The Ground Truth of Civil War: A Veteran’s Perspective

As a young army officer, I experienced the brutal reality of civil war firsthand. With three back-to-back tours in Bosnia, Albania, and Kosovo as a NATO and UN peacekeeper, I witnessed the chaos and destruction that such conflicts bring. Civil war is ugly, and the memories of those experiences serve as a stark reminder of what can happen when a nation turns on itself.

In Bosnia, I saw a once-peaceful society ripped apart by ethnic strife. As peacekeepers, my cavalrymen and I were tasked with enforcing order and seizing all arms. This often meant kicking in doors and confiscating weapons, including heirloom shotguns passed down through generations. I vividly remember an 80-year-old man watching in silence as we took his double-barrel shotgun, a family treasure inherited from his grandfather. At the time, it was our job—to disarm the populace and prevent further violence. But looking back more than two decades later, I realize that could have been my own grandfather.

The Balkans were a cauldron of tensions, with ethnic and religious divisions fueling the flames of conflict. In Albania and Kosovo, similar scenes played out. Families torn apart, homes destroyed, and communities left in tatters. The ground truth of civil war is not the romanticized version often depicted in media or literature; it’s a brutal, relentless grind of survival and loss. As peacekeepers, we were caught in the middle, trying to maintain some semblance of order in a world that seemed to have gone mad.

What struck me most was the pervasive sense of distrust and fear. Neighbors turned against neighbors, and the bonds that once held communities together were shattered. This was not just a battle for territory or political power—it was a fight for identity and survival. The psychological toll on the civilian population was immense, and the scars of those conflicts are still visible today.

Now, as I watch the growing polarization and division in my own country, I can’t help but draw parallels to what I saw in the Balkans. The rhetoric, the mistrust, the demonization of the “other”—it all feels eerily familiar. The media may sensationalize these divisions, but the potential for real, on-the-ground conflict is a sobering thought. Civil war is not an abstract concept; it’s a devastating reality that leaves deep wounds on a nation and its people.

Looking back on my time as a peacekeeper, I understand the importance of maintaining order and preventing violence. But I also recognize the human cost of those actions. The old man in Bosnia, with his family heirloom taken away, represents the countless personal losses that come with such conflicts. It’s a reminder that behind every strategic decision and military operation are real people with real lives, caught in the crossfire of history.

As we navigate these turbulent times, it’s crucial to remember the lessons of the past. Civil war is not a game or a political talking point; it’s a brutal, destructive force that can tear a nation apart. We must strive to bridge our divides, foster understanding, and remember that the cost of conflict is far too high.

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2 thoughts on “The Ground Truth of Civil War: A Veteran’s Perspective”

  1. All the people longing for war in America between the left & the right, should read this. The War Between the States decimated the South, and the scars remain to this day. Sherman, Grant & Lincoln led the way, and they were followed by the injustices of Reconstruction on the South. “ Fergit, Hell” was more than a slogan for a long, long time.

    • Maybe a different tack was in order… abolition of any institution founded on the idea of a right to own other human beings as property and requiring same to be an officer or officeholder under its banner.

      They’d still be a bunch of perfidious scum, but needing to reorganize from scratch would’ve set them back far enough to buy the country time to fortify itself against the next attack.

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