Archive Page 2


Vera Brittain

Upon finishing our reading of Vera Brittain’s, Testament of Youth I was compelled to continue my thoughts about the sections that we read because of the dramatic effect the novel had on me.  I found it quite a challenge to find personal accounts online from people who have lost someone in the current Iraq war without feeling as if I was judging their own way or mourning. My plan is to elaborate on some of the details from Brittain’s novel and try to enhance my observations with real information from today’s current war in Iraq.

            The idea of youth in this novel was very interesting to me.  Often times I have pondered what it is about the military that makes young men, not yet wet behind the ears, want to get down on one knee and pop the question.  There are several factors that influence this idea but until reading Vera Brittain’s own recognition of her loss of innocence, I did not understand the intense pressure put on men in the military.  First, military personnel receive a higher salary for having a spouse because they must support two people. Also, there is the benefit of being able to be in the same location as the military member, and also receiving the same health and insurance benefits.  However, the idea of the military making a man or woman out of someone also makes me think that it promotes the idea of getting on with one’s life, or moving to the next chapter of life.  Many people join the military and realize that they want the person who gets them through the hard times to be the one that shares the same last name. The military forces people to grow up whether it be by learning to handle responsibility of one’s life, or seeing and experiencing mature subject matter.  It is a hard judgment to make about who is more mature, a 40 year-old man or woman who has suffered hardship throughout their life, or an 18 year-old kid who has seen death perish in the streets of war.  We do not teach elementary school-aged children about rape and suicide because their minds are not capable of internalizing these complicated topics.  A parallel could be drawn to the 18 year-old in Iraq witnessing death and possibly administering it.  Although death is viewed to most civilians as a subject that will always be difficult to deal with, military personnel learn to harden themselves to omit the emotions and continue doing their job.  This task is enough of an endeavor to make any person, young or old feel the stress of aging on their soul.  

            From Brittain’s writing, I pulled the following quote to express the transformation she is experiencing of completely losing hold of her innocence, and she did not even join the war.  But because she was involved with someone who was forced to grow up, and yet die without having a chance to live a long life, she has been strongly affected. The following it in a letter from Roland after Vera described her daily routine to him. Although he was away at war, feeling the forces of having to grow up, he was aware that his lover was experiencing the same thing.


       “It all seems such a waste of Youth, such a desiccation of all that is born for Poetry and Beauty. And if one does  

         not even get a letter occasionally from someone who, despite hit shortcomings, perhaps understands and     

         sympathizes it must make it all the worse…until one may possibly wonder whether it would not have been better

         never to have met him at all or at any rate until afterwards…Good night, Dear Child.”


I found an article from a nurse serving in a military hospital, similarly to how Vera Brittain did.

        “I looked at the lights twinkling on my newly decorated Christmas tree while thoughts and memories    

         filtered through my head. I suddenly realized that, as difficult as the last 180 days have been, I’ve been

         given wonderful gifts, ones with no monetary value, and yet priceless. So on the Eve of one of the most

         joyous days of the year, let me share with you my gifts.

         The beautiful young girl who trusted me enough to wrap her arms around me and sob against my    

         shoulder over the death of her father.  No new WIA’s in the past three weeks.  A soldier, shot in the head,

          prognosis poor upon his CONUS* arrival, and the absolutely awesome smile that appeared on his face

          when I walked into his room three months later. Airman, presented with his purple heart by the

          commander in chief, who when later asked who his favorite visitor was replied, “Clara.”


Although this nurse made no references to the loss of youth, i feel her positive comments and englightenment she finds in her job. Although Vera’s life changed as she was a nurse, she was forced to grow up, just as this nurse is, but there can always be glimpses of hope. Click here to read more from this nurse…





A Look at The Effects of War

Upon reading poetry from Brooks and Owen, I began to contemplate the effects that war has on soldiers, both physically, mentally and emotionally. Although there are endless accounts that can be viewed for further insight into this topic, I chose to observe the blog of a veteran of the Iraq war who is now living in Texas. This soldier not only elaborates on similar ideas of the World War I British poets we have been delving into, but also gives further information about how war effected him, especially during the night. Specific attention is paid to the theme of night in many accounts of war which can represent the physical rotation of the earth resulting in darkness, and the finality of night and darkness, which can represent death. The main difference between the British poets and this soldier is that many of them died in combat and this soldier, Alex Horton is still alive, although some may argue in some nature he is actually not living because every night he is still effected by his memories from the war in Iraq.

