“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother”.                                             Shakespeare’s Henry V, St. Crispin’s Day Speech

I hate that I cannot live up to that expectation, a life-long brotherhood.

I hate Saint Crispin.

I hate Saint Crispin’s Day and the man who made it so. [Assuming it was a man.]

I hate King Henry V.

I hate William Shakespeare.

I hate Stephen Ambrose.

I hate the book “Band of Brothers”.

I hate the HBO Mini-series “Band of Brothers” .

I hate the concept of ‘band of brothers’.

But, I do not hate myself.

This might be an exaggeration with some poetic license thrown in for good measure but I am struggling with the ‘Band of Brothers’ concept.

Historical Perspective

Shakespeare’s Henry V, St. Crispin’s Day Speech:  “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother”.   That is a lofty pronouncement.

Stephen Amborse’s book “Band of Brothers” [1992] and the subsequent HBO mini-series [2001] shaped the concept of ‘The Bands of Brothers’ or ‘Brotherhood’ for short.  Mild coincidence that the HBO mini-series is released before the 9-11/Afghan War, giving service members an idealistic view of serving together.

Reality Versus Perception.

No doubt whenever a small group of people experience a challenging or stressful situation such a war, music hall shootout or maybe a ship wreck there is a unique bonding between the survivors that happens during and after the event.

Shakespeare and Henry V’s life-long ‘Band of Brothers’ is the ideal; a gold standard to be achieved.  We veterans want to be a ‘Band of Brothers’: keeping in contact, staying friends forever;   growing old together;   eventually, dying together.  Isn’t that what VFW halls are for?

The mini-series ‘Band of Brothers’ popularized the ‘Band of Brothers’ concept and myth: that when we serve together, we are for ever connected.   That is the ideal.  While in the moment we might even want that to happen.  The real world is somewhat different.

The ‘band of brothers’ lives only in the moment; I say again: “The ‘band of brothers’ lives only in the moment”.  While we eat, sleep, train, work, fight and sometimes shed blood together, we are ‘brothers’.

In our minds, where our unshared personal thoughts live; we might want this to be true: being brothers beyond our time together.  However, in our minds, we might also know this cannot happen- the ‘band of brothers’ will not live on once the ‘band’ is broken up.

It’s really nobody’s fault; just the way is.  When we leave the war zone, demobilize, going our separate ways is what we do.  We say we will keep in contact and say ‘call me anytime you need to talk’[like you are feeling suicidal], but somehow we just do not talk enough: in the beginning we keep in contact a lot then the contact slowly trickles down and stops.

I try to keep in contact with a few close service members, but not everyone with whom I served.  I feel guilty and conflicted about the lack of contact, but know that it is not possible.  If I get a call [or an email] for help, which I have; I respond, helping as best I can.

Beginning new chapters in our lives, the past is further behind us.  ‘The Band of Brothers’ begins to slowly die the death of reality.  This is not to say we do not care for each other, only that life is now in the way- calling becomes rarer and visits disappear.  Less time to look backwards; barely enough time to look forward.  Maybe that is why reunions are every five years?  Got to go to the reunions!!

The ‘Band of Brothers’ fails each other- the suicide rate has not come down much has it?  The problem is, for the most part, we are too young and inexperienced to help ourselves, let alone anyone else.  When a ‘brother’ in need calls, we want to help our ‘brother’; but we might not know the path.  How can we help?  The worst call is the call never comes.  Shame and despair could be holding ‘brothers’ back from calling for help.

This is one big complicated mess, the one thing we did not train for:  when the ‘band’ is broken and we go home- what do we do next?

So, I do not know St. Crispin or why he has a day named for him.

King Henry V is just another English King with whom I have no quarrel.

How can anyone hate Shakespeare- really?  Unless his work is that of Francis Bacon- I love a good conspiracy theory.

I read several of Stephen Ambrose books and found them to be interesting; utilizing the interview style in order to get first-hand accounts.

The “Band of Brothers” mini-series is one of the best, war or non-war stories ever on television.

But that does not change my opinion of the ‘band of brothers’ concept.

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