There can be only One

The unkillable soldier

The image that comes to most people’s mind when they imagine veterans, is that of venerable old men (and increasingly women), sitting with their medals showing, usually in a quiet room. Generally they are alone…

The story lasts a few minutes and then the news cycle moves onwards in its relentless attempt to keep us engaged.

Leaving the old men alone again.

Veterans are generally alone, as their friends have passed away. Some died in combat, in pain and suffering; some have died in the comfort of their homes surrounded by their families. We as a society venerate survivors, those who have passed through the crucible and have emerged unscathed.

At least physically. Mentally is often a very different story.

Some veterans can live their lives in inner turmoil for decades, with their families often bearing the brunt of their implacable angst. Really the only people who can really understand are those who have experienced the rigours of battle themselves. And with their comrades all aging at the same rate, our veteran is in an ever shrinking pool of people to whom he can turn to for support. The analogy of the Vietnam Veteran responding angrily to an uncomphrending questioner with the tropic line ‘YOU don’t know man, YOU weren’t there!’, has been rolled out time and again as a metaphor for the, sometimes surly, unreachable Veteran. Quite often there is truth in this; colleagues have described veterans from the First World War and the Ango-Irish War as being extremely reticent about recalling exploits to the uniniated civilian, often only doing so when their guard is lowered and also with the abuse of one or more substance.

So the next time you see a story about the last veteran from some conflict being described as “unkillable” perhaps take a moment to fully comprehend the ramifications of immortality and what you lose to achieve it

About eamonntgardiner

I am a PhD Student at the National University of Ireland, Galway. I am conducting research into links between wartime traumatic-neurosis and evidence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder amongst British First World War veterans serving as Auxiliary Policemen in Ireland during the Anglo-Irish War 1919-1921. I have previously conducted research into local Irish Volunteer/Old IRA units in Munster as well as British responses to popular insurgencies in areas they administered. I have previously published a book on the British Counterinsurgency responses to the IV/IRA conflict in Ireland, 1919-1921, entitled 'Dublin Castle and the Anglo-Irish War: Counter Insurgency and Conflict.' I have also published papers on various aspects of that war and also on other insurgencies. I write a regular blog on those and other related matters, which can be read at My research interests include Feminism and De-Colonialisation/Post-Colonialism, Insurgency, Police and Military Histories, Institutional Histories. Subaltern Studies, International History of the 20th Century, Modern Irish History, Historiography, History of Conflict, Peace Keeping/Enforcement/Protectorates, Spheres of Influence, Hegemonic Theories, Old and New Terrorism.
This entry was posted in 20th century, Britain, Commemoration, Conflict, First World War, Historian, Historiography, Insurgency, Ireland, Irish Defence Forces, Memory, Oglaigh na hEireann, Palestine, Post Traumatic Stress, PTSD, Revisionism, Second World War, United States, US Armed Forces, women and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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