What Happens When A Soldier Dies | By Anthony Achonye



I have always admired men of the military. There has always been an innate gallantry about their entire outfit even before I learned what gallantry meant. I have carried in my person a deep respect for this man, and that man, with hearts big enough to keep the nation alive – a profound reincarnation of One who gave up his life for those who were not yet his friends. Can there be greater love?

I will not fancy that a man would enlist in the military because he has sought occupation elsewhere without fruit

Each Person may have his ideal soldier in his mind and may have searched vainly for this ideal in any one soldier, or on the other hand would have gasped for air after the breathtaking epiphany of the soldier of his dreams in some book of history. There are no true soldiers who are not yet dead, at least to their own selves.

I will not fancy that a man would enlist in the military because he has sought occupation elsewhere without fruit. Would anyone lay down his life for mere pay? Still, I’d be blind to deny their staggering multitude in the ranks and files of our soldiery.

Thrusting forward from the times before the discovery of guns, when warfare meant contact combat with all the swordsmanship and horsemanship, when the archer had a role to play and the shield was cover enough. When might was actually muscle power and all the ancient strategies developed to augment might into victorious battles. Running past these times of cold blooded confrontations when wars were fought by, call them, warriors, to our times when the arrow has found a monstrous progeny in the ballistics of modern weaponry, and the bullet has taken more lives than all the swords of ancient Rome and medieval Turks combined.

With what can man be shielded when the bombs come screaming at him?

I fancy everyone will admit more than bravery is required in modern warfare than ever before given the various mutations death has undergone, a soldier could go to war in our time and not only get killed but have his very substance wiped off.

It is quite a human thing to die but an undue exaggeration to be wiped off.


2019 Armed Forces Remembrance Day commemoration at Abuja (Credit: The Nation)

This all the more deepens my admiration for the many men true to their call who stand their ground until they no longer can – either because the ground suddenly engraves them or they receive the order to retreat.

Who is a soldier? What is his job?

Every normal man strives to make a living. A soldier, on the other hand, strives to keep him alive. Where most else seek to make ends meet, the soldier strives to keep ends together.

Is there any nation without need of these immortal mortals?

There is something heroic about being responsible for something. The nursing mother carries this heroism somewhere between her breasts, the father of the home somewhere along his shoulders.

The height of this heroism which comes with responsibility increases with the increasing dignity of what one is responsible for.

What is more dignifying than life?

Who then is more heroic, the one who keeps five alive or the other who dies to keep two hundred million alive?

I hate to admit the verity of bad soldiers, their very existence is anguish enough to quench the gallantry of many battalions. I wish the totality of these weeds were no soldiers in the first place but He who made all things seems to have wisdom hidden in allowing both wheat and cockle to grow until harvest. Only it is plaguing to see the cockle outnumber the wheat, and even choke them to death!

What fine encumbrance! What disastrous sabotage!

I had set out to treat the events surrounding the death of the true soldier, but am held back by an honour he obliges me for staying alive in the first place.

Every normal man strives to make a living. A soldier, on the other hand strives to keep him alive

At the death of a soldier many things happen, none insignificant. A nation may lose her finest or she may birth a hero forever.

The soldier sees it coming the whole time, his death, but as though he had a pact with death, he strives to stay alive through the conundrums of repeated battles as though obeying the last command.

He does not stay alive, as most of us mortals, that he may live, but that those of us for whom he signed to die may stay alive. We have families, he has one too. We are fathers, someone calls him daddy too. He too is a son, a husband. He too has dreams and aspirations, only his dreams are to ensure we have sleep in the first place wherein to dream.

I do not know which is more fatal, the bullet which killed the soldier in battle or the message which brings home news of the infamous blow.

Aim. Fire. Dead.

The bullet is the finest soldier there is, and the most indiscriminate.

It goes where it is sent and has no respect for the badge of its recipient: Field Marshall or Major, 4-Star General or Second Lieutenant. It lodges itself exactly where it is sent and if the shooter is as fine, as some sinister guest, leaves the host dead.

The message of this death, on the other hand seems to be the bullet rising out of his dead host and seeking his beloved in a sort of unmerited nemesis. It multiplies itself on this homeward journey enshrined in the heart of a fellow comrade, one shot arrives the ear of the head of the troop and informs him of the loss in the ranks. Other rounds re-fireĀ  into the ear of the family of the fallen hero, and almost immediately, as the blast of a canon, takes many persons down in one shot: son, husband, father, friend and all a man could be.

He too has dreams and aspirations, only his dreams are to ensure we have sleep in the first place wherein to dream.

This is what happens when a soldier dies. The significance is in no way reduced because another fighter stands in his stead. He may have stood in his stead, any other one may do so but no one would succeed in replacing him.

The army is more than the soldier but the soldier is more than the role he plays in the army.

Map out a nation on the earth and because man is fallen (I see no other justification for wars aside that there is something wrong with humanity as a whole), someone somewhere will threaten its integrity and how do you ensure this threat is done away with?

You choose men much like every other men but much more unlike them as well. Train them and place them everywhere in the nation and along her fine borders to keep the garment hemmed round about and from top to bottom. You call them soldiers.

To these men with nationwide hearts, as some bloody civilian assuming a momentary status of Commander-in-Chief, I say:

“Stay Alive. That’s an order!”


Anthony Achonye for the Armed Forces Remembrance Day, in acknowledgement of the kindness of soldiers of 1 Battalion, Dukku Barracks and in the gallant memory of Lieut. Idajili, Camp Commandant for the 2018 Batch B Stream 1 National Youth Service Corps Orientation Camp, Dakin Gari, Kebbi State.


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