The Pen Is Mightier Than the Sword: History and Meaning

The phrase, “the pen is mightier than the sword” is most often attributed to the playwriter, Edward Bulwer-Lytton. He used these words in 1839 in his historical play Cardinal Richelieu. The character Richelieu is a priest who discovers a plot against his life but feels he cannot take up a sword to defend himself. Nevertheless, he is determined to overcome the threat against him by using his words and his writing to move the minds of the people and gain support.

However, some have claimed to note even earlier uses of the phrase. The words may have been first used in a newspaper from Ireland, The Northern Whig a few years earlier in 1832. There are even earlier expressions of the same sentiment as well from centuries prior. Thomas Jefferson, William Shakespeare, and others are noted to have expressed the sentiment in different terms. Nevertheless, it was Bulwer-Lytton and his famous play which no doubt popularized the phrase and led it to become a common idiom in the minds of future generations. The phrase went onto be used in numerous publications for its relevance to the power of the media and newspapers over force and armies.

There is much truth to this old adage. It is understood in a modern context that the “pen” and “sword” are metaphorical. The pen represents words, speech, or the ability to convince and persuade others. The sword represents physical force or different forms of violence used to coerce, intimidate, or pressure others. The context in which both tools are applied is in the pursuant of gaining power, support, resources, or other goals.

With that said, the pen is mightier than the sword as a greater instrument of change. It is widely understood that convincing people to support a cause by appealing to them is more productive and also more successful than trying to force them to do something through violence or coercion. The pen inspires cooperation or friendly competition whereas the sword instills animosity and fierce resistance. It also takes more time and effort to build than it does to destroy, so finding peaceful and harmonious solutions to get people to work together is beneficial to everyone involved, especially long-term.

While few would contest the truth in the phrase, there are some who do, and I would be remiss not to share some insight from the other side of the spectrum. Firstly, it is often those who wield the pen exclusively who subscribe to its mightiness. It is all they know, for they cannot or do not know how to wield the metaphorical sword. Of course pen-wielders would say the pen is mightier and would defend that sentiment most ardently, crafting grandiose narratives to endorse it and convince themselves of it more so than others. Secondly, there is the issue of the pen not having much affect against the techniques of the sword when push comes to shove, so to speak. Sword-wielders tend to be in power, and they can have pen-wielders under them who operate at their behest.

What do I think? Well, I think the truth, as it often is, lies closer to the middle. I do understand the points from both side, which is why I try to explain that the strengths of the pen and sword are different. As such, they are not always directly comparable. However, there may be a greater tendency of the pen to have might if the message is delivered successfully. This is why I advocate for knowledge to wield both the metaphorical pen and sword, as is the namesake of this blog. It is better to be able to wield both than one or the other. Foolish is the writer who thinks their pen will always save them, as is the warrior who thinks their sword is all they need.

What do you think? Do you agree with the common perspective, or do you feel more inclined to believe the sword is actually mightier? Feel free to share your thoughts. Also, please share and stay tuned for next week’s post.

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Blessed Is the Man of War

It’s been a while since I’ve done any creative or scholarly writing. I hadn’t felt any inspiration or compelling motivation for the past few months to write anything outside of work. However, I attended some live music a week ago, and that seemed to be all I needed to get my ideas flowing again. This is an ABAB poem inspired by a specific verse from the book of Exodus chapter 13, verse 4: “The LORD is a man of war; JEHOVAH is His name.” As I wrote this, several other notable Scriptures naturally worked their way in.

The Lord is a man of war
And Jehovah is His name
Forever He will endure
Never is He mocked or shamed
Blessed is His great nation
We answer with faith and trust
Our Lord of all creation
He who made us from the dust
Though the devil plots and plans
Satan's schemes so unending
The righteous are God's firm hands
Never do we cease fighting
Though weary we may become
Always shall we find our rest
United we are as one
The Lord calls for nothing less
The devil gives rest to none
His people are run ragged
They spurn all the Lord has done
In their sin they fall rabid
Praise the Lion of Judah
He rules with an iron rod
Our commander, Jehovah
Praise to our Almighty God
Blessed be the Lord, my strength
Who teaches my hands for war
For Him, I go any length
Just to hear His mighty roar

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The Sweetness of the Unseen

Being so busy recently has reminded me of how fond I am of simple days where not much happens. Those times when life is predictable are often more rewarding than days filled with excitement. After all, excitement brings with it uncertainty, and thus, fear. But certainty gives a sense of peace. The significance of that feeling is not lost on me.

