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A soldier’s prayer

JL Nel

Life is a gift we receive
but would you believe
it’s also something we give.

Sometimes it’s something we fake
but it’s also something we take.

Sometimes it has a bitter taste
but it’s also something we waste.

I started mine
with hopes of glory and shine.

Then came the Angolan war
and with a bang closed that door — life was precious no more.

At first it’s an encounter you are eager to meet
until your first kill lay lifeless at your feet.

It’s a deed
neither money nor prayer can delete.

Try as you may
the blood on your hands will forever stay.

At first it was not so bad
It was either you or the other lad.

Then came the inevitable
yes, the bodies became uncountable

Not only did the bullets kill a man or three
but also of sleep it robbed thee.

The killing became fun —
and also a part of one
but the price was more than just the sleep that’s gone

To keep ourselves on a high
we had a song, which in itself might have been a lie —
“We had joy we had fun
killing SWAPO in the sun — but now the SWAPO’s have all gone.
Goodbye SWAPO it’s hard to die ...”

There might have been some fun
but of that sleeping was not one.

Yes, the endless dreams — of blood and screams
Yes, the endless crying of the wounded and the dying
Yes, the endless stench of lifeless bodies in a trench
Yes, the endless forms of friend and foe who fall
gave one no fitful sleep at all.

To stay alive was uppermost in my mind
but to pray or not to pray
became the nightmare of my day.

“Thou shall not kill”
the great Book says
but that was not (anymore) my way.

I even killed someone
who didn’t have a gun.

In the bright day of light
I could swear he was ready to fight
but in the sleepless night I knew it wasn’t right —
Up he came with empty hands
and in him I emptied my magazine of Browning brands.

The bullets of lead
ripped through him — from belly to bloodied head.

The ecstasy was great
but the regret came too late

In his hands was nothing — nothing as I’ve just said
but in my heart was pain,
pain for the man that I have just slain.

As a soldier with a trained eye
I marked the place where he was about to die.

The next day
I forced myself to go back to where he lay.

I searched his body, I searched the ground
but not a trace of armourment I found.

Is this murder? Or is this war?
Why, OH GOD, why don’t I believe in this anymore!

So hardened I became — I stripped him of all his belongings
including his being, his life, and his name.

And then I made this shocking revelation
A Bible stained with blood — was this my condemnation?

Thus he was also religious, as I am.
So how could I claim preference over this man?

In him he might have my lead — yes he even might be dead.

Let his soul live forever and a day
and please GOD, take my pain and guilt away.

I have killed this man, or were it ten, in THY Name —
but help my children not to have to do the same.


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