I had never understood at that time when no one in the same age as me knew how it was difficult for children of war to live a normal life. How it was traumatizing for civilians to hide and find refuge in other places, leave their homes, and how sad it was for soldier’s children to know that their father will never return home.
I started my freshman in a city where war was never heard of and I attended an activity that’s required for every college student. One instructor asked if someone in the crowd lives in the south or had experienced war. So, I raised my hands and there were a few of us. One city girl even laughed in disbelief that someone like me was there and that she thought that those who raised their hands were lying. I raised my hands at that time because I experienced being in the middle of a battle between soldiers and rebels. When I was a kid, my parents will always reminds us that never to tell our names if someone asks or what my father’s job or why we live in a village full of soldiers.
I was young when things started to explode, bombs everywhere, and terrorists had just attacked. I heard the sound of a siren alerting everyone to be prepared. I never understood it at that time. I grew up in the south, live in a village surrounded by soldiers and it’s a normal life for me to see soldiers in full gear every day, army tanks on the border, and always in full alert. I thought it was only a dry run until a friend of mine lost her father in a sudden attack. I was innocently playing in the oval of the camp, laughing with friends but soldiers were in war zone risking their lives.
Armalite being cleaned and assembled and disassembled by my father, he even taught us how to clean it and how to put the magazine, of course, he already removed the bullets and told us about the different parts of the gun but he never taught us how to use it because it is against his duty. Uniforms, boots, and other gear should always be in one place to easily find and wear if there will be emergencies.
The chapel was always the best place in summer because of activities like Flores de Mayo where children enjoy hours of Christian teaching. We also had Karate lessons wherein a Soldier Priest taught us about self-defense. We spend most of our summertime on the grounds of the chapel, we were happy and just be children until we saw the light inside the chapel, people in their white clothes, crying and coffins being ushered inside for prayer. Stories of them being killed in the battle started spreading fear among us. Others said those who were killed and beheaded were not just soldiers but intelligence. It was not just one summer but almost every year, months, you’ll see families crying and crying, children wandering what is happening and why his/her father never comes home.
Summer came and my father was on a break from his schooling (military education and training). When a soldier is on break, he is not allowed to carry any type of gun. And that time, I never knew it. Sleeping peacefully in our house when suddenly a loud bang disrupts us and my father hurried to get dress and we were forced to leave our house. The next thing I know, we were in the chapel along with our neighbors. My father was on his full gear as well as my friends’ fathers. Siren was so loud but the bombs were louder, machine guns being fired without stopping. It was like fireworks but too dangerous and scary. Armored vehicles were everywhere.
When everyone thought that it was over, we headed home. I still haven’t seen my father nor my friends/neighbors’ father. When we went home, my mother started cleaning, preparing food. My neighbor was already going to open her store when another loud bang was heard just a couple of miles from our place and I heard my neighbor closing her store hurriedly, glasses broken. A siren started to ring in our ears and we had to leave our house again. We had to run fast for our lives. The battle continues for days. I remembered at that time, I was playing with my friends and we were laughing around, running, and doing things kids in the park do but we were inside the chapel and soldiers were on rounds checking every perimeter. Our mothers had allow us to be children for us not to be scared because they knew any moment from that day will be our lasts. They don’t want to steal our innocence and comforted us the best way they could think of because it was also their first time to experienced war despite being married to soldiers. The word ‘silence’ was not a norm anymore inside the chapel as it was the place for us to seek refuge and stayed until the bombing stops and all the mothers were scared and worried about our safety and their husband’s as well. I heard my mom talking to my neighbor about my father being on break from schooling and she was worried. They said that once a soldier is on break or vacation, they are not allowed to carry guns or involve themselves in any emergencies because they won’t receive any benefits from the government if they are seriously wounded or worse, d***. My father doesn’t have a choice at that time because everyone was on full alert. He went straight to the camp to get his gun and had to do his duty to serve his country. A soldier’s duty will always be his country. And that is the thing I understand since I was a kid, a soldier’s duty is always his country.
When the battle was over, my dad went home, and we were so happy and lucky. Also, my friend’s fathers were all home. But the whole place was on alert. The terrorist was and will still be a threat. We still have a home when the war was over. It’s a memory that will never be forgotten. Years after the ‘all-out war’ that the government declared, I finally understand that not everyone in the city knows or cares about what happened to those innocent people being dragged into the war they never want. Some people always draw conclusions about the war when they never even experienced it without thinking that there are people on all sides whose lives were stolen and will never return.
And I am always a proud daughter of a soldier despite knowing that the country will always be the priority.