Mark Wallace was raised by nice Christian parents who taught him what they thought was right and wrong. For the most part, other people in the world agreed with the generalities of what Mark’s parents thought, like killing is bad and charity is good.
Mark’s father had served in the Army and so had his grandfather. Both his parents felt that military service for their country was a good thing.
When some angry people crashed a plane into some buildings in a city in Mark’s country, everyone in the world agreed it was terrible and felt very bad because people had died.
Mark felt so bad that he joined his country’s military because he had always been told it was a good thing and he wanted to fix a world that let such terrible things happen. He believed his country’s leaders when they said they wanted to do the same thing. After all, they looked and talked just like what Mark thought was good.
His country first invaded a poor country in Asia whose government had supported the people who flew those planes into Mark’s country’s buildings.
Then Mark’s country invaded another country because it had weapons that threatened Mark’s country.
The rest of the world did not like this decision. They wrung their hands and said they would not support it, but they could not do anything to stop it because Mark’s country was bigger and stronger than all of them.
Mark thought those other countries were afraid of doing the right thing because it was dangerous and hard.
After the threatening government was gone, Mark thought that maybe he could go home, but his commander told him they had to find the threatening weapons and destroy them.
Mark’s company searched for months but did not find any of the weapons. He thought that maybe some other soldiers would find them. But no one did.
Mark talked to other soldiers about how they had not found any weapons. “I’m not sure this was the right thing to do anymore,” he said. “I was sure but now I’m not.”
Some of the other soldiers told him to shut up and just try to stay alive, which was becoming harder and harder to do.
Others said they were not sure either, but in the military you can’t just quit. If you do, they might shoot you.
One day Mark had to go to a prison to help transfer some of its prisoners. They had a break, so Mark wandered around. He went through one door and saw a pile of naked men on the floor. They were tied together and could not get up.
A naked man was chained to the wall and a dog was trying to bite him. Another soldier from Mark’s country held back the dog.
One soldier kicked the naked pile of men, and some cried out in pain. Another soldier cursed the men and spat on them.
Mark walked forward but the soldier in charge told him to get the fuck out.
That night Mark watched his leaders give a speech on TV about how their country was spreading freedom throughout the world. Mark felt very sick to his stomach and vomited his dinner. He could not sleep at all that night.
When Mark finally returned home, lots of people were no longer sure that what their country was doing was right.
Mark watched a lot of TV when he got back. He saw his leaders make a lot of speeches about freedom and democracy. But their definitions of those words seemed different to Mark than what he thought they meant.
Mark cried a lot at night. When he told his girlfriend about how sad he was, she told him it wasn’t his fault because he thought he was doing the right thing.
Mark said that he wished there was some way to know if something was the right thing to do before you did it. Then maybe people would act like human beings and not kick piles of other human beings.
He also said that none of his children would grow up thinking it was a good thing to join the military.