The Vietnam War. Our father almost died in it. He had to relearn everything. How to talk. Walk. Eat. Tie a shoe. He never slept correctly again and suffered from anger rages, post traumatic stress disorder and general asshole-ness. Okay, I made up that last word but it conveys what I mean. I know a lot of these behaviors are associated with his head injury and the haunting experiences he had fighting for his life and the life of the others around him. And doing that by killing others. Not a good position to be in.
I remember when he was diagnosed with stage four throat cancer a couple of years ago. He had never smoked or chewed in his life. We think it was the Agent Orange he was exposed to while in Vietnam. I felt he was way too positive about having such a diagnosis--unrealistically so--and urged him to see the VA psych. The psych asked one question. "Were you in Vietnam?" My father sat in that chair in that office and cried for at least half an hour before he could even get a word out. I can't say I have ever seen my father cry. Until then.
War does something to the spirit that is unrepairable. The spirit isn't meant to disconnect in such a way. It is meant to merge. With others. With G-d. With the universe. Watching those around you die and being in a position to cause death to others places the spirit in a permanent disconnected state. There is no reconnection. There is no full healing. You are broken from then on and for the rest of your life. Period.
That is the truth of war.
Still, these broken, disconnected spirits support the instant war. This I have a hard time logically accepting although I do understand it in some weird psychological empathetical way.
And I understand how the wall affected my sister. All the names. The notes. The shear numbers. The number of names. It can't seem real until one is there looking in disbelief and horror that each name represents a person who died. A person no longer here. A person who is not forgotten. A person who is still loved by former buddies, mates, mothers, friends.
Dear soldiers--named and unnamed,
I am so sorry that your beautiful life ended the way it did. I am sorry that as a country we sent you into a civil war. That we did not protect you. That the odds were stacked against you. I am sorry that your brothers whom you fought side-by-side with came home to an atmosphere of disrespect and ignorance. I am sorry that many if not most of them did not get the physical or mental health help that they needed and deserved. I know you cared about them as much as they cared about you. And they still lose sleep over the fact that you did not make it.
I hope you know that even though I am conflicted about the war and believe it was a mess and a tragedy, I have the utmost respect for what you tried to accomplish while there. Your efforts were not in vain irregardless of the outcome. You did the best that you could under an extremely difficult situation. You are so much braver than I am. Braver than I will ever be.
And I have not forgotten you even though I never knew you. You are not forgotten. Please know you are not forgotten.