He went to war to become a man

He felt cheerful and well pleased. There wasn’t any way he could truly know what lay ahead for him, though he knew — in an intellectual way — that he might not make it home to his pregnant wife. He was in for the duration, and he knew the work of a tank driver would be grim and dreadful.

My grandfather, Harold "Hod" Chrisinger, 1944

My grandfather, Harold “Hod” Chrisinger, 1944

At the same time, however, he believed he would be more mentally and emotionally at rest in the heart of carnage than he would be in the rear. He had committed himself to the war, to the fighting, to the dying, and to the killing. He wanted to pay the price, to know war at its absolute worst.

He was driven, in part, by the belief that great suffering would bring with it a sense of purification, a building block in the construction of an ideal self.

What he found, however, was that the suffering of war only seemed to improve the character of those who were already strong.

For others, it produced most often the opposite effect.

Perhaps Hemingway was right all along:

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.”

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