What goes through the mind of each soldier when he leaves the wire? Does he pray? And what does he pray for? I don’t know, but there are words which go through my mind.
Donnez-moi, mon Dieu, ce qui vous reste
Donnez-moi ce qu’on ne vous demande jamais.
Je ne vous demande pas le repos
Ni la tranquillité
Ni celle de l’âme, ni celle du corps.
Je ne vous demande pas la richesse
Ni le succès, ni même la santé.
Tout ça, mon Dieu, on vous le demande tellement
Que vous ne devez plus en avoir.
Donnez-moi, mon Dieu, ce qui vous reste
Donnez-moi ce que l’on vous refuse.
Je veux l’insécurité et l’inquiétude.
Je veux la tourmente et la bagarre
Et que vous me les donniez, mon Dieu, définitivement.
Que je sois sûr de les avoir toujours
Car je n’aurai pas toujours le courage
De vous les demander.
Donnez-moi, mon Dieu, ce qui vous reste.
Donnez-moi ce dont les autres ne veulent pas.
Mais donnez-moi aussi le courage
Et la force et la foi.
Car vous seul donnez, mon Dieu,
Ce que l’on ne peut attendre que de soi.
I’m asking You God, to give me what You have left.
Give me those things which others never ask of You.
I don’t ask You for rest, or tranquility.
Not that of the spirit, the body, or the mind.
I don’t ask You for wealth, or success, or even health.
All those things are asked of You so much Lord,
that you can’t have any left to give.
Give me instead Lord what You have left.
Give me what others don’t want.
I want uncertainty and doubt.
I want torment and battle.
And I ask that You give them to me now and forever Lord,
so I can be sure to always have them,
because I won’t always have the strength to ask again.
But give me also the courage, the energy,
and the spirit to face them.
I ask You these things Lord, because I can’t ask them of myself.
-I read those words often, I believe in them sometimes even though I doubt my time will really come soon. I carry them upon a note card inside my wallet, next to a small folded American flag which lies beneath my shirt, right next to Psalm 23. They’re all just the size of my thumb; but sometimes they feel heavy to me. I like the weight. These small keepsakes remind me of how I should act and how I carry a burden of responsibility, regardless of what other might think about a trying situation.
We get into our mundane rhythms here, act in our pedestrian ways. We amble about, looking for a way to shout, “I’m here! I’m here to stay!” We try to assert a regularity of habit into these makeshift homes in order to bring sanity, a buffer, like an antiseptic to the potentiality of violence that can invade our walls and it’s necessary not to have a hagioscopic look of things when we go outside as well. The cure should fit the severity of the disease and sometimes overindulging on sobriety will more than kill the cause. I try not to have too bland of a view of life here.
Something violent occurs around here all the time. It’s doesn’t always affect us directly. But, it is important to build a frame of reference which is stable enough to handle future events and I try to model mine upon a Spartan mode of living. The modern man might say that Spartan living is better than Spartan dying. Thousands of soldiers live very meagerly. I can easily become spoiled in this place. This First World Army must never become weakened by the ‘love’ of material pursuits. I ask again, what is it a man prays for when he doesn’t have anything to his name? Is it different in a time of war? What does he rely on? Is it different than what he required back home? And should what he require ever… stop?
It’s easy to become a tourist here, like some of the men whom welcome every odd pursuit. And look to be embroiled with the events that occur outside our veil. They want to be jacked up with adrenaline on any dicey event. Get their drug and then go home. But I want mine too.
I start nearly every morning yawning. Sweating, my legs ache, boots are crap and I’m glad its not old age. The morning ablutions give me time to think. Wash myself, shave myself, look into the mirror and examine my head shorn of hair. Sometimes I wonder about the kind of music that young men play. What words go through their mind. Same as mine?
Music can drown out fear. But it’s the belief in the power of words which will see us through and that can be like music itself. A shielding against the coming events, the distant hinting from the stars above might be warded off because we make sure that the means and matters of safety seize us. I don’t believe in bad luck.
I do believe in curses.
‘Absid nomen, absid omen’-
‘Avoid the name, avoid the curse.’
I say it now…“Death.” But this word doesn’t bother me. It gives me the correct perspective.
I don’t know what other men ask for in time of war. And if they pray I don’t think the overall intent is different when they are at peace. I often wonder what I should ask for and when I don’t know…I begin, just like this…
Repeat after me, “Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name…”
La Prière du Para (“The Paratrooper’s Prayer”) is a French poem found in the possession of the presumed author, Aspirant (Brevet-Lieutenant) André Zirnheld, upon his death in Libya on June 27th, 1942. The Paratrooper’s Prayer has been adopted by all French trooper in the French Foreign Legion. This prayer also appears in Lt. Col. Dave Grossman’s book, On Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and in Peace.