The most important men in my life have gone to war. The only two I knew as active soldiers during my life included my husband, 1st Lt. James Larry Hull, USAF killed in 1971. The other was my brother Lt. JG Clifton Rodney Decker, United States Navy. Both served in the Vietnam War. My brother came home; my husband did not, and his remains did not return home until 2006. My father, Clifton H. Decker, served in World War II, but he did not go overseas or into battle due to health issues.
Furthermore, I have the personal history, experiences and familiarity with great loss to know that the cost of war is inexplicably difficult.
This past weekend, I was reminded of the inexplicable cost of war when I watched the award-winning film 1917 in theaters. Depicting the triumph, challenges and seemingly impossible mission faced by two British soldiers tasked with delivering an ever-important message, this movie depicted the true horrors and destruction that World War I left in its wake.
Although it seems so long ago, we aren’t that far removed from this trench-style war that would define generations of young men and women at the turn of the 20th Century.
World War I was my grandfather’s war. His name was Tira Garland Sexton (or PaPa as I called him), and I’m named after him. PaPa and I had some similarities that only PaPa and I shared. During World War I, PaPa developed a serious case of asthma. He told me that the doctors said his serious breathing problems were a result of breathing the mustard gas in the fox holes in France during the war. I had a terrible case of asthma as well. I didn’t jump into fox holes to save my life, but I played in the red sandy roads outside PaPa’s and my grandmother Nennie’s house at their farm.
The scenes from 1917 were excruciating to watch and haunted me after I left the theatre and into the night. Viewing the weaponry, harshly dug trenches and sheer brutality of this intense style of warfare in this cinematic display made me re-visit what it must have been like for PaPa as a solider overseas during this time.
The soldiers’ story of weaving through a series of seemingly unending mazes through a no man’s land of barbed wire, rats, dead soldiers and civilians was gripping, yet it was also a constant reminder of man’s punishment of man.
While some soldiers derived a true sense of honor and duty while serving in this war, others did not, and found themselves irreparably damaged, both psychologically and physically, by their service. The director of 1917 portrays this dichotomy brilliantly through the development of their characters in the film. My PaPa was among those who never were the same after serving in this war.
1917 is a fantastic film that I would truly recommend for those fans of military history or for those who want to connect with a personal story of triumph, bravery and loss.
Does your family have any connections to World War I? Have you seen the film and if so, what is your review?
© 2020 Tyra Manning