I have seen war.
I have seen it from the most clear perspective; through the scope of a rifle.
I remember clearly, the first time I came under fire.
It was May, 2010 in southern Panjway district, Afghanistan.
I was on a bald hill, taking cover just behind the crest. Another section of ours had come under contact and I was part of a quick reaction force to support them as they made their way back to camp.
On that hill, we took fire. The rounds impacted on the ridge and hissed overhead, whining in a twangy climbing pitch as they ricocheted off the dirt to disappeared in the distance.
I was as close to the ground as I could possibly get and I remember the first thoughts that crossed through my mind:
"Well Edgar, this is what you wanted. You came here, to this desert, to fight a war. You asked for it and here it is. This is war."
Quickly followed by:
"What did I get myself into?"
It took only that to drain every ounce of piss and vinegar from any young soldier. One time was one too many, but that was far from the last; I had just gotten there after all.
By November, I had been through countless firefights, seven close proximity explosions, and I had seen three good men lose their lives and six others lose their limbs or otherwise return to Kandahar Airfield with broken bodies.
Today, those images are with me constantly, there isn't a moment I don't think about what I lived through in Afghanistan. It haunts me, and will until the day I die.
However, something else haunts me even more.
In November, we held a short remembrance day ceremony. I wasn't able to participate as I was on sentry duty, manning a machine gun. I was close enough to hear the ceremony though, and it was later that night at three in the morning when I was on another sentry shift, that I thought about how insignificant my experience truly was.
For all I have seen: The lives I witnessed extinguished, mangled and violated, on both sides of the conflict. All of it was a drop in the bucket.
I was at war for nine months, two weeks of which I was allowed to return home to visit my family.
Sixty years prior, the brave men and women of this country and many others spent years ... years away from home.
My war has given me a unique perspective on the importance of remembering those who came before.
I have witnessed nothing in comparison to the loss of life, both figuratively and literally, that the men and women of the First and Second World Wars had to bear witness to.
I have done nothing for my country, in comparison to the deeds and sacrifices our forefathers made on the bloody fields of battle that have drawn the lines on the map we know today.
I give reverence, ungilded respect and hold great pride to be the descendant of a people who willfully set themselves upon the most horrendous plains of war to ever be witnessed on this earth.
May their sacrifices never be forgotten.