They are involved in every war, every conflict. They are the forgotten ones; the true innocents. They are the children.
They are used as human shields and hostages. Some are pressed into service as soldiers while others are condemned to a life of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.
They are the flotsam of the battlefield; an inevitable consequence of conflict. They are casualties of war.
These are the ones who are caught in the middle. The ones who must endure the hardships and trauma of something they cannot control themselves, yet they are as much a part as those who fight.
They are combat's secret shame. They are the children. They are casualties of war.
We have seen them in every war. We have seen their suffering and the desolation, the pain, the anger, and the loneliness of abandonment. Still, we continue on our course of destruction as if they were never there.
It is easy for those who have never seen war up close to sit back and play armchair general. It is easy for us as we sit in the relative safety of our comfortable homes to detach ourselves from what we see; easy to say it isn't our problem.
Easy indeed! For how many of us have had to see our children executed by death squads? How many of us have held our child in our arms as they slowly bleed out from injuries sustained in a rocket attack or airstrike? How many parents have had to endure the sight of their children being beaten, raped, and dragged from their homes, never to be seen again? How many of us have had to bury our child in a shallow grave by some roadside? Not only for ritualistic purposes but to prevent animals from scavenging the remains.
This is the face of war that many refuse to look at yet this is its true face. We watch as human lives are reduced to numbers on a spreadsheet. As we see the cleaned up version, the sanitized and edited view, it is easy to forget that behind every number, every statistic, there is a human being.
While we as adults try to rationalize and justify, what of the children? Who mourns for these fallen ones? They are the innocents. They are casualties of war.