I stood with my regiment looking out at the big sea. The waves jolted us in all direction, the wind hissed like happy whistles of my fellow soldiers when we heard we were going home.
I looked at my friends, heroes the lot of them, but if you asked anyone of these men they would say: it was their duty to protect their families and everyone elses’ from death, bloodshed and the horror of having to kill a fellow-man. No matter which side they stood on, they were just men with families trying to protect their world.
How many of us would look at our hands and need to blink? We all had blood of innocent men dripping from our fingers, the men who were forced into believing they were fighting for their country. Did any of us really want to kill a fellow-man just because he was in a different uniform than ours? He was someone’s son, husband or father.
I dug into my jacket and pulled out a photo of my beloved little girl Rose holding her mother’s hand. Their eyes sparkled as they stood outside our house. Rose was growing up fast; her blond curly hairs mirrored her mothers’ and her green eyes resembled mine. I couldn’t wait to hold her, to tell her that her father was home now. My wife Vivian would be so surprised to see me come up the drive, every letter she’d written to me were accompanied by her tears. All she wanted was for me to return back home.
I tucked the photo back inside my pocket and joined others to eat, to share our thoughts of going home, even though I secretly feared that my wife and daughter would not look at me the same, would they see the blood on my hands? Would my little Rose remember me for rocking her to sleep or would she imagine the gruesome scenes of her father fighting and killing others.
But today was a good day, I told myself smoothing the darker thoughts. We were going home. Young Jimmy pulled out the letter from his girlfriend; he wanted to marry her as soon as he got home. We all sat and listened to him read aloud:
Dearest Jimmy, I miss you my love, all of us miss you, mother sends her love and every day I send prayers for your safe return, so we can start our lives together. I’m trying not to listen to the news because I fear that you’ll not return home. But father reminds me that you’re strong, a hero and you’ll come back to me, maybe get a medal for being so brave and keeping all of us safe. Love Mable.
I grinned as Jimmy whispers the last part and sat down. I was so happy that he would get to marry his girl and see his mother again. I rolled my eyes at the mention of a medal, no medal would ever be enough to take away the pain of all I’ve seen or the memories I’ve missed with my wife and daughter.
The air smelled smoky as other men pull out their letters from home and read to themselves. I could see the borders of home now and my heart was jumping with excitement, but I don’t share this with the others, instead I looked at the sky thick with smog and dark clouds and wondered if Vivian was really truthful that Rose’s first words were ‘Daddy’ or was she just trying to make me happy?
“William, come sing with us,” Jimmy poked me in the arm, we always sang together to keep everyone’s minds off the day’s events. I took my place at the railing next to Jimmy as he began to sing… “We’re going home, now our time is done; we will see our wives, daughters and sons…”
I was about to sing my part with everyone else when I heard a crackling noise, then a big boom! We were all on the ground; so many letters from loved ones flew off the edge of the ship as it began to sink. I tried to hold on to Rose and Vivian’s photo, but they slipped into the big sea as the ship disappeared, and left behind nothing but lost letters filled with tears and fears and love.