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War's a Fine Trade
Posted By: A Halo Fan...natic<mikeandrewp@gmail.com>
Date: 19 July 2007, 4:20 am

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War's a fine trade.

The government pays the bills, the food's good, you get plenty of exercise, you see strange and exotic places, the girls flock to ya', and best of all, you're part of a family. The Corps is just a big, loving, mother fuckin' family, and once you join, nothin' else matters. No one cares what you were before you joined. It don't matter whether you were a farmer or a murderer, a refugee or a pimp. Your life starts when you join the Corps, and it ends when you finally catch a bullet or a bolt.

Now, I ain't gonna say it's a walk in the park. You' gotta work to earn your keep, but the work's generally more interestin' than at home, and the people better--everyone who comes out of Camp Shelby had better be a hard-workin', honest soldier, or their buddies ain't gonna tolerate 'em for long. The first time some jackass shirks work or takes more than his share, he gets his dirty ass kicked. The next time he gets reported to the non-coms and blacklisted.

You don't take shit like that in the Corps.

There's a lotta love in the Corps - don't laugh! We're all brothers--or sisters--and we all respect each other. That don't mean we're a bunch of pansies, though! If one of us catches a bullet, we accept it as one of the risks of the job, one we knew we were taking when we enlisted. It sucks, and we hate to lose one of our own, but it's a neccessary price we pay to keep the peace.

The first thing anyone ever asks when you tell them you're a soldier is "Have you ever killed anyone?" Generally, most raw recruits will make up a bunch of crap to impress the ladies, while old vets will refuse to answer. Me? I have. Several with guns, but I never remember those afterwards. There's only one that I remember clearly. I killed him with my knife, and I remember the look on his face as he died, the smell of his blood, the way he looked into my eyes... It's not my favorite thing to talk about.

A common misconception is that soldiers are recruited to kill. That's not true. If there's a way to get the job done without killing, we'll do it. The problem is, a lot of bad people are unreasonable and don't respond well to punishment or gentler ways of persuasion. Killing is the Corps' way of getting them to back down. Forcefully.

It certainly works better than saying "please".

There are some people who don't like the Corps. They call us "brutes", "monsters", "condottieri", other less polite names. Some soldiers will go into a rage over it, maybe start a fight. I disaprove of that. It merely strengthens their position. Me? I ignore them, or laugh and tell them that if they don't want the Corps' protection, they can move to Silvereyes, or Harvest.

The Corps has taken me to a lot of places. I've seen a lot of things I didn't think possible, done a lot of things I never thought I would, met a lot of girls I don't regret meeting. Some people, 'specially from back home on New Maine, ask what planets I've been to, if I've ever been to Earth, and what's it's like. I can tell ya'; it's a shit-hole. A shit-hole with a few pretty jungles. Two trillion people crammed onto one planet, with all their stink and garbage and ugly high-rise apartments. In San Francisco and Hong Kong, the stench of burnt hydrocarbons is enough to make you sick. Even the "rural" areas are heavily developed with rich bastards' vacation homes.

I prefer the wilderness of home, cool, blue, green, with the wind off the Hammered Sea. Not the mess of the industrialized planets.

I'd do anything for home--even die.

I hope I don't have to, though.

Despite all of war's good points--travel, women, pay--there are some nasty sides as well. I've been in more scrapes than I like. It's scary. I don't care how brave you are, when you're going up against automatic weapons, or jellied gasoline, you're gonna be scared. And despite what all the brave heroes in the action movies would lead you to think, charging head-long into enemy fire won't do shit. Heroes ain't good for shit, 'nless you need someone to play Polish Mine Detector real bad.

But when there's a battle, people are gonna get hurt. You never forget the smell. Blood, smoke, shit, bile, sweat, it all blends into a composite stink unlike anything else. There are a lot of things the movies don't show ya'--the way the bowels release when someone dies, for instance, or how much blood the human body really holds. The way the wounded call for water. I've even seen people cry for their mothers, the really bad ones.

And you never know if you're gonna make it through, or if you're gonna catch a bullet, or if your buddy's gonna catch one. It's scary. It sucks. But you've got to face it. You've got to do your duty. For your country, for your home, for your family. For yourself.

But when you think about it, if you ignore the fighting and the dying and the pain, war's a fine trade. And it's one I like.