William Noel Hodgson prayed ambivalently in his poem “Before Action”:
By all delights that I shall miss,
Help me to die, O Lord.
At about the same time, Siegfried Sassoon’s thoughts were running colder as he marched past a corps commander:
‘Eyes right!’ The corpse-commander was a Mute;
And Death leered round him, taking our salute.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at email@example.com.