Lest We Forget… what war does to the men and women we send to fight them – ‘Combat Eyes’ by Curtis D. Bennett

Today is Remembrance Sunday, the day when the British remember our war dead. The date was chosen because it’s the closest Sunday to the eleventh of November, the day the Armistice that ended World War I was signed. By then, 8,500,000 soldiers had died and 21,000,000 soldiers had been wounded for the vanity of Kings and Emperors.

I despise the men who ruled Britain then for their decision, after the Germans had agreed to surrender, to keep the fighting going until they could sign the Armistice at a memorable date and time: the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month 1918.

2,738 soldiers died on the last day of the war, losing their lives while men far from the front lines waited in comfort for the appointed hour to dress in their tailored uniforms to end the war with a flourish. To me, it is an unforgivable example of the ego our ruling class had had bred into them on the playing fields of Eton.

We should never forget how thoughtlessly and remorselessly they squandered the lives of their countrymen.

Today, my thoughts are with the soldiers who make it back from the combat we send them into. Many have lost limbs. Many more carry internal scars that will never heal.

I went to the War Poetry website looking for something that talked to this and found this poem, ‘Combat Eyes’ by Curtis D. Bennett, who was a pilot in the Vietnam war. I’ve illustrated it with a portrait called ‘Eyes of War’ by Kevin Stevens.

I’ll let the poem and the portrait speak for themselves.

Combat Eyes by Curtis D. Bennett

It lurks behind their eyes,
Where the soul used to live.
Eyes, which have seen too much
Of war’s bad places
Where reality is too far
Beyond human comprehension,
Beyond human reasoning,
Beyond human sanity.

The nether world of death and carnage,
Flash-burned and sealed in a fixed dimension
Of atrocities bordered by unspeakable horror
That forever scars the psyche,
Everlastingly searing moments
That eternally burns too bright.

The blank vagueness of the eyes
Gazes through you,
Now past and far beyond,
Without judging,
Without emotion,
Without compassion
Without mercy, without humanity.

They stare, dead and blank, unfocused and vague,
Knowing everything, fixed on nothing,
Mirroring the soul.

Welcome Home.

Earlier thoughts on Remembrance Sunday

2017: Remembrance Sunday: honouring the promises made by those who survived on behalf of these who were slaughtered.

2018 “If yea break faith with us who die”… thoughts as we approach Remembrance Sunday.


2019: Letting Mike Harding’s “Bomber’s Moon” help me remember the War Dead and that we owe them peace.

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