There they were, tattooed across his abdomen, his shoulder blades and his forearms. Some ran across the length of his spine, a nick above his left eye and the biggest of them was below his right knee, where they had to amputate his leg. These tattoos, these scars, they didn’t make him look ugly, in fact, they spoke of courage, of bravery, of the true beauty of a true soldier who gave everything he could for his country and came out alive with some proud yet painful reminders etched on his body that’d last him a lifetime. He’d lost his friends, his only brother, but they had died fighting for the nation. Their death was the welcome kind and he found himself wishing for that death, but one look at the stump that was his right leg and he knew he’d never have it. His life had no meaning. He’d failed.
Every so often, you could see him hobbling across the room to the closet where hung his prized possession. The uniform. His uniform. He’d run his hands over it, closing his eyes, reliving memories. A tear or two would roll down his cheeks and then he’d take hasty, uneven steps back and bang the closet door shut. He would then hobble his way to the river bank where the children from the village sat, waiting for him to come and tell them stories of places they’d only ever dreamt of or seen in movies.
One such evening, long after the children had left, he’d sat there skipping stones in the river and lost deep in thought when a little girl came and sat by him. He was surprised to haven’t have heard her arrival, either he was out of practice or was probably too lost in his thoughts to have noticed. Or maybe both. He stared at her and she stared back. She looked to be about 12 and he’d seen her with the other kids during their ‘story time.’ For a while, she was silent and then suddenly she admitted, “Someday, I want to be you.” He was stunned. This 12 year old, this young lady sitting beside him, she wanted to be him. He couldn’t fathom why anyone would want to be like his pitiful self, let alone this innocent little child. “Why?”, he managed to ask in a whisper. “Look at you,” she started in an awed voice, “all those scars, they tell stories of your courage. You’ve fought for the nation, you’ve fought for us, you’ve lived a life worth living and even though you’re not on the borders, putting your life on line, you’re still a soldier. One of the best ones. You’ve done your part and now, you’re doing more. Looking at you, hearing you speak of your adventures and experiences, we find some courage too.” She looked at him with fierce pride. “I’m lucky to have known you and I’m going to be you, someday.” With that she stood up and walked away, leaving him staring after her.
That was the last day that he’d cried over his fate. Now, everytime he hobbled across the room towards his uniform you could see him smiling. His life still had meaning. There was hope. He’d never have thought that a 12 year old girl would be his lifeline. Life had unusual ways of surprising him.