My Parents Would Be Terrified

Mar 28, 2018

While there are benefits derived from military service, our contributor today reflects on the devastation faced by parents who lose children in armed conflict.
Credit U S Army Center of Military History / Library of Congress

This is Andrew Taylor, a 17-year-old junior from Wheatland High School coming to you from Grainfield, Kansas.  As a young, somewhat athletic male in the United States of America, I fit the mold of what the military looks for physically in their soldiers. If I were alive 100 years ago, I’d have surely been sent off to fight on the fronts in Europe.  My parents would be terrified for my life when every day the newspaper headlines would tell of especially bloody battle with dozens or hundreds of casualties. They would have to sit at home helpless and praying that the fighting never came too close to their son.

This situation was common in World War I and was the subject of Edith Wharton’s novel A Son at the Front. In this book, artist John Campton and his wife Julia have a child named George.  They are Americans living in France but due to travel complications, George is born in France instead of being born in his parents’ home country.  When WWI breaks out, this means that George is drafted to fight in the French Army. His mother has since been married to Anderson Brandt, a wealthy banker.  They try to use Brandt’s pull or connections to bring George home safely or at least keep him away from the front. Campton is uneasy at first because he doesn’t think that Brandt loves George the same way that a biological father loves his son.  George regularly sends home letters from the desk job he has at the front, but then it is revealed that George has actually moved to fighting in the trenches while lying to his family.

Although being sent off to the front lines of a war would be pretty scary, there would be positive parts to it. Learning important survival skills such as how to deal with injuries quickly, constructing shelters, and life or death combat skills are some things that would never be learned in jobs like accounting or architectural design. Traveling would be another great aspect because it gives a chance to be exposed to completely different cultures than that one is used to. The military is a highly admirable job because these men and women are working selflessly for years of their lives and are potentially even ending them in order to protect the citizens back home. The feeling of teamwork and absolute trust in one’s fellow soldiers is an experience that one would only find in the military which is one of the main reasons that George goes back into the fray, even after being injured.

If this were me in this situation, however, I’d be terrified if I found out that my country was going to war or that a letter came saying I’d been drafted into the military.  I certainly wouldn’t be volunteering myself to fight at the front the way that George did.  The way that not only the physical but the emotional destruction of war is portrayed in movies and books like A Son at the Front would make me feel terrible that if I were to die, I’d be leaving all the people that I care about behind.  Maybe other people are much more patriotic and willing to die for their country and their leaders, but I have to agree with the decisions of George’s parents and say that doing anything and everything to stay out of danger is the best option.

Reading this book made me realize that although I may not be the right fit for being a soldier in a war that there are people who are stronger and braver than I who do all that they can to keep the people of America safe. This makes me greatly admire them now that I understand more of what they do.