse, I settled into a chair and stared into the fire. I began thinking of the horrific things that I had experienced in the war. I don’t think I would ever be able to forget what I saw, while I was on the front line. Death, death, and more death. Never before had I seen so many dead bodies in one place. It was a horrific scene. But I was home now. It was almost weird seeing my family after this long. I knew it would take some more getting used to.

The creak of the house door, caused me to peak over my seat. There I saw my father. I jumped up and immediately ran over to him. Never had I been so happy to see him, “Reunited once again.” I thought to myself.

“Welcome Home, son,” my father said in his usual stoic manner, but I knew there was a lot more emotion behind those words, than his voice showed. “Not sure how much longer it would take, before we wouldn't be able to care for the animals.”

I smiled, knowing my father had missed me, and I knew it wasn’t just about me helping with the farm. We sat down and I told him just enough for him to understand, that I really wasn’t ready to talk about the war. We sat in a comfortable silence, until it was time for us to go to bed.  

The next morning, I looked out onto the farm, ready to face my new life. Home was not the same place I left. We are now a country changed by war and the loss of men. Now that war was over, what would I do? What would be my place? What will happen next? Not having the answers to these questions is both scary and exciting. I guess it’s time to find out. I open the door to begin to find the answers.

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