In Edward Thomas’ poem The Owl, he details his experience of the harsh weather conditions and extreme exhaustion that he felt and how he had to endure the night to stay alive. He compares his life in the field to the life he knew when he was a civilian with I think is a common motif among military personnel. It is much easier to get through the trying times by remembering the aspects of freedom that made them enlist in the first place. Thomas writes:

“Downhill I came, hungry, and yet not starved; Cold, yet had heat with me that was proof Against the North wind; tired, yet so that rest Had seemed the sweetest thing under a roof.

Then at the inn i had food, fire, and rest, Knowing how hungry, cold and tired was I. All of the night was quite barred out except An owl’s cry, a most melancholy cry” (Thomas, 10).

Thomas has experienced a day of battle and warfare and has finally gotten a chance to rest. However, he cannot actually rest because of the hardship he is enduring. Instead, he takes himself to a place that is comfortable and warm.

Similarly, Alex Horton, an inactive solider experienced a similar notion. However, due to the opposite ends of the earth that each piece of literature is referring to, the weather conditions are not cold but rather extremely hot. Horton describes the heat vividly by saying,

“At sundown we had filled a filthy kitchen sink with ice to cool down bottles of water and Gatorade. Hours later, only a warm pool remained in the sink, the bottles offering little relief from the torrid wind that swirled in from the open front door” (Horton).

Horton and his platoon were on duty one night when they opted to rest in an abandoned house. As Thomas did, he also refers to the discomfort that is brought to soldiers when night falls. Due to the severity of combat, soldiers are always on alert and Horton describes this when he says,

“A faint metal-on-metal clanking sound drew me out of my lethargy. It came from the other side of the courtyard wall. Was it the intermittent rustling of an unknown intruder? Jolted out of my chair and out of my loose and sweat-soaked boots, I reached for my short-barreled shotgun…Taking one last deep breath, I stood up and swung the shotgun over the wall and pointed the barrel at what was making the noise: a piece of sheet metal rattling in the wind against a steel cabinet”(Horton).

Both of these examples of literature from soldiers during a time of war offer some insight into what occurs in the mind of a well trained war hero. I am especially interested in paying special attention to the way that poets include night and metaphors of night in their poetry because I feel that night is when the true fears of war are explained by soldiers because often they are alone on watch or keeping the men in their platoon safe. This is a time when they feel great responsibility, and also a time when they feel the sacrifice they are enduring. A soldier is forced to spend time with himself without the backup of his fellow soldiers, without the comfort of his command and really search for the motivation that will keep him awake through his watch, and will enable him to wake up the next day to do the entire routine over again. What is produced in these thoughts about night is a great entry to the thoughts of a war torn human being.


January 12 2009

I have added several subscritions in the google reader link that will hopefully assist me throughout the semester in my constant research and awareness of war and the literature that exists are a result of war.  Although the process of both world press and google reader are new to me, and I have experienced several frustrating moments, I hope that as I continue to use it I will become more comfortable and I will be able to continue adding useful links to my RSS feed.  However, here are some explanations for why I chose the links that are present.

New York Times: I chose the New York times because it takes a look at both foreign and domestic affairs from the perspective of Americans.  I feel this source is credible and provides an array of articles and information reguarding the current war in Iraq.

BBC News: I chose BBC News as one of my subscriptions because I feel that it can provide an outside view of affairs within the United States, and abroad.  I feel that as an American, it is often easy to have biases and having a source that does not come from American’s feeling the same way as me about the war may help me create a better span of knowledge.

The Sandbox: Althought this example of a Milblog was already given in class, I was so profoundly moved by the information I found on it that I wanted to include it in my own research. I think the first hand perspectives and accounts offers insight that is just not present from a journalist’s point of view.

Military History Podcast:  I chose this military podcast because it offers information about current affairs by looking into the past and relating history and past events to the events that are occuring all over the world presently.

War In Irag (Google): I made my google news feed search the results of the War in Iraq.  I feel that I have experienced personal growth and change as a result of living in the time period of this war. I want to remain an informed citizen and I want to be knowledgeable about all affairs concerning the war we are currently in.

Resources for Military/Army Wives’ Life: I chose both of these blogs because the aspect that involves how the war effects families is very interesting to me.  In the case of military families with children, I feel a strong obligation to know the information necessary to help a child like this in case I end up teaching near a Military base.  Also, it is always nice to know that there are ways to help and even just sending a word of encouragement to Military wives may by the difference of the outcome of their day.

I hope I will be able to add other interesting, helpful links to my news feed as the semester progresses.