1

Don’t Let the Enemy Win

Hello, veterans.  Come into the chapel for a little while; I have something to tell you.

Just as I am, you are still wounded from the war, wherever and whenever that was.  Europe, the South Pacific, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Iraq, Afghanistan, or anywhere else your nation sent you to defend freedom. Thank you for serving, and welcome home.

I want you to get the help you need for the healing of your body, your mind, and your spirit.  There are more resources today than at any other time in history.  We’ve learned so much, often from our mistakes, about the aftermath and the continuing trauma of combat.

The enemy, whoever they were or are, wants you to remain broken and miserable.  That means victory for them.  Please don’t let that happen.  Get the help you need.  That’s what I did, finally, fifteen years ago.  I was tired of being a “victim” of the Vietnam War, and I made the decision to try to get out of the cave (tomb) I’d been in since 1970.  It wasn’t easy, but it saved my life.  And it meant that the Viet Cong no longer could list me on their body count.  I chose life over death, and I’ll thank God for each breath I take until my dying day…and then long after that.

I want the same for you.  You’ve suffered enough, and you’ve been on the casualty list too long, just as I was.  Our nation needs you to learn to manage your PTSD symptoms, to rise above them (though they may stay with you for a lifetime), and  use your experience and your skills to rebuild America.

If you think I can be your guide, please contact me.  I’m here and on Facebook and at rmclark46@aol.com.

0

Tears of Grief and Gratitude

When I see Old Glory rippling in the late summer breeze, calling me to remember that freedom is a costly gift, granted to me by others.

When I sit in Saint Joseph Cathedral and hear the choir’s heartsong soaring to heavenly mansions.

When memories flood my mind, often at night, to drown me in regrets of the past, and to indict me for the pain I brought to the ones I loved.

When I relive the flight out of  Danang in 1970 and the journey home…through Okinawa, Anchorage, Seattle, San Francisco,  and then on to Indianapolis and the cornfields I knew so well.

And when I see a sick little boy or girl at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and witness the fear and anguish on family faces around the tiny bed. Please, God, heal this baby and comfort these loved ones.  We have nowhere to go but to You.

0

When Tears Well Up

Robert Frost once said that most of his poems began with a “lump in the throat.”  Frederick Buechner later said the same thing about his novels and sermons.  When some event, some  some sight or sound or sigh makes my heart hurt or skip a beat, and I know I need to somehow share that moment with whoever cares to read or listen, then that is what I must do.

This morning I pondered.  What has brought a lump to my throat lately?  And here are the images that surfaced.

One of my daughters stranded at night in a broken-down vehicle.  A sunrise so glorious that I could almost see the Throne of Heaven. My grandson ready to enter the world in San Francisco, my own flesh and blood bringing something of me with him.  Watching God at work in my life, often in retrospect…since I was clueless when the miracles were happening around me and within me. The frightened and haunted look of a veteran who’s been carrying the pain of war with him for decades and is just worn out.

And the list could go on and on.  If fact, it has to…and it will.

 

0

Passion

I went last night to a meeting of the Disabled American Veterans; I’m a life member of this veterans service organization.  Capital City Chapter 3 has been a group I’ve admired for a while, because they actually DO something for our military, past and present. Some gatherings of vets, I’ve discovered, seem more interested in having a good time around a bar than in helping their comrades in arms.

The meeting was a lot of business, with laughter interspersed.  A good spirit in the room.  There were a few heated conversations, but I began to realize that the rising blood pressure and the reddening faces meant that those men cared deeply about what was being discussed.  Every one of them was passionate about the group’s mission: to make sure that those who’ve been wounded by war receive the best our nation has to give.

And then I remembered that it was a DAV chapter out in Seattle that welcomed me on a cold and dreary September day in 1999.  I was at my lowest…one of the deepest, darkest places I’ve ever known.  I’d been through a year of losing just about everything I thought I needed to survive.  And as I staggered into that office in the Pacific Northwest, I felt the compassion as the members listened and guided me to a safe place.

Last night, I sensed that same spirit, as the group addressed one issue after another.  All related to problems and challenges facing veterans of all ages, but especially focused on those still on active duty, many of whom are trying to transition back into civilian life.  The warriors and their families bear the scars of battle, and my chapter almost shouted their support and their passionate concern for the well being  of the ones we’ve sent to defend freedom around the world.