This poem expresses my contemplation of the sweetness of simplicity and how those uneventful days can be the most rewarding. It trailed off into other associated thoughts of why this might be. That led to my realization of how I long for what I do not currently have. After all, I have craved the opposite before, and I wondered why that was. Thus, this poem turned out to be more of an exercise in free association than anything focused on a specific theme.

Great peril do some hearts consume
The rush of hazard and challenge
The relief of escaping doom
On the edge of danger's talons
But what a way is that to live?
To barely keep one's grip on life
Unsure of what each day will give
Each morn delivering new strife
The simple days I find the best
With peace aplenty to be found
The sweet touch of a good day's rest
The drums of doom silent and bound
Respite from our woeful story
All the sweeter is peace reclaimed
More than the taste of victory
Or are the two one in the same?
For what is peace if not reward?
Reward for battles fought and won
Is not peace what triumph affords?
The gift earned for a job well done
All I know is for what I long
And that oft does change day by day
For rest can again make us strong
Yet strength unused does fade away
Oh, how I long for simple days
When it seems they do elude me
What the heart misses, it does praise
So sweet is that we do not see

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A Journey Just Beginning

I have finally made it to 100 posts on the Pensive Warrior, and it is a fitting time for the occasion. I wonder if it is just a coincidence this milestone was met with the new year just around the corner. I always seem to be finishing or starting something big just as the year comes to an end. Perhaps it is only natural that a sense of finality hangs in the air come the new year, as it is a symbolic time for ends and beginnings.

I am quite pleased with how this blog has come along. I have been quite busy over the past few months and have struggled to put out content as consistently as I have before. However, that is a good thing for me, as it is always a blessing to be busy. Also, if I were not so busy, my 100th post would not have come right on the eve of the new year! And if that had not occurred, I might not have been in the right mood or mind for such a post. As such, I think things worked out just as they should’ve, and I certainly wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Earliest Days

When I first started this blog, I was an unbeliever, but also an empiricist. I did not have faith in God because He had never proven His existence to me. However, I did believe in empirical evidence; pattern recognition. I still do. Thus, I always recognized the Bible would not be something people held to be true across time and space; across cataclysms that defined separate eras where culture was disconnected from one end to the other if there was not something truthful to it. If it were untrue – nothing more than a creation of man as an unbeliever would typically assert – then it would have fallen out of favor across cultures as all man-made philosophies do that clash with objective truth. That which is true, or hints at the truth somehow, stands the test of time.

And having been familiar with Biblical theology from a young age, as well as studying the theology of other major religions to compare and contrast them, I always maintained I agreed with the teachings of the Bible since they stand up to the scrutiny of a natural-law perspective where others don’t. And even when I was an unbeliever, I maintained I wouldn’t want to live in a world filled with people who don’t believe in or follow God. Morality cannot exist a priori – meaning it cannot be deductive and thus requires a lawgiver, lest morality devolve into a matter of opinion and defeat the purpose of its existence. Thus, a world where belief in a lawgiver such as God is lacking – a world of unbelief – invariably becomes a world characterized by a ruthless disregard for all that is good. History shows this play out time and time again in a neverending repeat of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah (e.g., Ancient Persia, Ancient Rome, Revolutionary France, Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, Communist China, etc.).

With my background in psychology, I understand the concept of socialization. That is, people learn and acquire behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs from those they socialize with. We model ourselves after the models we surround ourselves with, or are surrounded by. In wanting to ensure I socialized others around me to be and do something valuable with the talents they possess, I sought to use my talent for writing to create something both enjoyable and valuable for others pro bono. That way, through no expectation of anything in return, I might give something out to the world worth giving. Somewhere along the way, I discovered my faith in God after delving deeper into His Word and establishing a relationship with Him. Since then, my desire to give something worthwhile to the world with the gift of writing God gave me has only grown. To that end, I have no plans to cease.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Moving forward, I do expect my writing career to get even busier. Nevertheless, I do still plan to post here indefinitely and as often as possible. Though, whereas I was able to post every week consistently in the past, I doubt I will be able to continue doing so without changing things a bit. I have been hesitant to post poetry regularly in the past because I do still enjoy posting articles about history, important figures, and other ideas; and I didn’t want to seem repetitive. I posted poetry often when I ran out of time because it is quick and easy to produce.

