Stories From Grandpa: Johnny Got His Gun

The year is 1918 and the war is over. After four years and three months of terrible, horrifying, violent war, it’s over. The French people are free and they’re beaming with joy. We are allied as a world and I can imagine that the whole world is happy to hear such news. One can only hope that those who died, did not do so in vain. How ignorant I was. 

As I arrived in France, I could not begin to explain the happiness and the wonderful hooting and hollering from the people here. They were cheering, laughing, crying, and then cheering again. They had feelings of confidence, excitement, and comfort from us. It was a warm feeling and one that I never forgot. But while they were feeling like the end of tyranny and torture was near, I was feeling that mine was just beginning. 

Parades with thousands upon thousands of soldiers from England, France, Australia, Italy, and of course the USA underwent with French women draped all over the shoulders of every man. Lipstick covered our cheeks as we moved through crowded city streets. It’s something you would see in a movie, something you could never imagine. It’s almost as if people don’t realize that this is how it really was. What you see in the movies is real. Time slowed down for a while but in the back of my mind I could never forget what we had all been though. 

At that point, there was nowhere else I would rather be. Soon I will be home and freedom will be restored. 

The year is 1914 and greed, power, and dominance has swept the world into war. We were about to undergo our first trip overseas via the USS Pocahontas on July 9, 1914. As I sit back and ponder my decisions, I start to question life as a whole. I start to question all that we’re fighting for and the true meaning behind the word “liberty.” 

This word has unique meaning to a lot of people and some see it as “freedom and democracy.” I’ll tell you one thing, the sound of shotgun shells will quickly provide a whole new meaning to the word freedom. 

This word is thrown around so loosely and while most people believe we’re out here fighting wars for the benefit of the greater good, so few understand what it’s actually for. It’s human sacrifice for the purpose of monetary gain. For the gain of power, dominance, and status. Nothing more. There’s so much inhumanity in the name of war and we go out there and coin these men and women as heroes. While those who sacrifice it all in the name of democracy deserve recognition for their service, unfortunately most of the time it’s with the wrong intention. 

Bringing It Together 

My grandfather was a smart man and his words meant the world to me. He used to tell me stories all the time about the war and how horrible it was. Unlike many men who fought, he was honest, he was real, and he wasn’t afraid to tell me the truth. He didn’t make it sound like he was this person of a higher status who deserved to be honored everywhere he went. He was a pawn and he made it very clear. 

He used to always reference Trumbo’s “Johnny Got His Gun” and talk about how much that novel meant to him. To this day, whenever I hear Metallica I think of him. 

“I can’t remember anything

Can’t tell if this is true or a dream

Deep down inside I feel to scream

This terrible silence stops me”

While the stories recounted in the book are gruesome, they don’t glorify what we do at war and I’ve always taken an interest in that. I’m always thankful for stories from Grandpa because he was real with me. He didn’t mince words and even at a young age he wasn’t sitting around flashing his commendations and telling stories of women and booze. 

He gave it to me straight and to this day it impacts the way I view war and honestly, democracy as a whole.