By Jim Lechner
Editor’s note: Army Ranger (Ret) Jim Lechner wrote the following hymn to comradeship and patriotism – an essay that reverberates among those who long for the lost clarity of war. A veteran of multiple Special Operations missions, Lechner was wounded in the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia. He wrote the essay because, he said: “I wanted to remind my comrades that there’s a better way than this.” His words are as follows.
I miss the battlefield. Not the burning heat, the ache of heavy armor or the cold darkness of hostile ground. I miss the clarity. We were fighting an enemy, who though often vile, was completely clear on his cause and beliefs. They were willing to live hard and die hard for what they believed in, no matter how misguided.
Most of all I miss Americans. In a war between tribes, religions, sects and ideologies, the enemy often churned, blended, twisted and turned. But Americans were like rocks, Gibraltars in a storm. In the midst of the chaos, Americans were handholds on the cliff, bridges over the abyss of terrorism and treachery.
The battlefield is the great crucible. On our battlefields the one virtue that mattered was an American would stand fast and have your back. The bond and the lifeline in combat were other Americans. The Americans to your left and right had no hyphens. I scanned for NODs and kevlars not faces or skin. In a street or alley, on the side of a mountain or sand berm all I looked for was an American uniform with a shoulder flag.
The camouflage and combat literally and figuratively melted everything else together. No race, no religion, no politics, just Americans. There is clarity and a physical purity in that. Today at home, in the United States, I miss the battlefield.