Zelmer wasn't able to express his feelings to Dwayne, a civilian, the same way he could to Colonel Taylor. Let's take a look at the final exchange between Colonel Taylor and Zelmer:
Taylor: "You can resume your studies when you come back, after this all blows over."
Zelmer: "Is that what you really think, sir? Do you think that this thing might blow over or do you think that it could turn into something more serious?"
Taylor: "Now, You make no mistake, soldier. This is a series set of events that could escalate into something unfortunate. I'm sorry to have to say this to you."
Zelmer: "I asked you for the truth - that's what you gave me."
Taylor: "Is there anything I can do for you? anything at all?"
Zelmer: "...can you get me out of it?"
Zelmer: "I don't think I can do this, sir. I really don't. I'm a black man in the prime of my life. I'm just now starting to live. Just starting to taste, to know who I am, to know what I'm supposed to do with myself. Feeling good about myself. My accomplishments. I can't blow out the candles now. Not now. I'm just starting to see. It's not fair, Colonel."
Taylor: "No it's not fair. I wish to God I could tell you something to make you feel better... I have a friend, a very bright painter. One day, he went blind, just like that. Some freak of nature. Ten years he was in and out of hospitals. Finally, he got some of his sight back, but he never could paint the same, though he never stopped trying. Whenever I start feeling sorry for myself, I think about him. He doesn't know it, but he's my inspiration."
Zelmer: "That story didn't really help me too much, Colonel."
Taylor: "That story wasn't supposed to help you, that story helps me. Now, soldier, son, find your own source of inspiration."
There's a lot to unpack there, and I won't make light of the conversation by trying to examine every word now. But, I encourage you to give it a second read. The thought that I find most provoking is that what is inspiring for one person may not be inspiring for every person. Personally, I find inspiration in thinking about "The Starfish Story," where a beach is covered in starfish that will likely dry up and die. A little girl tosses one into the ocean and an old man tells her that she can't make a difference when there's thousands of starfish on the shore. She turns to him and says, "well, I made a difference to that one." You can't save the world but you CAN make a difference, however small.
What/who gives you inspiration?