From now on, I will seek to post something once a week as intended. However, I will not be shy about posting poetry multiple weeks in a row anymore. I do want to keep original content posted regularly on this blog, and that means I will have to scale back on the articles I post here as I take on other writing responsibilities in my career. I think I shall focus more on hybrid article-poems like this blog post I wrote about the actions of John Paul Jones at the Battle of Flamborough Head. I enjoyed the style of briefly covering the events and then transitioning into a poem about them. This combined the quick turnaround of poetry-focused content with the intrigue of history and tradition.

With that said, here’s a poem I wrote contemplating the future and how we keep moving forward day by day in spite of great darkness all around us.

Every day tests our will and heart
Our will to survive and push on
And the heart's resistance to pain
We lie in longing for the dawn
What is it that drives us onward?
To reach for new heights never reached?
That urge to always be greater
And breach all those bounds not yet breached
It is the Lord our God in us
Working through us with His Spirit
To live the life we were made for
A life defying death's limit

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To Give Without Want: A Haiku Series

Christmas is many things to many people, with an origin story not many know. As I know it, Christmas is the time we celebrate the birth of Jesus (Yeshua) the man whom the Angel of the Lord manifested for the eventual purpose of shedding His innocent blood on the earth for the atonement of sins. With the eternal innocent blood of the God-man, people from all over the earth have a viable sin offering to call upon into eternity. The act of the Son of Man having been born to die for others embodies the act of selfless gift-giving. In turn, we are called to emulate this act through our own selfless giving of gifts to others.

God calls upon us
To live our lives as He would
To be holy men
For what is life made?
What is the purpose of man?
If not to live well?
And how to live well?
What sets man apart from beast?
What makes a good life?
To give of oneself
Without wanting in return
This does make a man
For a man does give
He gives all he has to give
So others may have
As God gave His Son
To a people unworthy
So we may be saved
So too do we give
Without wanting in return
On this Christmas day

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The Importance of Cleaning and Maintenance

Everyone knows it is essential to keep weapons clean and well-maintained. Saying it can seem like beating a dead horse, so to speak. Although, there are some nuances that bear discussing and some critical points which may be lesser known. I know for myself, cleaning and maintaining the weapons I own is something that can be easy to overlook. If for no other reason, it will be a good reminder to myself of the importance!


As we all know, when a firearm is discharged, carbon deposits build up inside the gun. Those deposits will harden and impede the function of the gun. As such, it is necessary to take the gun apart and remove the deposits with a solvent. It also helps to lubricate the moving parts with oil where there is metal-on-metal contact. This will make the parts last longer by preventing wear and tear. Oil also protects the metal from corrosion and rust. These are all the obvious reasons to keep a gun clean and well-maintained.

There are other not-so-obvious benefits to this seemingly mundane activity, however. Cleaning and maintaining a firearm fosters knowledge of how to take the gun apart and put it back together. It also fosters an understanding of how the gun functions and what parts make contact with each other, especially after the firearm has been put through a bit of use. Wear marks and carbon buildup show clearly what parts of the gun are under the most stress, something which may not be so clear on a model or replica gun. Of course, parts that are too worn down may need replacement, which is another thing cleaning and maintenance makes one aware of.

Cleaning and maintaining a firearm can be seen as a chore. Thus, it fosters a certain level of discipline, as well as respect for one’s equipment. If you have to actively take care of something, you will come to value it more so than something which does not require care. This transfers to other areas of life and makes one a more responsible individual when the performance of the chore becomes habitual. Also, it may be a lifesaver one day to know how to clean and maintain one’s own weapons rather than relying on someone else for that simple task.


