The Wounded Soldier

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Paul felt an arm lift his shoulder, and another beneath his feet. He knew he was slipping in and out of consciousness; as a med student, he knew the theory but had never experienced it. Until now.

He tried to move, to stand up, to ask what was happening to him, but all his efforts were in vain.

Oh God what is happening to me, Paul tried to say. Blood sputtered from his mouth, his lips moved but no sound came out. All around him everything was getting dark and darker still. He tried to raise his left arm, but the pain was unbearable. Must be broken.

He tried to recall. There had been an explosion, a deafening one. That’s exactly when everything became dark. He tried to remember where he was and what must have caused the explosion but his memory was hazy.

People were talking all around him, “buddy … hold on …”, “hey … pull through …”, “hang on … c’mon bro …”

What is happening? Who are you? Where am I? He tried to ask all at the same time. Instead, he spit more blood.

Paul forced his eyes open; the surrounding light dazzled his eyes. He shut it immediately, and tried again after a few moments. With little effort, he began to recognize his surroundings. It was a village. And a war was on.

Oh God, please help, he prayed. Just like his Sunday school teacher had taught him all those years ago. At first his mum forced him to go but as time passed, he had started enjoying it. He still remembered the look on his mom’s face the evening he sauntered in grinning from ear to ear. The puzzled look on her face transformed to a radiating smile when he announced, “I just gave my life to Christ”. That was years ago, and remembering it now made him smile.

A sudden calm settled over him. He had given his life to a loving saviour, so even though he was in pain, Paul knew that he was in good hands. That assurance lulled him into a deep sleep.

The ‘deep’ sleep lasted all of two minutes before a jolt woke him again. Groggy with pain, Paul tilted leftward where a face hovered over him.

He recognized the face – Jack Rover. They were roommates and best friends right from their first year in the med school. In fact, Jack was the reason Paul chose to join the medical department of the defence academy. And together, they had opted for advanced military training so they could provide medical care on the war front.

Paul tried to speak, to ask Jack what happened. But his head protested. Jack smiled and extended a hand to soothe his chest. Paul couldn’t hear his words over all the noise but he saw the promise in his pal’s eyes: you will be fine.

Paul turned to his other side and saw more faces he recognized. He was on a stretcher being carried towards a chopper with whizzing blades. They walked fast, in spurts; severally, they stopped in a crouch behind a shrub or a shed, and crawled out again moments later. They were trying to avoid being detected. At the same time, they frequently glanced down at him with faces full of concern. They wanted to ensure their movement wasn’t causing him much pain.

A sludge of memories hit Paul, and he quickly shut his eyes as it all came back to him. The men – Jim, Cross, Jitsu and Dele; all of them infantry assigned to that regiment for a peace-keeping mission in Iraq.

They had been in Baghdad for three months, maintaining the order. That morning they had received report of an attack on a squadron in the neighbouring town of Karbala, and had set out immediately in a convoy of tanks, gun trucks and a medical Landrover van. But just as they were entering Karbala, an enemy jet fighter leaving Baghdad spotted them and dropped a ballistic missile. It missed them by a few feet, hitting a transmission pole instead. The pole fell on the medical van sending it somersaulting into a sandy ditch by the roadside. Paul was in the passenger seat.

Pain jolted him back to reality. Just then, Paul saw a figure that looked like … no, it was him. Col. Sanders. Driven by habit, Paul tried to lift his arm in a salute but pain crippled him and he yelped. The colonel touched his shoulder very lightly – at ease, soldier – the unmistakable glint of kindness in his eyes. The colonel was carrying him too? Paul looked around again, slowly.

Though his face stayed as stern as it did when he was supervising a parade, Col. Sanders indeed held on tight to one end of the stretcher Paul was on. How on earth could Col. Sanders suspend a mission to care for a wounded soldier?

Paul was puzzled.

Then he remembered. It was the colonel who taught them never to leave a wounded soldier behind. “No matter what, never leave a wounded soldier behind” Col. Sanders had made them yell it over and over again on their last day of training in Denver.

Impressive, Paul thought, that even the almighty Col. Sanders walked his talk. In fact, it was not just impressive, it was humiliating.

Guilt washed over Paul as he remembered his youth pastor referring to Christians as soldiers. While speaking to them from the second book of Timothy, the pastor had highlighted soldierly attributes that should be possessed by young Christians, like discipline, agility, sacrifice, etc. But he hadn’t said anything about wounded soldiers.

Paul remembered that time Sister Judy got pregnant, how he had quickly condemned her in his mind and never cared to visit her even after she delivered. He hadn’t seen her in church for months, but he never even asked about her. He also remembered when his fiancée told him of a church member that lived on her street who was dating two guys. They had laughed at her impending doom in his apartment that evening and written her off.

A warm tear escaped Paul’s shut eyelids. The more he remembered scores of other wounded soldiers he had left behind, the more freely the tears flowed.

Thoroughly ashamed, he cried out to God for mercy. With quivering soundless lips he prayed, “Lord Jesus, as long as I am a soldier in your army, I promise never to leave a wounded soldier behind again”.

And he drifted off to a deeper sleep.


By Toby Nwazor

Toby Nwazor

Toby Nwazor is a freelance writer, public speaker and personal development blogger. He is the co-founder of www.tobyandkc.com where he shares tips for living a more productive life. And he thoroughly believes in networking.

‘My Sketchbook’ finder: Revealed

IMG_20141130_191156 Hope sketch2

Show yourself!

