Here is my response.
Is war exciting and stimulating? No. War is none of those things. There is nothing exciting about washing and ironing and packing shedloads of kit into one of the big black kit boxes. There is nothing exciting about waving someone off at 3am.
There is something stimulating about there being no contact suddenly, because you know that if the knock hasn’t come for you within a few hours, then it was someone else’s knock, and someone else’s family are devastated, and someone else’s family are starting a new life without a father, or a brother or a son. Deep down you are ashamed that you are glad it wasn’t your knock, because that means you are glad for the knock being someone else’s, and you aren’t, because no-one should get that knock, but it stimulates grief and fear and self-loathing.
There is nothing exciting about not being able to sleep, about starting your day at 4am with the overnight news, watching because you have to, you*have* to see. There is nothing exciting about not watching the news once the child is up, sneaking peeks on the computer, pretending all is well and no, of course mummy isn't worried! She was just thinking about tea...
There is something stimulating about the first contact after a silence, the 48 hours being up, the news being released and so communications are back up again, because that first email or rare phonecall is proof that there was no mistake, it wasn’t that they couldn’t find you, it was that he was safe. That is a joyous moment, a brief magnesium bright flare of happy, that drops as you remember that other family, somewhere else.
There is something exciting about the chuff chart getting smaller, about sending the packages and about writing the letters because the small boy wants to tell the fighting man about his bike wheel, about the big dog he saw on the way to school and how brave he was about it because he doesn’t like big dogs AT ALL. That excitement comes from the excitement of the small boy that the man is sooner home than he was, that the time is getting less and the aeroplane will soon be bringing him back.
There is a lot exciting about him walking in the door, kit box stinking of unwashed clothing, sand, fuel, huge amounts of deodorant. There is a lot exciting and stimulating about that, and I cannot tell a lie there!
There is nothing exciting about having to be careful how you wake a person up though. There is nothing thrilling about people who flinch at fireworks.
There is nothing exciting or thrilling about having to rewash and reiron and repack and do it all again.
It is worse when you do it for the last time, because he will never wear that kit again – he will never wear any kit again except the number one uniform they burn him in. And because he wasn’t KIA, there will be no memorial, no name carved in Portland stone at the arboretum, nothing to show what he was prepared to do, but you are glad, GLAD, because the day he died you saw him and said “I love you!” as you waved him off to work.
So. Am I excited or thrilled by war? No, not in the way you might think. But am I proud of him? Yes. I am, and I always will be.