Connecting with the poem “The Leaving”
What are the forces that inhibit or encourage an individual’s actions
Thesis: When an underrated individual is confronted with a force threatening his home, he will be motivated to succeed for the safety of his loved ones and the preservation for the of their futures.
Countdown to Victory
They said we couldn’t do it.
They said we were too young, too weak.
They said we were just a child of the motherland.
After all, what hope did a young 50-year-old nation with a minuscule attack force have against a fortification that weathered British, French and American assaults?
What hope did Canada have? According to most: none.
Yet there I was, Major General Gordon Lyndsie of the Fourth Division of Canadian Corps, standing under the monstrous silhouette of Vimy Ridge.
April 11 1917- the night before our final battle.
I was to lead a platoon up the right flank and seize the ridge- once and for all. This one bastion that had led to demise of hundreds of thousands of allied troops; this one stronghold gave birth to millions of orphans and stranded just as many widows back at home. We had been living in the trenches for over fifteen weeks now- our hands swollen, our feet blistered and our hearts heavy with the thought of our loved ones, ones we may never again embrace. But our spirits were high; tomorrow would be our last day in the godforsaken hellhole, our last day under the mountain, surrounded by the bodies and souls of our fallen comrades. After tomorrow, we would finally be able stand in the warmth of the sunlight without the worry of a raining artillery shell, enjoy the crisp mountain air on our skin without fear of being shredded by German bullets.
3 hours to go.
I did a quick inventory check, counting the crates of guns, ammunition and armor. How comical would it be if we were not in a position to proceed due to lack of supplies? That would be the saddest joke God has played on us yet. Denying us the exhilaration of victory, the happiness of safety and the ecstasy associated with the embrace of a loved one for such a minor technicality. Only He could be capable of such cruelty.
2 hours to go.
More supplies. Specifically ladders, for the intricate vertical segments of the hazardous terrain. How many ladders to conquer a mountain? Hopefully less than the 79 that we had stocked in the tents, delivered to us by British convoys. Ladders. My nephew loved ladders; no matter how many times he fell off from four, five, even six feet he got right back up and embarked once again. Such youthful innocence is precisely what we all needed right now- to be motivated by our desire to succeed rather than to be inhibited by our fear of failure. Funny that in what could possibly be my last night; I was envying the behaviors and attitude of my eight-year-old nephew. I didn’t realize it back then, but that was exactly what I needed to think about, it might have been the only reason I decided to fight the next day- the reason I climbed that ladder balanced on the base of the ridge- was so that my nephew could continue to climb to his heart’s delight, with no fear of having to be over run by the lunatics resting just 800 meters away.
1 hour to go.
I began packing my personal belongings, as I knew, one way or another, I wouldn’t be returning. In joining the military, we were given extremely little space to bring articles from our past life with us to the front lines- in most cases it was only what a man could fit in his pockets. With me, I had my father’s medals of honor, a small multi-tool I earned in boy scouts in my youth and crumpled up, now muddy, picture of my Cecelia- the most significant life I had left behind- the most significant life I fight for. With every pull of the trigger, I envisioned myself killing Cecelia’s future murderer. I understand that it’s not true, but it is the only excuse I can keep giving myself to not be overpowered with the guilt of killing hundreds of other human beings. Hundreds of other fathers, brothers, and sons that will never return home to receive the same love and affection that I so desperately longed for. It wasn’t enough for me to envision them as evil or villains; these were just innocent men fighting for their nation and their beliefs, just like me. But if there was only one side that could win, if somewhere above He had claimed that only one ideology could reign supreme, then I was going to do everything in my power to ensure that it was the side Cecelia was on. My last item, an empty velvet engagement ring box, symbolic of one last promise that I was yet to fulfill- of one last reason, as if I didn’t have enough already, to win the battle, to return home the victor.
30 minutes to go.
The camp and tunnels were lively now, filled with soldiers packing rations for the upcoming battle, loading their rifles and stocking their grenades. Even after so many weeks it still shocked me to realize how dangerous this place truly was. In the back of the tent we had a crate of grenades, where we were intended to go, take three and carry on our way. “Just pick three up.” That was all we were told, almost as routinely as one might say, “go and take some fruit from that basket in the corner.” One of these ‘fruits’ had the capability to destroy a tank, kill dozens of people and injure countless more. How were we so careless with them? But it didn’t matter anymore, one more day of this and we’d be free to return home and leave all this danger behind, across the Atlantic Ocean, thousands of kilometers away, where is belonged. I couldn’t imagine having these grenades and bullets around my home, around my family. That is the reason I fight.
10 minutes to go.
Everyone was forming ranks; two riot shields in the front, followed by four rows of riflemen, two rows of cannons and one row of artillery. A row spread out to two hundred meters filled with a hundred and fifty grimy, motivated warriors ready to fight for their country, ready to die for their loved ones. This was the most excited I had seen the force yet, the thought that they would all see their loved ones soon lifted everyone’s spirits, but I couldn’t help but wonder how many of these brave men would be able to follow through, how many would actually survive this battle, if any at all. But that didn’t matter. We were here fighting for the future, the future of our families, who we loved so much that we wanted to keeping living, safe at home, regardless of whether we returned or not. We would fight for them. We would die for them.
1 minute to go.
The drummers started drumming; increasing morale throughout the force. As a general stood at the back and oversaw the entire army. We knew that we were strong enough to conquer, despite what everyone said, we knew that Canada would be the victors in the battle. It was close, just one last ridge stood between us and victory, like a ripe fruit ready to be plucked, just inches away from the tips of our fingers.
It was time to reach, to lunge, for the lucrative fruit that we all so desperately desired.
It was time to charge.
Charge to victory.
Victory for our homes- for our loved ones.
For their futures.