As a self-described cinephile, I find it odd that my all-time favorite scene comes from what could arguable be called one of the worst movies of the decade.
“The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader” was a terrible movie that tried to pull a deep plot from a shallow, fun book by author C.S. Lewis. The screenwriters were less faithful to the original than the guys who made the Jason Bourne movies. Essentially, they bent the plot line over the bathroom sink and gave it a firm rogering.
Yet in that toilet bowl of excremental content lies a beautiful scene. A character with the unfortunate name of Reepicheep has been established multiple times as a warrior completely dedicated to the virtues of combat. He has absolutely no fear, is extremely skilled at swordcraft, and thinks of nothing but victory.
(No, seriously. He’s a mouse. Picture Audie Murphy with fur and a tail.)
At the end of the movie, Reepicheep is given an opportunity to “go beyond” to the paradise that holds no more war, no more hatred or evil. He gladly accepts the invitation, and as he walks to the doorway, he pauses. He draws his sword, holds it briefly in his hands, and without a further thought says, “I won’t be needing this anymore.” Dropping it unceremoniously on the ground, he walks on without a backward glance, completely sure of his new path.
Many of us have yet to put down the rifle, whether it be literally or figuratively, and continue to pursue the warrior lifestyle because we still need it. “Someday,” I tell myself, sleeping alone on whatever number deployment I’m on. “Someday I won’t want to do this anymore. I won’t need to continue to prove to myself and others that I am still tactically proficient. Someday I’ll want to put away the rifle.”
That day still has yet to arrive. Like many others, I continue to seek out the company of rough men whose respect needs to be earned in war-torn countries. Like many others, I seek a continued relevance in the tactical world. We, who have spent so long finding worth amongst warriors, often discover a nauseous rejection of worth in other environments as we continue to seek the approval of our former comrades.
I have given much to be counted among the gunfighters. Should I turn my back on that now, it is almost as if all those years will be flushed away. That hard-earned respect I built amongst my brothers? The cynical part of me imagines it will all disappear once I pursue other interests. That desire to be worthy of the term “warrior” drives us to fear weakness, to go forward when so many would go back, to stay when others leave.
Many of us have moved on and done so happily. Veterans have become real estate salesmen, pastors, artists and writers, businessmen…they have stepped beyond. Even owners of tactical businesses such as veteran apparel companies and firearms instructors do so because they want to own their own lives, free of the boundaries of annoying rules. These veterans may have the trappings of their previous lives in the military, but they are not owned by it. They have become masters of their craft rather than slaves of it.
Yet we who have yet to move on may grasp onto the sinking ship of our former incarnations. We may flounder in a society we do not understand and revert instantly to the only straw of hope visible in a rough sea. We remember that, while we were “over there” we had worth, thus it is the only place we will find it. We begin to paddle back into the maelstrom of our nom de guerre, our identities assumed while under fire.
Men throw away perfectly good jobs, leave families, destroy marriages, and leave behind decent people in efforts to claw their way back into the sand.
When the bullets stop flying, their vacuous passing takes with them our identities and our relevance…if we allow it. The waters begin to pull us down, and we beat the waves with our fists as we seek our brothers. Are they drowning with us, or have they jumped into life rafts to live for the next challenge?
What gave us relevance? Was it the war? Was it the metal screaming through the air? Or was it rather the men around us, and the love of accomplishing dangerous missions together?
Could we perhaps find the company of such giants once again, reincarnated from their blood-stained selves? Could we see them doing things other than killing, recognizing that same wicked glint in their eyes as they perform peaceful tasks?
Could we find worth away from a rifle, putting forth action that maybe, just maybe, has the same impact on the world as the fighting we so treasure?
Could we eventually see a firearm as a tool rather than a symbol?
Should this happen, maybe then we could look at a different life. We could finally begin to treasure it as we look deep at the weapons clutched in our souls with white-knuckle grasp, give a little chuckle, and say,
“I won’t be needing this anymore.”
Maybe someday you will love peace as much as you loved war. There is that hope. When you get there, look for the rest of us. Set up your IR stobes, your challenge and pass, your near/far recognition signals, because I know for damn sure that I will need help getting there too.