This reminds me of the poem by Wilfred Owen (1893-1918):
Dulce et Decorum Est
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime…
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori*.
*”It is sweet and glorious to die for your country.”
They draped a flag over his casket, reminding everyone as to why he died, not how he had lived. When I angrily threw the precisely folded flag, weeks later, my mother cried at her knees at the disheveled symbol of a nation that chalked my brother as a statistic. I lost my patriotism when missile imploded on my brother’s bunker — where I’m never too sure if it was an enemy’s weapon that had done it.
All I saw, from that day on, was black marker over words in secret documents that not even families of the deceased may read, as if a reason as to why a life is taken was as meaningless as the life itself. But I know, one day, I’ll find out.