1st Life Lesson from “Vietnam Veterans Homecoming: Crossing the Line”
Once in our lives we encounter great works, works that can greatly influence who we are, what we are and what we will be. Works that will inspire us to go on and face all of life’s challenges head on.
Works that will help us find our inner PEACE…
A special person shared with me something to read and compare my life against… I was and I will always be thankful…the lessons I will gain will never be erased…till I draw my last breath of life…
Let me extract great advices and realizations from the book and let me try to have a simple analogy to the lives we live…
Life lesson 1:
…”The universal experience who suffer greatly is that during the times of suffering and healing, they experience a great divide between themselves and those around them”
The Vets find it easier to hug each other than hold a baby. Their common experience was their bond, something they have all felt and understood and unlikely felt and understood by the civilians (especially their families) who never went to war like them.
Likely, they were together as they saw comrades wounded and killed… the anguish and the anger they have felt. They were together as the bullets were flying overhead, when bombs were blasting everywhere and when the night was never calming as the mind is anticipating attacks…
They were together fighting to survive, fighting for their lives… more than actually fighting for the objectives at which the war was set forth… (most of them don’t even know why they were there, it’s an absolute responsibility to respond to the call of duty…)… THIS IS THEIR BOND. This is what they all understood.
Life after the war will never be the same again for them. Their views of what life is, changed, deepened. Their wisdom changed, it widened. Their capability to express themselves changed, they became inhibited (they were trained not to “feel” during the war, they were taught to”think” because war is never for those who have a soft/ weak hearts…you should be apathetic, void of emotions to be able to kill another human being, who actually never did anything wrong against you, it just so happened that they were considered “enemies” by your camp)
This is where the Vets ( or even our own retired, resigned soldiers ) are misunderstood.
I was thinking of my own father, one gallant soldier who almost lost his life during the height of insurgencies in Mindanao. He lived a decorated military life.
At first, we were just oriented to the fame and glory of the uniform. It was pretty glamorous. But when my father decided to “expose” us to the harsh realities of the life of a soldier ( being the eldest, he would always bring me along whenever possible, and when I finished nursing, I worked in a military facility assigned to extract wounded soldiers during insurgencies in CALABARZON and that time Bicolandia. Our facility is the first response group), I (I will speak for myself) understood… and I loved him more…
I have seen him shove away bribes that come in allowing or disallowing “activities” in his area of responsibility. I have witnessed how he protected his soldiers, especially those who are in the front line.
I have felt the passion he and those around him share. I have understood that, every time I was with him.
I was never first priority, the country is. I understood that.
His love for his work was clearly defined. His love for us was completely different, his softer side – a far cry from the tough commander he was.
I have seen him strategize with his men. I saw them prayed before jump off for an especially dangerous operation. I saw the fear in some of the soldiers’ eyes as they call loved ones to say how much they care, before they go and pursue the enemies of the state. I saw how they transform into emotionless battle ready elements as they board C130 or the Hummer or the six by six trucks.
My heart as an observer breaks when the some of the people I waved goodbye to at send off (some of them my close friends) come home in stretchers – agonizing in pain, begging to for their lives to be saved, giving me last wills that if they wont be able to make it, I have to tell their families how much they loved them….sooooo heartbreaking!
My heart dies as some arrive in caskets… something I fear whenever we receive radio messages that there will be air evacuations from Basilan…
I stood witness of wives losing their husbands to bullets and children losing their fathers to bomb blasts…
Today, I stood witness of how some managed to go through the experience and how that experience destroyed the lives of some who were left behind…
I SAW my father died and lived, literally. He was shot by an insurgent, the emergency evacuation from Dadiangas to General Santos was forever, I thought.
We were with him, my younger brother and I. It was a day before Christmas. We were supposed to celebrate Christmas with him.
Then it happened. After a few minutes of gunfire (with us in the foxhole), somebody shouted “Medics!!!! Officer down!”. My heart raced. I hope its not our father. Then someone shouted, ” kunin ang mga bata!”. A big soldier came rushing, scooped me and my brother, and off he went running to a waiting military vehicle.
I saw him on the floor of the make-shift ambulance. That’s when I realized, my father was shot. He was there, covered with blood. He was rushed to the hospital, we were with him.
I was crying because he was hurting. At age 10 that time, it never occurred to me how critical the situation was, that he was about to die…I plainly saw what was happening as it was, he was in deep pain.
We reached the hospital an hour after, people were so busy, there was so much movement, so many things said I couldn’t understand…
The only word I can recall was “pump!”. I never knew what it was then. Only later I realized, they were doing CPR on my father, trying to revive him. His heart stopped for a while. People in white were all over, each to his own thing.
Then, someone again shouted, “stop!”. I learned later that the heart started beating again… 1 minute before Christmas Eve, I was told. That time, I was thankful because he was no longer in pain. Now, I am thankful that he is alive.
These are the perils of a soldier’s life and the agony of the soldier’s family. I knew, we were there.
So much heart thumping action, everyday is very uncertain, especially during times of national unrest.
People are watching the TV, just waiting who will win in political battles (sometimes, its hurting to hear them, “sige bombahin nyo na!”… God forgive them for they don’t understand how many soldiers, even innocent civilians, will loose their lives again in the process) while we sit in prayer that there would be no need to raise arms – our father ( or in the case of some, their mother or both their parents) was there, awaiting orders, on red alert. (During red alerts by the way, we cant see them, we cant talk to them… even our communication with them is considered a security risk… too much anxiety it gives to the whole family…). Everyday, for us, is a struggle.
I saw how my father failed in his transition from being a military man, who was always in command, to an ordinary citizen when he retired.
People just have double standards.
When he was still in uniform, sitting in the position, people, especially those who are requesting favors, “loved” him, showered him with what they have… so much insincerity around…
When he retired, it was so difficult to even talk to these people. Sadly, these are the same people whose spouses, he protected in the field, the same people whose son or daughter he had helped to be accepted in the force, who are judging him and negating him. I saw how he struggled emotionally.
I even saw my own mom, demanding him to be the father that he is, the husband that he should be. It hurts because they are both hurting, they didn’t understand where the other one was coming from. My mom was thinking like the “civilian observer”… my father was thinking like the “seasoned soldier”… There was a time that all hell broke loose inside the home… That was our adjustment phase.
In all of this, I thank God, I understood. Silently I watched. Silently, I encouraged my brothers and sisters to just be quiet and just love them both. I slowly took over the responsibility of running the home… while both our parents were obsessed in finding fault in each other.
They were adjusting. They were used to just seeing each other at least twice or thrice a year, during occasions for the past 25 years. Now they have to live together, 24 hours a day, everyday…Difficult, but we understood, its a good thing we saw how our father lived his life in the field…
My father was not the same man anymore. He was not anymore the hopeless romantic who pursued my mother years ago. He was shaped by his military experience.
He knew that he would only be understood by his “Boks” who went through that same challenge, that same ordeal.
I have observed how his face would lit up when he sees old comrades, how he would show his old jolly self as they talk about things only they would understand. There is so much happiness in his eyes. I couldn’t be envious. They share the same thoughts, the same experience, the same passion, the same deep regard to each other, the same “I will die defending my country, I will leave no man behind” mentality.
What he shared to us was only love – its on a different level. We understood. And we loved him more.
This is our OWN NAM, our OWN WAR. My parents survived. My siblings and I survived… because we tried to understand… and we did and we are still struggling to survive this Nam.
(more lessons to follow as I go through the book… this is just about the INTRO… whew!)