- N.L. Hopkins, November 26, 2013
I am a Vietnam Vet. While I never served in the combat zone, I heard so many stories of loss from those who had died in the jungles there. Yes, they all died. It is just that some came home still in their physical bodies. No person who actually participates as a combat soldier survives. There is always a death. A death of innocence. A death of a world they can never go back to.
I think the reason I was told so many horrific stories was because I was a woman. I was a soldier but I was also a woman who would not judge them. Somehow they knew that. And they all needed to confess. All were guilt ridden. They all were like little boys needing to confess to their Moms. It was only a Mom who could really tell them it was all right.
Today, with the high level of medical response available, many more dead soldiers come home alive. They come home to a world that is no longer their reality. Their families and friends cannot possibly understand that the changes in their soldiers is not in their minds. The change is in their realities. You cannot take away the reality of war. You cannot fix what is wrong. It will always be wrong. There is nothing right about war.
Your soldier love cannot tell you, or show you, or in any way convey to you what the reality of war really is. If you have not been there, you will only go there if you are courageous beyond reason. You would have to accept the reality that the person you so love committed atrocities. Combat is atrocious and it is conducted by people doing atrocious things. There is no argument here. War is inhuman; except it is conducted by humans.
They go into battle as units. They die a piece at a time. With each killing, theirs and ours, the little piece of death takes a hold on the mind and spirit. To deny this reality is to be unable to imagine the nightmares that permeate the true reality your soldier loves are condemned to live.
The secrets combat soldiers never talk about did not destroy the lives of those who fought the German and Japanese evil. It was a righteous battle. Everyone knew the sacrifices, because the entire nation was intimately involved in the “war effort”. Everyone knew war was hell, but the battle was required to fight evil empires. The secrets of combat were kept and thought of by all, as heroic actions.
The problem during Vietnam is the secrets were being kept from a nation tearing itself apart in disagreement over the Vietnam “Conflict”. And this time everyone knew the secrets were of the bad things these combat soldiers had committed for reasons too many were questioning. The Vietnam secrets being kept by the combat soldiers inflicted guilt not heroism.
Today the soldiers are coming home and honored. But it is the same schism between the reality of war and the reality of those who stayed home and stayed innocent. As a society we must bring into the open the truth of the reality building incurred, whenever we participate in war for any reason. The soldiers are forced to endure a hellish reality, from which they can never fully escape. You can never escape death nor the small pieces of death that erode the human beneath the soldier’s camouflage.
Fact of the matter is, all those excuses to conduct war are not sufficient enough to justify the change in reality we have allowed to happen, one combat soldier after another. Every soldier who executes an atrocious act adds that event to the reality of all the rest of us. We have to develop a new reality as a society and as families of combat soldiers. The soldiers have been living in a reality where war and inhuman acts exists. We must embrace this reality and accept its existence and make the only change that has any meaning.
Changing society is going to take longer than many families have. As a society we have to realize the only ones winning wars are those making money off them. We must admit we have allowed this to happen for many reasons. We have to forgive ourselves and change the future. We must all come to an understanding that war can simply not be allowed to exists.
As for the individual combat soldier, they also have to be forgiven and to forgive themselves. We have to give them a voice. And we have to ask them to forgive us. It was we who asked them to go and fight and encounter a horrific reality. We must offer them a new reality. It would be one where we acknowledge what they did at our request. It is a reality where an entire society takes responsibility for allowing the reality of war to exists and vows to disengage from that reality.
This must start with those who love the damaged combat soldier. The only way to build a new reality for you and for them is to acknowledge they live in a different reality than you do. You do not have to know the details; but you must acknowledge your loved one has a reality where terrible things were done by him/her and those who were their combat family.
That family is very much part of their reality. To acknowledge the pain and death incurred by this family is not understood by the society for which they served, compounds the differences in realities. The frustration of no one truly understanding the depravity to which this combat family went to survive, fuels anger. Between the frustration and guilt you have a person who cannot operate in the reality presented to them. We must build a new reality for us all.
It starts with each person actually thinking about war. Do not turn away from the images of death and destruction. If you are so certain there is a reason for war, than own it. If you cannot imagine a continuation of mindless war than stand up and say so. Beg those combat soldiers, who we sent into a reality that must not be allowed to continue, to forgive you. Tell them the guilt is not theirs, but is ours as a society.
Go on out to your back yard or even in your apartment. Just make a small Windy Tomb and offer it up to any lost soul trying to come out of the dark reality of war in all its evil. They will stop wandering in confusion if you just ask them for forgiveness. It is a small symbolic act; but every time you look at it, your thoughts will focus on the end of the war reality. And one day no one will be able to think of war as an alternative reality.
- For a website providing information and assistance to Veterans, their families and communities: http://www.soldiersheart.net/
- See more on Windy tombs: http://www.soldiersheart.net/resources/pdf_articles/Wandering_Souls_of_VN.pdf
- For more on Reality building: CosmicReality.net