Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me die.
Glad did I live and glad did I die
And I lay me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longs to be.
Home is the sailor, home from sea
And the hunter home from the hill.
--R. L. Stevenson
War by its very nature involves sacrifice and loss in equal measure. This is especially true when so many pay the ultimate price and do so before their time, cutting short a life of promises unfulfilled. War offers few moments of reflection, sorrow or circumspection.
In all the wars in which Americans have fought—from the American Revolution to present day conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, the soldiers in the rifle squads, platoons and companies have felt the loss in an up-close and personal way. The death of a comrade or a leader had an immediate impact on their fellows. They could only say good-bye in the briefest of ways before the next wave of war would sweep them away to another battle somewhere “over the hill.” Years later, as time gave them a chance to reflect, then and only then would they realize the depth of their loss and the value of the men who had been taken away far too soon.
Men may go to war to fight for their country, but combat narrows that purpose to fighting for their immediate brothers in arms in their squad and platoon. When the world of purpose becomes so small, the loss of a friend or trusted leader is a devastating loss; a loss that may never be replaced, but is remembered forever.
While the uniforms, gear and vehicle of this painting reflect WWII, the sentiment and emotion shown here has been felt by soldiers through the ages.