A Brother at War

Understanding the ordinariness of war helps me cope with my Royal Marine brother's service in Afghanistan

My brother is a 25-year-old Royal Marine serving in Afghanistan. How does this make me feel? Am I frightened that he faces daily an unpredictable and tenacious enemy in a war that growing numbers of commentators claim to be unwinnable? Sometimes. Am I frustrated that he is putting his life on the line in the name of another messy conflict started by politicians who have sometimes failed to ensure he has adequate protection and equipment? Rarely. So where do my emotions lie?

Surprisingly, I find myself apathetic. More surprisingly, this is not due to disenchantment or cynicism, but mostly due to boredom. Shocking as it is, and proud as I am to have a member of my family serving his country, I find the romanticised coverage of conflict false and hackneyed. In the week leading up to the 90th anniversary of the end of the First World War, we were bombarded with TV and radio programmes detailing the heroics of the participants and invited to generate the appropriate “moved” response. And here I am, trying to drum up patriotic feelings of support for a close brother who can proudly count himself among the successors of those brave men.

Superficially, I’m adept at it, boasting to friends about his membership of an elite force renowned for its audacity, and aware of the envy and shame that some people (especially men) feel, faced with the fact that they aren’t involved in a job that can evoke such feelings of awe and, yes, romance.

However, I know, deep down, that my brother is just your average man shooting at another average man, no matter how precise his shot is, or what it’s fired in the name of. And to me this doesn’t make his actions futile, tragic or pitiable – it just makes them ordinary. By understanding the ordinariness of war, I can approach my brother’s involvement in Afghanistan without cynicism or sadness.

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