It is true that one should not bring a “knife to a gunfight,” so to speak. After all, combatants armed with only edged weapons generally do not perform so well against combatants armed with ranged weapons, barring a few exceptions. What are those exceptions? Well, close-quarters situations, of course. When grappling with an opponent, a firearm can be a much less reliable weapon compared to a short knife.

Thus, even when carrying a firearm, a knife is important as well. And all but the most high-end steel knives have to be cleaned and maintained. Some modern steels are very corrosion-resistant, although most steel still needs to be protected from the elements. A wet knife can become a rusty knife, and a rusty knife can be very brittle. Therefore, knives should be kept clean, dry, and lightly oiled.

Of course, sharp knives are safe knives. Dull knives will require more force to use and thus are more likely to drag and slip during a cut. If that happens, you may cut yourself, something, or someone else you did not intend to. Some knives are easier to sharpen than others, although knives that are easier to sharpen generally do not hold an edge as well. Thus, knives that are harder to sharpen generally need less sharpening. This can be a bonus to longevity because sharpening removes metal from the blade and thus reduces its lifespan. Also, if it is possible to tone the edge of a knife instead of sharpening it, this may increase the lifespan. Though sometimes sharpening is necessary.

A few last thoughts. Folding knives require more maintenance than fixed-blade knives. This is because they have more parts to their construction and they have moving parts. Folding knives may have to be taken apart o be cleaned and maintained. The benefit of a folding knife is obviously its lack of a separate sheath, as the folding knife folds in on itself. It is one piece, which is very convenient. Though this convenience tends to be the only advantage, coming at the cost of reliability and functionality in every other respect.

Final Thoughts

When I first started carrying weapons for self-defense years ago, I viewed having to clean and maintain them as a chore. It was something I knew I needed to do, but I was not fond of it. Recently though, the activity has grown on me. So, perhaps it is an acquired taste. Although I also suspect I did not enjoy cleaning and maintaining weapons when I was still learning how to do it and I had to often stop what I was doing to check reference materials, ensuring I was doing everything correctly. Now that the process has become second nature to me, I do not mind it so much. In fact, it can be quite enjoyable.

So, if you are the kind of person who does not like to clean your guns or whatever you carry for protection, I would just say to not give up on it. You have to do it anyway, and it pays to know how to do it yourself. Also, it may just grow on you too.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Every day we still live is a blessing from the Lord. No matter the hardships we endure. No matter the challenges we struggle with. We always have Him to thank for delivering us through every trial. May all those who still draw breath give thanks to God for this blessed day.

We give thanks to God Almighty
He delivers us day by day
Each day a chance to be holy
Every day a chance to belay
When times get rough and we falter
The Lord tests our will to go on
Strife brings us back to God's altar
Those who still live are not yet gone
For hope is boundless in supply
Always there for those who seek it
Never does hope run short or dry
If we keep faith, the Lord won't quit
Happy Thanksgiving to us all
Let all rejoice and be grateful
For the grace upon which we call
Every day we remain faithful

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The Hero with No Name

This is a ballad I am working on to tell the tale of John of Austria (1547-1578), also known as Don Juan de Austria. Born out of wedlock, he was the son of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and the half-brother of King Phillip II of Spain. He was a brave and enduring man, scorned by many of his family and peers who were suspicious of him due to his illegitimate origins. He was raised as “Jerónimo” first by Francisco and Ana Massi, then by Luis and Doña Quijada. When he returned to his family of birth, he was denied his family name and instead given the title Don Juan de Austria.

His father wanted him to enter into service in the church, but Don Juan de Austria would find himself drawn to the life of a soldier. When in his half-brother’s service, he was often sent away and put under the command of others loyal to the king. Philip distrusted his brother, Juan, seemingly due to jealousy. Don Juan de Austria was described as very charming and athletic, making him popular with many. Despite Phillip’s attempts to stop his rise to prominence, Don Juan de Austria would be trusted with leading the Holy League at the Battle of Lepanto (1571).

