The war is finally over, but not in the way I wanted it to end. I must say that while I would have preferred if we won, at least it is over. I have seen enough of my friends and fellow soldiers die on the battlefield to last myself a lifetime.
Since the last time I wrote to you, I went back to the front and after that went on leave. At the front I witnessed a young recruit go mad from hunger, thirst, and claustrophobia and rush out of a dugout only to get blown up by a shell. I saw a man’s arms get amputated from his body by barbed wire, and I saw a Lance Corporal’s head get torn off and his blood gushed out like a fountain. To my greatest sorrow, Haie Westhus was killed during our time at the front. You never met him, but I think you would’ve liked him a lot.
My leave was, if possible, more horrible than being at the front. During my time at home I learned that my mother had contracted cancer. Everyone I met in town only talked of my military service as a gift instead of living in hell just because I got free food. My father even wanted me to wear my uniform to dinner so he could flaunt the “honor” of having a soldier in the family. Of course, my whole goal was to forget the war for a couple sweet weeks. Remember Kantorek, the teacher who made me and my friends join the army, I saw him getting grilled by his commanding officer. To be honest, that was the only good part of the trip.
When I got back from leave I was stationed at a prison camp housing Russian soldiers. I don’t think I have ever felt worse about the state of the world than when I saw those poor decrepit men. I gave them some of my own pitiful military rations so they could live longer and better. I had to go back to the front after that, and I met back up with Kropp, Tjaden, and Kat. We went on a scouting mission, but I was petrified with fear and lost my sense of direction. The French were rushing us, so I hid in some mud, but a French soldier came and I stabbed him without thinking. I listened to him slowly die for a whole day because it was too dangerous to leave my hiding spot, then, at night, I managed to get back to our trench.
This war has taken everything from me, and my world has fallen apart. I could have had children and owned a business if this war hadn’t happened, but instead, I am stuck eating ancient bread at home with no chance of getting anywhere farther in life because of the reparations Germany has to pay the Allies. I had made a vow during my time at the front to anonymously help out the family of the soldier that I killed, but I must keep myself and my family alive first. Things are pretty grim right now, but I hear that the US is doing great, so hopefully that means that you are doing well. I hope I can come visit you soon in Boston.
Your friend, Paul