Guns and explosions sound around me. Heart pumping, I run for the enemy with my bayonet. I see the enemy trenches. I leap in, only to find it empty. The enemy has deserted the trench.
“Artillery!” I hear a fellow doughboy yell. I look back, seeing a shell explode. The flames engulfing my entire regiment. I scream in horror, as I see a piece of shrapnel make impact with my leg. Then, everything goes black.
“John! Wake up. I have made breakfast.” I hear a voice say. As I open my eyes, I look down at my leg, only to discover a prosthetic in its place made of duralumin. I shake off the nightmare and remember that it is 1918, and I am home with my wife, Elizabeth.
“I’ll be out in a minute!” I say. As I walk out into the kitchen, the smell of bacon wafts into my nose.
“Another nightmare?” My wife asks, a concerned look on her face.
“Yeah. ” I say.
I look at the paper. “The stocks are down 30%. The war really was hard on America.” I say.
As I eat, I remember meals on the front line. It was such a rushed process, because we had to be ready for enemy attacks. I put jam on my toast, remembering the jam jars filled with metal scraps and explosives used in the war as grenades.
“Awfully quiet today,” Elizabeth says. “You know, some good things came out of the war, too, including the metal in your leg, and that trench coat on your back.”
“Yes, but at what cost?” I ask. “41 million people were injured or died in the war.”
I leave for work a few minutes later. While I am driving, I see construction workers digging a hole. Then, everything flashes white, and I am back in Germany, in a trench belonging to the Allied Forces. The concrete boxes called “pillboxes” are housing large turrets, firing at the invading German soldiers. I suddenly appreciate the zigzag pattern, stopping the enemy from jumping into the trench and shooting laterally, killing everyone without warning. As soon as the invasion from the Germans is over, we receive the order to charge the enemy's’ trenches. I immediately leap out of the trench, bayonet fixed, and run toward the enemy. Cautious to not be spotted by the machine gun turrets, I run from crater to crater, suddenly thankful for the mortars fired into No Man’s Land. As I reach the furthest crater, I make a mad dash for the enemy’s trench. Then, I snap back to reality, swerving back onto the road just in time to avoid crashing. Eventually, I arrive at my job at the Ford factory that makes popular vehicles, like the all-new 1918 Ford Model T.
As I assemble a Model T, I remember the maintenance the soldiers did on the Model T’s that were used during the war. I also remember when the driver of a tank I was in almost flipped it on its roof.
Eight hours later, I am on my way home from work. I see a few white men carrying an American Flag, harassing a black man. That must be the KKK, I think. I had heard that the Klu Klux Klan was regaining strength in the states. Some were even beating black people in the streets, and not just blacks, but German-Americans, too. I shudder as I say quietly, “This is all wrong.” My wife and I seem to be the only people in the entire country that see people for what they are, which is people, not for what color their skin is, or where they are from. We have been afraid to say this, however, because of how aggressive everyone else is about the whole situation. All of this racism, the return of the KKK, and opposition to immigration into our country is all new since the Great War. People are using the flag that countless soldiers gave up so much for as an excuse to assault and even kill fellow Americans, trying to convince people that such an action is heroic, even patriotic. I drive away in disgust, remembering how many times I had seen this type of attitude during the war. Before the war, this did not seem to be such an issue. Sadly, the Great War’s end brought this upon us. As I turn into my driveway, I can’t get these thoughts out of my mind.
That night as I fall asleep these images return, and three terrible thoughts cross my mind. The first is, “What now? What does the future hold for America?” I dwell on that one for a while. Then, another thought crosses my head, one that I push away immediately. “What if this war really wasn’t the last war?” I imagine the tanks, invented during The Great War, but even more deadly, with bigger and more explosive shells. I imagine larger guns, more powerful and with more range. The thought sends a terrified shudder through my body. Then another, equally terrible thought crosses my head. “What if Germany had won?” I imagine the men I witnessed, being beaten in the streets and eventually killed, for being ‘different.’ I imagine this on every roadside, outside every school, and on my lawn. I imagine all U.S. soldiers being tortured for fighting and killed on what used to be their soil, our soil, the soil all of our soldiers gave their lives for. The soil bearing their allies’ blood, their pain, their torture. I imagine this soil, the soil I live on, the house I live in, housing the family of our wartime enemies. I then realize how lucky we are that America and the Allies were victorious. I know now that the Great War could have had a worse outcome, and that the damage done by the war can be repaired, and this reparation can start with me.
Armstrong, Simon. “The Trench Coat's Forgotten WW1 Roots.” BBC News, BBC, 5 Oct. 2014, www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-29033055.
The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Trench Warfare.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 9 Aug. 2017, www.britannica.com/topic/trench-warfare.
“WW1 Trenches: Facts About World War I Trench Warfare Worksheets.” KidsKonnect, 31 July 2017, kidskonnect.com/history/ww1-trenches/.
“World War I Centenary: Prosthetics.” The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Company, online.wsj.com/ww1/prosthetics.