On this Veterans Day, 11-11-11, what would you tell yourself if you could go back in time and greet that young man recently returned home from the war?
War is never the answer, but only a failure on all sides to reach an answer.
I would tell that 22-year-old not to be angry at an enemy your country had demonized today. Tomorrow, his country may become a trading partner with us; that the enemies’ beliefs may one day become our beliefs, particularly if we seek enlightenment within, where his spiritual teachers tell all of us to look.
Don’t be mad at, or hold a grudge against, those who avoided what you simply called “doing your duty.” They too were afraid to face war, and deferred a life-long of their own hell in questioning if they could ever have been “man enough” to place themselves in harm’s way for the sake of another. Even if that “other’ was someone called “your buddy” in the “Bush” besides you, a Jew or Gentile, a White or Black, an Irishman or Greek.
They will never know how much you really became “alive” when you faced the real possibility of death. How you survived on nothing but your wits, your cunning and the compassion for your fellow men whose lives depended on your doing the right thing, doing your duty, even if it meant bringing injury to yourself to help the members of your squad, of your platoon.
You cared nothing about an economic system back home that might one day disintegrate from the greed crushing down from the top; or whether one fundamentalist group would seek to destroy another in the name of an Allah, a Jesus or a Jehovah.
Your purpose this Veterans Day — 11-11-11 — is to reaffirm your commitment to your fellow man, the one you looked after, and would have given your life to safeguard. He is as close to you today as he was years ago, and you can see him in the faces of every man, woman and child who wants no more from life than what you did when you took up your rifle and offered to protect everyone: to end suffering and to attain happiness.
Put down your weapon, Michael J.
Study war no more . . .
War is never the answer 11-11-11
Beautifully written and inspired. Thank you. God Bless our Veterans and God Bless YOU! Thank you for serving our Country.
I thank you for what you do every day to help not only the veterans, but all who are soothed by your loving-kindness,
Thank you for profound insights about your experience, Michael J. Those of us who have never experienced the horror of war can only imagine the experience. What you share helps me feel a degree of compassion – albeit sorely insufficient for our Vets’ need!
Talk about a dichotomy.
Other Vets, the very people who can best empathize and show compassion, probably don’t have much “medicine in their medicine chest” to spare.
Thank you. A spoonful of sugar can always help the medicine go down no matter how much or how little a medicine chest might contain.
This was a very profound letter to the world. I have never been in Vietnam. I was the one back home who enjoyed my liberties while this war was fought. I don’t know what I would tell myself back in time if I greeted this young man returning from war. I would be ashamed of myself, I think. I would tell myself that I must try and get to know the young man slowly. Only through his telling of his experience, could I begin to understand what he endured, what buddies he lost, what horrors he experienced. You did not mention the age one would be if they met the young man. I am basing your question on my age now. Back then, I was probably the same age as the young man, but married to someone much older than myself. I had a child. I was engrossed in a very different life experience than the young man returning from hell. Life is very cruel.
The young man would have felt “welcomed home” by people who understood war was not the answer, and that Americans should not have held their soldiers liable for the wrongs a country chose to pursue.
I think he would have enjoyed getting a warm hug from you too, whether married with a young child or not.
Excellent reflections. Thank you for sharing this.
Forty years ago I returned home from the Vietnam War, but its lessons are still with me. “I will fight no more forever.”