I am not a coward. I may not be the bravest man in this world, but I am not a coward. Like any other natural man I preserve myself when the need arises and defend myself when that need arises too. I'm sure that I'm not the only man who has run away from a battle. No matter. I have put that behind me. Today I have proved myself above equal to the occasion of war.
Let the lieutenant scoff at me to the captain and to whomever he pleases simply because I am his lesser in rank and title! What made him a judge over me? I am his better in zeal. Ask any man today, “who was the best fighter in the battle?” and their long bloody fingers would snap around at William and I. But the lieutenant thought we were cowards, eh? So be it!
The flag boy was shot down and without hesitation I dashed forward to keep the collars from falling. Who’s a coward now, Mr. Lieutenant? I made myself a target for my bravery, risking my life and limb for the honor of my country. But the lieutenant? “William and David fought like savages.” As if any man in battle, any man who is not ashamed to look at himself in a mirror, did not fight like a savage! For when we are pitted against each other for life, or for death, must we not kill and be killed like savages? Is there any shame in this? Only a man like the lieutenant who sits at the rear of battle and risks the lives of a hundred men does not fight like a savage; he forces other men to fight like savages, and this is both a great shame and the epitome of hypocrisy. I had nothing to be ashamed of today, because I put every ounce of myself into victory.
Our lieutenant thinks it shameful that we fight so powerfully. Clearly our lieutenant does not understand that purpose of war, though I would not claim that I understand it completely myself. All I know is that today, with a gun in my hand and the enemy swarming by the hundreds before me, nothing could keep me from shooting them out one by one as fast as possible. Let the lieutenant sit back and grumble at us, while we actually fight for his victories. William and I both grinned with satisfaction at our captain’s remark, that if he had a hundred men like us he could finish the war off in a month. It’s the older ones, those who have been at it for years and years and the daily shooting, the daily pain, the daily death of comrades and the daily fear of death for oneself, that has washed out their use in this war.
William and I aren’t washed out. We will help in this war. Whatever it takes to stay alive and to make it home, we will do.
We are not cowards.