On Warriors

This evening we watched a beautiful film called Taking Chance. It is the true story of a Marine LTC who escorts the body of PFC Chance Phelps for burial. At one point, Kevin Bacon as the LTC speaks with a young Marine who was with Chance Phelps when he died. The boy (they are all kids, folks!) speaks of how he should have been the one to die. It is a conversation I have had with many of our warriors.

One soldier once told me “You know, sir, some of us don’t like it when someone thanks us for our service.” When I asked him why, he said that it separates people in the US from soldiers. “It’s like they’re thanking me for something they are not a part of. Makes us feel apart.”  I have had too many soldiers tell me of someone coming up to them and asking “Did you kill anyone?” It is an inquiry that is far too common.

Last night at the Memorial Day Concert Colin Powell pointed out the need to provide jobs to our vets. Many of us are not in a position to do that so what can we do? I would like to suggest that, more than anything else, we can take the time to listen.

Many of us don’t want to hear. Thus, the dismissive “thank you for your service.” Perhaps our own sentiments about war get in the way and we instead pass judgment. Often too we simply don’t want to hear stories of blown up battle buddies or dead children. We don’t want to hear about the guilt some warriors feel for surviving. (I listened to one brave warrior speak of feeling guilt because he came back with all his body parts!) We don’t want to listen. It’s too upsetting.

The majority of these warriors are not looking for special treatment. They simply want to know that there is still a place for them here. We can make them feel welcome not with parades but with an invitation to talk. If so honored, we each need to keep quiet and listen. Perhaps we might learn something not only about courage but about the triumph of the human spirit in the face of unimagined violence.

So if you know a veteran of the Iraq or Afghanistan campaigns, if they express a need to talk, give them the gift of your time and attention. In that way you will thank them for their service.

Reflection: 1. How have combat veterans entered your life? How have you responded?

Viewing: Taking Chance is an HBO film available on video.

About richp45198

I am a clinical psychologist and have an abiding interest in matters spiritual.
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3 Responses to On Warriors

  1. Rose Mathews says:

    Personally, I don’t know of any veterans who were in the most recent combats but I do know many WWII veterans, Vietnam veterans, and Persian Gulf War veterans. I was especially thinking about my high school friends yesterday. When I graduated in 1969, many of my male peers were leaving for the service. I only kept in touch with one young man who went to Vietnam. When he came back, he did not talk about what happened. All he wanted to know was what I had been doing. My cousin went to Vietnam when he was only 17 years old. He served two tours, got malaria, and never said a word about what he saw or did. To this day, and we are 60 years old now, he has never talked to me about his experiences. His father, my uncle, was a WWII veteran, and always talked to me about the war. He was 76 years old when he died and I was 42 years old. Most of my other veteran friends have said little to me about their experiences but they are all very proud of having served. These are the warriors that I know. I also believe other warriors are those who wanted to serve, but for many different reasons, couldn’t. My husband for one wanted to serve his country and was not able to because of a health condition he had. It tore him up. I believe Greg to be a warrior, also. All the wives that stayed behind, and continue to, and husbands, and “hold down the fort” are our warriors also. And I lift my glass to all of us that still hold up our country and the beliefs of our founding fathers. Here’s to Junior, Uncle, Bosco, Al, Frank, Frank Licon (who lost his life in Vietnam), Schurn, Mike, and all the others . . . .

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  2. Susan Bell says:

    My father who recently passed away at 76 was a veteran. Although he did not openly talk about his service he did celebrate Memorial Day, Independence Day and Veteran’s Day. He was the most Patriotic person I know. He and his military buddies beginning Friday evening through Sunday evening spent their time socializing around the dining room table playing various card and board games and though the War stories never came up I could see these men had a bond which went beyond common friendship.
    Many were broken beyond my understanding and everyone of these men had a drug or alcohol addiction. My father was a counselor and rehabilitator of these men and was available 24/7, 365 for everyone of them. I love our Military Veterans my heart goes out to them and their families…I agree our Veterans do simply want a moment of our time and often it is not to give a
    dissertation on their experience but just to have fellowship.

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  3. mikegaglio says:

    Thanks Doc! This is a good one and can really help a lot of folks.

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