As I drove home, I thanked God for my DAV chapter.   And I prayed that this same enthusiasm and commitment would mark the way  we all treat those coming home from war…or service anywhere.

0

A Good Sunday

Started the day with a morning walk.  Martha and I love the cooler weather and the first signs of Autumn.  Blessed to live in a peaceful, quiet neighborhood, with only the early-rising birds and a few still-sleepy dogs greeting us along the way.

Rounded the familiar bend in the road and froze in our tracks.  Two male deer, young bucks, were sauntering down the street.  We think they’d come up from the deep ravine that runs through the northern part of  Clintonville.  What a majestic and wondrous sight!  There was communion between us as both we and they stood still for a few seconds.  Then they apparently concluded (if animals other than humans can “conclude.”) that we were too dangerous to share company with, and they ran down the hill toward home.

Worship service was OK.  The best part was seeing our friends, those with whom we share so much, especially a faith in God the Creator, Savior, and Comforter.  The praise choruses were lively and meaningful, but we both miss the old hymns and Gospel songs we grew up with.  Another blessing was conversing with Point Man veterans who had attended our organizational meeting on Saturday.  There’s growing enthusiasm for forming a military support group and also for being trained to talk with National Guard units  on their drill weekends.  What an opportunity!

This afternoon we rested and counted our blessings.  I’ve never met anyone who does that often enough.  Amid all the struggles and the worries over money, family, and health, most of us still have much more than billions of people on  Earth.  Gratitude is an essential attribute if life is going to be anything more than drudgery and bitterness.

Watched “Duck Dynasty” for a while.  I’m finding myself liking it, despite my earlier aversion.  The Robertsons represent what most of us long for.  Basic values, prayer at the dinner table, humor, family love, and simple living.  I have a feeling that they’d hold to these qualities even without the millions of duck-call dollars they’ve earned.

And so the day comes to a sweet end.  The looming war against Syria (yes, if we attack…we’re at war) bothers me, as do concerns about loved ones and friends who don’t seem to have life figured out yet.  But all I can do is pray for them and leave them in the hands of the One with whom we began this day, accompanied by the wild deer and our fellow believers.

Thank you, Heavenly Father.

1

Dry Land

Moving through some desert, through which I’ve traveled before.  Haven’t had much water to share of late.  But, ah, I see an oasis, and I know it’s not a mirage.

2

Morning Thoughts

I’ll be with people today who’ve known me most of my life.  My father’s youngest sister, Aunt Esther, knew me before I was born.  The older generation is passing away (“walking on,” as some tribes say).  I have memories of them, and I smile as I recall their laughter, their kindness, the simplicity of their lives (as opposed to the hectic pace that Baby Boomers and our children chose to follow).

Family reunions are good, for they help me remember who I am, and where I come from.  These people are of the same flesh and blood as I am.  We share DNA.  We may not like each other as much as we should, but nothing will change the fact of our oneness.

Many who will gather in that picnic pavilion follow the same faith.  Aunt Esther will bring song books, so we can sing the hymns of Heaven, just as we’ve done for over fifty years.  It will be good to hear those familiar voices (some more melodious than others).  The harmonies will reflect our common beliefs and hopes.

It will feel like “home.”  When I returned from war in 1970, I wondered where I would fit in.  The country had changed; the war was hated by most (and so were the men who fought in it).  But I came back to a family who loved me, unconditionally.  And they shed tears of grateful joy to know I was alive and unscathed (at least as far as they could see).  They welcomed me with open arms (and hearts), and I felt that old sense of belonging. How I wish that today’s veterans would find the same warmth, and the same light in the window awaiting them!

Maybe that’s where we all enter the picture.  We as a nation sent them into battle, and now we’re their family (“blood relation” in that the blood they shed and caused to be shed is our responsibility).  It’s our moral obligation to welcome them, to embrace them, to listen to them, and to help them make re-entry into the life we’ve been enjoying while they were serving.

That’s why this Point Man Ministry is where my heart (and the rest of my life) is.  I was blessed to have a loving family to bridge me (yes, I’m using it as a verb) back to where I belonged.  Many of today’s military will not have such a gift, and so it’s up to us.

Let’s welcome them to the table.