My name is Ifeanyi Ifemeje, an Igbo boy from across the Niger, Imo state. I am the eldest in a family of six and spent the better part of my growing years in Benin.

Arts? When? How? Why?

I don’t really remember the when, but my mum says I started drawing in Primary Four. I was melancholic as a child so I stayed busy in my head by myself, and on the outside, I found solace in pencils and paper. I found that I liked it. Later I would do drawing assignments for my classmates – Fine Arts, Agric, Health, Sciences, anything that had drawings I did. I enjoyed it, and it came very easy to me, I didn’t have to stress or anything. So I just kept doing –

(butts in) Did you know then how good you were or you just enjoyed drawing?

I just enjoyed it. And I kept pushing myself. For example, I liked cartoons so after watching on TV I would try to recreate the characters on paper. If I got the same smiling face as when I watched it on screen, then I knew I had gotten it right. I also paid attention to details, I didn’t have to struggle with that either. So I just kept getting better. Immediately after secondary school, I discovered an artist named Owolabi Pius and I spent three months in his studio learning pastel. Ironically, when I was done with that, I still couldn’t place a finger on what I had learnt from the whole err…

Internship?

(snickers) Yes, internship. But in 2007, a politician was campaigning in my village. My aunt suggested that I do a portrait of him and send it to him. It sounded like a good idea so I rallied my savings and bought pastel paper, pastel colors, a board and started working. I spent about 2-3 weeks on it, painting almost non-stop. When I finished, my savings was exhausted so I had to borrow money to buy a frame. After framing, I took it to him. He liked it immediately, and after talking with me, asked his P.A. to give me five hundred thousand.

 shocked baby_NAIRA

(laughs) Yes, Naira. We – my brother and I – met the P.A. who gave us an envelope. We ran home, locked the doors and windows, shut all the curtains and opened the envelope to see that it was just two hundred and fifty thousand in it. We were not so happy, but hey, two-fifty was a lot of money still. So I took it and shared it out among my people then.

Big boy!

(laughs) Yels! Anyway that made me think that I was sitting on a pot of gold. I mean, I like doing this, and people are willing to pay THIS much for it, so why not?! I dove into it with all I had. At about that time, I gained admission into the university to study Biotechnology. Through my time in school, I was still drawing and painting part-time.

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Are you doing this full-time now? Anything on the side?

Not full-time yet. Presently, I am ajuwaya (NYSC member); I teach Biology and Animal Husbandry in a secondary school. I also work as an Assistant Graphics Designer for Whits&Stratts here in Lagos.

Plans for the future?

A colleague and I have just started our own firm, Lava DigiArts which true to its name, focuses on digital arts. The idea was unique and it won first place in Shell’s entrepreneurship grant scheme; so right now, we have office space and a grant with which we have started work, using digital means to create art that will appeal in quality and cost to the high and middle class. While working on this, of course, I will keep at my pencils and paint.

Now, let’s talk about ‘My Sketchbook’.

Yeeeaaahhh…(laughs)

My Sketchbook

What was your first thought upon reading the post?

Well, reading up to a point, I thought it was personal. A lot of people experience such things, just that the writer in this case chose to tell her story with the unique idea of a sketchpad. Apart from the angle of romantic love, there are other ways in which people give a lot of love and get nothing in return. Mothers are a very good example. An example that quickly comes to mind is the mother of St. Thomas Aquinas, who despite his rebelliousness kept praying and soliciting on behalf of her son. And at the most unlikely time, against all odds, this prodigal son turned a new leaf and rose to become one of the greatest saints of the Roman Catholic Church. Love is not the easiest of ideals but there are people who keep giving it even when they only get woes in return. I really don’t know what inspires such people but while it is really sad to look at, I also think it’s beautiful.

So when I read ‘My Sketchbook’, I truly empathized with the person who wrote it – I don’t know her, by the way. But beyond empathy, I connected with her on a deeper level of art – I know how it feels to give someone your sketchpad and he just does rubbish with it. I felt her pain. Christ is the prime example of love and after his sacrifice he was ultimately glorified by God. So I thought, “if I were in the shoes of Christ, what I would do is to reward her sacrifice – give her another sketchpad, another heart”.

Then again I thought, “but I can. I can give her a new sketchpad, with a beautiful sketch on it, make it bigger and better.”

When she lost her sketchpad, she sowed a seed of love that had died under rejection and ill treatment. But a seed dies so that a flower can grow. I wanted to make that happen for her. And that was it.

A word to our WAW readers, their votes persuaded you to SHOW YOURSELF by the way.

Yes oh, here I am! (laughs)

About ‘Words Are Work’, I honestly do not follow faithfully. Only time to time, I get links from my friends on whatsapp and I check it out. I am pretty busy a lot of the time, but yeah, I enjoy it each time I visit there. It’s a very cool blog.

Yeah…WAW is cool. Okay, any last words?

Hmmm…for Hope or Hope’s character – I don’t know if it was a real life experience or fictional poetry, but I’ll say, continue to give love. Continue to love, even when it’s unrequited, continue to sacrifice –

(cuts in) Really? In this ‘dog-eat-dog’ world?

(laughs) Oh yes, and I know it’s a tough stance. But I’m a Christian and I believe life works best that way. And if I believe and live by that, I believe there is one other person, two, three other people who believe it too. And slowly but surely, we’ll make the world a better place.

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…then we had a large lunch and made my tummy a better place 🙂

I am @ojukwu_martin on twitter