An illigitimate union
A son born and hidden away
Concieved in shame, raised in secret
A knight to be who'll save the day
His father's wish to join the church
Guided his youth and early trends
But a soldier rises within
A hero and leader of men
Brought back into the family
Recognized as a bastard son
Denied his name, given one new
Don Juan de Austria has come
Eager to prove and make his name
A young lad full of strength and cheer
Keen to rise and stand in the light
And save the world from endless fear
Heretics raze and raid unhinged
Evil unleashed across the land
Knights of God called to meet the dark
Yet few there are willing to stand
The nations rage against their kin
Christendom does stand divided
Protestant and Catholic raise fists
Their true foes roaming unfettered

Yet men of honor still do rise
To stand against the dark they loath
Hence came Don Juan to lift his name
And meet the dark where it goeth
So he went without Phillip's faith
Though faith of man he needed not
For the Lord on high walked with him
To see him through this holy deed
Slavers spread fear across the land
The Ottoman horde comes anew
Terror rises, its reach unchecked
Consuming all where they pass through
A Holy Leage dawns upon them
A budding young lad at its head
The bastard son whose rise was scoffed
Yet whose mettle proved with blood shed
The dark horde raids and pillages
Its thirst for blood a ceaseless arc
The weak fall prey to their hunger
Those unprepared to face the dark
Brave warriors of Christendom
From lands on earth, sent by Heaven
The seas ripe to be filled with blood
The blood of the guilty beckons
Men who would have sooner crossed blades
Now wield as one the sword of God
The Holy Leageu does rise up strong
To show the world His iron rod
For God wills His people be free
Free from the chains of any man
And so His people raise their swords
As one against the Ottaman
The batsard son leads them with tact
Outnumbered, yes, but not outgunned
One by one, the enemy razed
Men of God are never outdone
Twelve thousand freed from chains of man
Dark foes of the Lord driven out
Righteous men proving once again
God's will be done, without a doubt

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The Happy Warrior: A Haiku Series

The story of Wojtek the Bear was such an inspiring and wholesome story that I felt it only fitting to add a poetry post on the topic. Seeing as Wojtek was a soldier, I felt it most fitting to write a haiku series. Since haiku was developed by the warrior samurai as a form of meditation before battle, I find it particularly suitable for writing about historical warriors.

Happy warrior
The soldier bear named Wojtek
Brave as any man
Raised among humans
Thinking he was a man too
Living among them
Fearsome and gentle
A fuzzy bundle of joy
Most true to his name
When duty called him
He answered it without fear
No hesitation
He served with the men
A miracle it may be
Fighting side-by-side
Stronger than a horse
As loyal as any dog
Sly as any cat
Wojtek was his name
The bear who fought as a man
Happy warrior

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The Quenching Chill

A few weeks ago, I was terribly busy over the weekend and unable to post in time. The article I wrote was quite long and took a while to complete. I decided to make an extra pot this week to make up for that. So, here is a brief haiku series contemplating the changing of the seasons to the colder part of the year.

The cold weather brings with it some challenges which make life just a little less comfortable in some ways, but which are a blessing in others. It all depends on whether we choose to see the chilliness as an inconvenience with no benefit or as a burden that is harsh, yet rewarding. The cold weather to me is like the quenching of a blade during heat treatment, strengthening the steel with rapid cooling.

Some flee from the cold
Seeking to evade its touch
Fearful of its gifts
As warmth falls away
Longing makes the heart grow fond
The cold reminds us
A gift in disguise
Teaching us to huddle close
Embrace those we love
In the cold we stand
Together, and not alone
Lest we freeze away
To live for ourselves
We live not a life of worth
If not for others
The cold brings us close
Reminding us what matters
Never to forget
A stout heart does know
As iron sharpens iron
So too does the cold

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Heroes From History: Wojtek the Bear

Wojtek – meaning “Happy Warrior” in Polish – was a Syrian brown bear who was enlisted in the Polish Army during the Second World War. He was the only non-human to ever receive an enlisted position with an official rank and payroll in a human military, at least during WWII, and potentially ever. Wojtek was raised by humans and thought he was a human himself. He is perhaps most famous for serving in the Battle of Monte Cassino where he helped carry artillery shells from supply trucks to the front lines. Wojtek achieved the rank of corporal before retiring from military service.

