A Portrait of a Hero

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Adventure!
Travel!
Fight for what is right!
Harry Brown was intrigued as he studied the colorful recruiting poster. He had been hungry for something to jazz up his black and white existence. He had been thirsty for more than the prospect of endless farm work and the drudgery of small town life.
It was time to say no to boredom!
No to bellowing cows!
No to endless chores!
This was his chance to become a hero! With thoughts of glory dancing merrily in his imagination, Harry signed the papers shoved before him by the boisterous recruiting officer. A handshake and a back slap later he was on his way to a new life.
Endless kitchen chores!
Bellowing drill sergeants!
The boredom of guard duty at training camp!
However, this ordeal was necessary for victory. The bloodthirsty enemy was out there, waiting to meet them. The enemy was a faceless image of evil. A dark idol that thirsted only for the destruction of everything that civilized men knew was good. That is why the image of the enemy must be torn from its high position and smashed into a thousand little pieces.
Harry prayed that when the time came that he would be able rise above his childish fear and do what was right.
He prayed he would become someone his nation was proud to call its own.
Then at last came the great day. The day they had all been waiting for. The glorious day when they finally went into action!
Guns roared like like lions over their prey.
Out in no man’s land groups of men were tossed into the air like rag dolls by an insane child.
In each flash of lightening, other groups of men could be seen stumbling forward as best as they could through the mud.
It’s time to do your duty!
Take your places!
Over the top boys!
Terror overwhelmed him as Harry crawled over the top of the trench. Before him lay a vast wasteland of well churned mud. A field that only grew destruction. He forced down the terror in his mind and began to run. A boy struggling toward a sinister evil that needed to be destroyed.

An evil that was fighting back with every ounce of life that festered within it. Shells burst over the advancing mob, fountains of mud rose to cleanse them of their innocence. The enemy was at hand!

Harry unleashed a primal scream as he leapt into the trench before him.
There they are boys!
Use your bayonets!
Charge!
His blade hungrily sliced its way into the belly of his enemy. A body of evil that buckled under the force of the stabbing assault. Then, as Harry watched in horror, the enemy reached toward him, grasping for love, his eyes pleading for mercy. The enemy was a man much like him. Someone who could have been his twin brother, they looked so similar to each other. Yet, there was no time to think about this, the battle was on, it was time to fight!
Yet, after the victory had been won Harry began to realize all that he had lost.
He remembered those faces of tortured humanity.
His first kill and all those friends who had fallen beside him. After the chaos of the battle their faces all seemed to bleed together in his shell shocked mind.
The fear that he had buried overflowed in the tears that came in the darkness where no one could see. The sorrow over all he had lost had streaked down his cheeks, falling trembling into the mud below him.
Yet, in the eyes of his leaders he was a wonder.
He had become a great man through this struggle.
A tortured face in the falling rain.
He was the perfect soldier.
A mass of emotion.

His prayers had been answered, his nation was proud to call him their own.

So he would fight on for a better life. Even if it meant that he had to surrender his own life in the process. It was his duty.

This sacrifice was greater than he ever imagined. Even though he managed to survive all the killing fields he was thrown into…the war would continue to hunt him even after its merciful death. In the years after, the sleepless nights…the vivid dreams…the longings for more innocent time that he could never go back to would all take their toll.

The fame he had achieved through war faded with the coming of peace…leaving behind only the bitter aftertaste of the price he had paid for it.

His life and relationships could never be the same again.

In some ways the end of war was only the beginning of another battle.

The struggle against a storm of inner demons that would age him more quickly than he ever wanted.

In later years, as he hobbled down the streets of his community, an elderly figure twisted with age, he was ignored by a generation obsessed with imaginary superheros.

In the eyes of many, he was just another senior citizen far past his prime.

Still, perhaps the fact that Harry had surrendered the quality of his entire life for his country was something that should never be forgotten. Perhaps his overlooked, greying head was the only honest portrait of a superhero in existence. Not because he had managed to overcome all the demons he had earned, but because he had somehow managed to carry on despite them all.

And maybe that in itself is a form of victory.

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