Love the first half - fantastic imagery! The second half... I don't know. It is very Band of Brothers and I can hear the theme in my head while reading it. Maybe it's just that my military experience involved a staggering amount of boredom rather than contemplation.
It's a different world I guess. Nowadays, other than the Stop-Loss mess circa 2003, deployments are a lot like being in prison and you're just counting down the days. During WWII, GIs were more or less in for the duration of the war and casualty rates were much higher. Barely an infantryman involved in the Africa landings in 1942 hadn't been either killed or severely wounded by 1945. For the most part, GIs were not professional soldiers. Many were conscripts and more than a few volunteered to avoid being conscripted. Even a great number of willing volunteers didn't plan to stay in the military a day longer than necessary. For the war itself, there was a lot more propaganda and a rather disconcerting number of GI training materials seem more about encouraging them not to be afraid rather than learning how to actually counter the threat. I can't even imagine what it would be like to find this out the hard way. This sadly, brings us to the hideously awful replacement system (showcased in Band of Brothers). The modern US Military operates on the same system that the best units of the Waffen SS did. They deployed units, fought them, and then brought them back to the rear for rebuilding. What this mean was that the veterans were stuck with the new guys for at least a few weeks and like it or not, but they'd have to do training exercises together. This encouraged veterans to teach what they knew and the Waffen SS was remarkable for building elite combat formations out of a mishmash of veterans, volunteers, conscripts, personnel from other branches, and Volksdeutsch foreigners. The US military, however, assigned replacements and as we see in Band of Brothers, it meant that they were social outcasts ignored by the veterans, usually written off as soon to be dead, and had to be lucky enough to survive a few battles to be taken seriously. It's a broken system that kills men almost as fast as it kills morale. Again, it sounds absolutely horrifying to find yourself dumped into a unit and told repeatedly that you'll be dead soon anyway, so it's not worth learning your name or bothering to teach you anything.
And maybe somewhere in my rambling, I just might happen to find whatever point I'm trying to make...
Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that WWII was a very different war for a very different soldier. While I can't quite personally identify with being at war and trying to make sense of it, I think that a GI, wondering why his life has been put on hold, having no idea when the war will end, with comrades who don't care about him and tell him he'll be dead soon, and having just survived his first battle after losing what few friends he had from the Replacement Depot and now having what little he learned from training revealed as fraud, is trying to make sense of the whole mess.
No, this was such a wonderful response. Thank-you so much for taking the time to write this, it means a lot and I appreciate it. I always found that aspect of Band of Brothers interesting, the reactions towards the replacements. The fact that there was this mentality that the veterans had concerning the replacements' names and not wanting to teach them amazed me, but in a way it makes sense. I wanted to capture the miniseries in this poem and hopefully I did. Thanks again for commenting.
The Replacement system unfortunately continued through Korea and Vietnam until the late 70s when morale in the US military had become a crisis (1972 to 1979 is sometimes called the "Broken Army" period of American military history). The US Marines were first to overhaul and other services followed suit in the 80s. As a general rule, new troops are not assigned to units after they've deployed except in some special cases.
This is not the image of a soldier, not the one you're talking about. I know because I am one. These people honestly do not care about "making sense" at all. Soldiers do not try to justify killing. Most, the overwhelming most, care about getting 'into the action' and about 'blowing @#$% up'. Maybe soldiers struggle after their careers, I wouldn't know. Also yes I'm talking about the infantry.
Thank-you so much for taking the time to comment. I definitely respect your opinion, as I am not a soldier. I don't know about war from experience or how somebody feels about it from experience either, simply because I have never experienced it. But I was talking to my great grandfather who was in WWII, years and years before I even began writing this poem, and whilst he doesn't talk about his experience in the war, he did say that he found himself questioning it. It wasn't to justify killing, it was just him trying to make sense of it.