I don’t see many movies about war; too many triggers. But once in a while, Hollywood comes close to being accurate when it portrays combat and its aftermath. Here are the closing words of the Charlie Sheen character in “Platoon” as he is being flown away from the carnage:
“Those of us who did make it have an obligation to teach others what we know, and to try with what’s left of our lives to find a goodness and meaning to this life. The war is over for me now, but it will always be there, for the rest of my days.”
I’d say this is a good message for all veterans, and I share it especially for our new generation and their loved ones. You made it. By the grace of God, you still have your life. The war will always be with you, and you need to weave it into your life story. Don’t try to isolate it or numb it with alcohol. Find a good counselor (free counseling available at www.giveanhour.org), and get the help you need to make the memories tolerable. Then you’ll be able to join us in teaching a nation that still doesn’t understand the long-term effects of warfare.
Also, I pray that after you are on the road to recovery, you’ll find that there’s still a lot of goodness in this world (and inside yourself). Please try to notice children playing and people smiling at you on the sidewalks and in the mall. Maybe you should get a dog or a cat…or a horse (my Vietnam buddy says his horse is the only one who understands him!)
I also want you to find a meaning to it all. One of the most common expressions in Nam was, “Don’t mean nothin'” It was spoken almost as a curse and a cry after some horrific event. We didn’t have the luxury of anything emotional, so this was our way of denying the truth that everything over there did indeed matter. Sooner or later, most of us found some purpose in the war, as it taught us hard lessons that we couldn’t have learned any other way. So I hope you OEF and OIF veterans find that your tour (or tours) of duty made a difference, no matter how the conflicts turn out.
Finally, I hope you’ll find a meaning in your life now. You were spared for a reason, and your life can now be devoted to living, not killing. Please find something beyond yourself to live for and to give yourself to. A mission, a loved one, a church, a youth center, a disabled veteran…someone who needs you in their lives. Just as you’ll come to need them to write your own happy ending to this story.