Reflections opened a new world of understanding today. Years after a traumatic event, I can look back and see things in a totally different and healing fashion.
I couldn’t do it when the shit was happening. It hurt too much.
Even five or ten years after the trauma, I’d get sweaty palms and a sped-up heartbeat when thinking about the worst day of my life. I couldn’t dwell for too long without having to relive the God-awful experience.
And then I attended a silent retreat where I had time to do nothing but reflect. I grabbed a notebook and started writing. I don’t know why. I guess the Universe felt I was ready for seeing reality at that moment.
I wrote and wrote until the next scheduled meditation session. When that ended, I wrote some more, reflecting as if I was a studio audience member watching a live television show like we had in the 50s.
As an observer, I had no emotional investment in the actions occurring on stage. I simply watched what I did that terrible day. It wasn’t pretty. It was terrifying if you want to know the truth.
The major players were grunts trudging through the jungles of Vietnam with me as the platoon leader. I feared the enemy was waiting for us across a river, so I backed up one of the two squads I was leading. I called the mortar platoon and gave my coordinates and asked for shells to drop. They fell once, twice, and three times, with me asking the shooter to “step back” each round to bring it closer to what I perceived as the targeted area.
The next round fell on my men, wounding five of them and blowing off the kneecap of a private whose first day in the bush almost wiped him out.
Now you know why I didn’t want to relive this event. This horrible day.
But being a true observer, I simply watched this time, focusing on my next steps as I called in a medevac helicopter and ordered my other men to come to their aid. I spoke to the injured private who had cried out in pain. Every time I spoke to him, he stopped his crying and listened to each of my words as I comforted him, advising him that he would be all right. When called back to the “horn,” the radio receiver, he would cry again. I calmed him with my voice some more and I believe I prevented him from going into shock.
I realized as an observer that the 22-year-old first lieutenant did everything in his power to make up for his mistake. I was proud of him. I finally understood that war causes so many injuries, and so many mistakes, including the worst kind, the mistakes of the mind.
You forgave yourself. Self forgiveness is a difficult task but, you’ve done it.
We are not taught these things, yet should be … Having learned what you did, and sharing it can give hope and life to others who you may never know …
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