He had entered the fray as a proud young man, eager to serve his country. Weeks into it, the true extent of the horror became apparent. From the first week, it felt like nothing had gone to plan.
The resistance had been passionate and harsh at the same time. No one was laying down on either side. He was surrounded and forced to surrender. Now he wondered if he had been lied to. He feared it was all over. They had him now.
As a young man, Dimitri was raised to overcome a lot. His mother set the standard in that respect by raising him alone. His father had lost his life in combat when Dimitri was only 11.
What little childhood memories of his father remained, what always stuck out were the lessons. His dad had always instilled a sense of duty and patriotism in him. Now, he was an adult too and felt that sense of duty weighing heavily on his soul.
Dimitri also lived with the shadow of a long history of conflict hanging over his nation’s past. Opinion may have been divided at times, but when it mattered, his people were known to band together.
Times had changed a lot since the old days, and many citizens now preferred to avoid what they deemed “unnecessary” disputes. However, Dimitri was different. He had been raised in the “old ways.”
Like his father before him, Dimitri knew early on that his destiny lay in military service. Of course, the standard draft was mandatory. However, for people like Dimitri, service was not just a duty but a way of life.
Most male citizens treated the conscription like people of other nationalities treated things like jury duty. For Dimitri, the minimum service period was not an option. His service was a calling, and he was a lifer.
Straight out of school, Dimitri commenced his training. The regiment was extreme, designed to push people to their limits and pass an average person’s breaking point.
By its end, Dimitri felt stronger, sharper, faster, and more committed than ever to serving his country. He was barely 18 when rumors of the upcoming conflict began to grow. It was becoming all too real now.
Among the younger combatants especially, the orders were designed to motivate and instill a deep sense of loyalty. Training drills, early morning briefings, and operational planning became a daily ritual.
The government and his superiors were on the same page for a long time. The orders were clear, and the reasons appeared just and necessary. Before Dimitri knew it, the situation had already escalated immensely. Training was over. Now, it was time for the real thing.
Everybody seemed to have an opinion on the orders. Even in Dimitri’s own camp, other Privates were expressing sentiments of skepticism. For Dimitri, it was clear that his duty and loyalty lay with his country. There was no room for doubt.
The start of the conflict was swift, ferocious, and savage. Suddenly, after so much time spent in the bubble created by his training commanders, Dimitri was thrown into a frightening situation.
Dimitri spent his childhood learning about his country’s glorious past and tactical supremacy. He had always possessed a slightly glorified opinion of it as a result. The conflict had been sold to Dimitri and his young comrades as a justified mission.
However, the moment the conflict started and his unit entered the fray, it was clear that the world seemed to think otherwise. It was too late for doubts now. Dimitri soon found himself fighting for his life on a daily basis.
In the beginning, everything seemed to be going according to plan. The initial battles were swift and ferocious but ultimately successful.
Morale was high in Dimitri’s unit. However, as time wore on and the enemy camp began regrouping and building support for their resistance effort, things were far from straightforward.
As a young kid dreaming of serving his country, Dimitri had never thought about how brutal and devastating such conflicts could be for all involved. Now the true scope of the horror was laid bare.
It was a crushing feeling. Suddenly the lines that seemed so distinct between the parties paled in comparison to the devastation inflicted by both sides. They were all affected, and both sides’ suffering was apparent.
One day Dimitri’s unit seemed all-powerful and in charge. The next, they were ambushed and overrun by the resistance. Dimitri had been led to believe the entire conflict would be over with his side’s objectives achieved within a month.
Instead, the opposition had proven far more resourceful and determined. He was still virtually a kid when enemy forces captured Dimitri. Now, all he could do was think of his mother. His side had shown little mercy, and he feared the worst as retribution for it.
Dimitri was gripped by anxiety. Adversaries surrounded him. People taunted and yelled insults as he was tied up and publicly marched through the region. Amid the melee, it seemed like people tried to get to him while others held them back.
Dimitri began to panic. His thoughts raced with everything they might do to him. He prepared for the worst in his mind. Instead, he was made to sit down, untied, and given food, refreshments, and a phone to call his mom.
Dimitri’s shock slowly turned to relief. Amid the swelling crowd gathered to see the captured “enemy”, it was clear now that they were simply interested in the spectacle and not out to harm him. His fear had clouded his judgment.
In his calmer state, he could now make sense of what the chattering crowds were really saying. He felt silly for not listening before. After all, so many of them spoke the same language as him. He was shocked by what he heard.
A month ago, Dimitri believed he had nothing in common with them. They were his enemy, and he theirs. Now, as he stood before them, being treated with kindness, dignity, and respect rather than hatred, he was forced to reconsider everything he thought he knew about them.
Instead of anger, retribution, or revenge, all he heard were words of shock and concern, words like “he’s just a kid” and “it’s not his fault.” He could not help himself and broke down into tears.
For so long, both sides had been embroiled in a conflict that devastated and affected so many people. When Dimitri could eat and speak to his mom and assure her he was okay, his mind raced again. It was full of regret and confusion as he doubted everything he previously believed.
It seemed less about “us” and “them” anymore. For the first time since the entire conflict began, Dimitri saw no differences between himself and his captors. It dawned on him that they were all part of one race, the human race.