Jonathan Haid's comments on the spiritual nature of warfare reminded me of a passage in Captain Correli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernières. The character Mandras is something of tragic figure in the book. A simple fisherman who finds himself transformed by the horrors of war and unable to relate to the loved ones that await his return:
Once, near the Metsovon pass, in December, when it was twenty degrees below zero because there was no cloud, the Italians sent up a starshell. It exploded in a cascade of brilliant blue light against the face of the full moon, and the sparks drifted to earth in slow motion like the souls of reluctant angels. As that small magnesium sun hovered and blazed, the black pines stepped out of their modest shadows as though previously they had been veiled like virgins but had now decided to be seen as they are in heaven. The drifts of snow pulsed with the incandescence of the absolute chastity of ice, a mortar coughed disconsolately, and an owl whooped. For the first time in my life I shivered physically from something other than the cold; the world had sloughed away its skin and revealed itself as energy and light.Quite beautiful.
It is my wish to get well so that I can go back to the lines and experience, perhaps for only one more time, that immaculate moment when I saw the face of Gabriel in an instrument of war.