Early Life

Following the release of Polish prisoners-of-war from Soviet gulags, British command began raising the men into an army in Iran. During this time, Wojtek was acquired by “Anders’ Army” and became a mascot for the 22nd Artillery Support Company. During his youth, he took on many of the behaviors of the men. He wrestled and played soccer, marched on his hind legs, and learned to salute on command. Wojtek loved smoking cigarettes, drinking coffee and beer, and eating the oranges the men threw for practice throwing grenades.

Wojtek standing at attention
Wojtek copied the behavior of the men of the 22nd and would march, stand at attention, and salute with them.

Wojtek also loved to sneak into the communal showers to bathe himself and keep cool. He learned how to break into the locked showers and turn the water on himself. This caused water shortages at times, as he would take long showers. However, this would turn out to be a blessing in disguise as Wojtek once reportedly captured an enemy spy hiding in the showers. Wojtek snuck into the communal showers where he found the spy and began roaring until others came to see what the commotion was about. The spy was too scared to move for fear of the bear and was then taken into custody.

Military Career

When the 22nd was leaving the Middle East to be deployed in Europe, they attempted to take Wojtek with them. However, the British ship they were boarding did not allow animal mascots or pets aboard. To circumvent this regulation, Wojtek was officially enlisted as a private with the 22nd. This allowed him to stay with the men who had raised him a bit longer. He would also prove to be an asset rather than a liability, copying the activities he saw the men performing. This would be most beneficial during the Battle of Monte Cassino.

In 1944, the Allies were advancing toward Rome in Italy. The Italians had already surrendered and were now aiding the Allied advance through their territory. The Germans, however, continued to fight. German troops stationed across Italy put up resistance to the Allies, even as their Italian counterparts laid down their weapons. The Polish II Corps was part of the assault on Monte Cassino which was suspected to be an observation post used by the Germans to coordinate their artillery strikes in the area.

Emblem of the 22nd Artillery Support Company
The official emblem of the 22nd Artillery Support Company after the Battle of Monte Cassino.

The 22nd Artillery Support Company was resupplying artillery guns from their supply trucks throughout the battle, a task which required men to carry crates of artillery shells from the trucks to the front line by hand. Usually, four men were required to carry a single crate, as they were extremely heavy. Wojtek saw the men performing this task and copied what they were doing. He helped to carry the crates alongside them, walking on his hind legs. Wojtek was able to carry the heavy crates all by himself, taking a significant burden off the men of the 22nd.

The story of Wojtek’s role in the battle was controversial, as many refused to believe a bear actually helped in such a way. However, there was at least one British soldier who corroborated the report of a bear helping to carry crates of artillery shells. Still, some insist Wojtek only carried empty crates. Nevertheless, Wojtek was promoted to the rank of corporal for his exemplary service in the Battle of Monte Cassino. The 22nd also adopted an image of a bear carrying an artillery shell as their company emblem after the action.


Wojtek was retired and sent to Scotland in 1945. He could not go back to Poland as the Russians had taken over the country, and the Polish people feared Wojtek would be used for communist propaganda if he were sent to the land he fought for and represented. He eventually found a home at Edinburgh Zoo in 1947. At first, he was placed with other bears, but this did not work out for Wojtek. He thought he was human and did not have the social skills to be with other bears. So, he lived out the rest of his days in his own personal enclosure.

Wojtek in retirement
Wojtek in retirment

Men of the 22nd would come to visit Wojtek at the Edinburgh Zoo after the war. They would hop the fence and wrestle with him. Some would also bring him treats of beer and cigarettes. Wojtek lived until the age of 21. He died in December of 1963 from damage to his esophagus, likely from smoking cigarettes. Today, a statue commemorating Wojtek can be found in Edinburgh.


There are countless stories of exceptional bravery, honor, and service among human beings, and more than a few such stories featuring animals. Still, most of those involve dogs and horses. It is rare to see a bear find such a place in human history. Wojtek may not have understood the significance of his actions, and may have simply been copying the behavior of the humans he saw around him. Nevertheless, his actions displayed the same dedication as any other man in the 22nd Artillery Support Company, and he will be remembered for his part in the battle of good versus evil.

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