I set upon this node with much trepidation. First, I'm really surprised it's empty; I had hoped to, maybe, just add to someone else's ideas, opinions. I think we all know war is hell. Nobody ever said it was fun; well, maybe just a few. But, I'm afraid what many people miss, is how war affects an individual who's in that war, after the war.
There were pictures today in the New York Times, taken in the current situation, war, chaos, in Iraq. One showed a soldier about to kick in a door, knee fully flexed, jaw set, ready to go. What he didn't know was what he was about to find on the other side of that door. We here face that dilemma everyday right? Going in a closed door at school, what's on the other side? Well, trust me it just isn't the same. Unless what's on the other side is a person you've never seen before, don't know, speaks another language , and is about to try and take your life before you can take his, or hers...
Other pictures showed troops inside of a demolished structure, crawling on hands and knees, trying to find cover or looking for the enemy. And trust me again; they have an enemy. He's right there somewhere and his mission is to kill, not necessarily someone else, but you.
And another photo was the ever present war photo, present in all war galleries of the soldier peeking around a building, hoping to see them before they see you. And last but not least, two soldiers carring a wounded comrade to safety, at least for the moment. Now what's all this got to do with, war is hell, after the war?
Well, on this I can speak from personal experience, but this is just my experience and we all react just a little differently to whatever stimuli we might face. Those of us raised in a strong family environment, with much love and guidance and support, might react much differently than someone raised by a single parent in the ghetto. And then again, maybe not. Sometimes the weak become strong and the strong, weak. No one really knows, unless they've been there. And I have. It's kind of like pregnancy; no matter how many pregnant women we've known, no matter how close we are, we'll never know what it's like to be pregnant; until you are.
I returned from Vietnam after a year in, well, what shall we call it, hell. The funny thing is, I didn't know it. Didn't have a clue. Wasn't aware that I was acting differently. But I was. I thought the world owed me a living. I had fought and I had survived and I was going to do whatever I wanted. So I did. I destroyed a family and friends and a future and anything else that got in my way 'cause I had survived where many hadn't. On top of that, I was deep in the throes of alcoholism and the self-centeredness that accompanies that along with my own new found arrogance made me not a person you wanted to know.
Of course as the years went by I mellowed but I could never forget what I saw there. Like the soldiers in the pictures, I had crawled and I had run and I had carried bodies, bodies that weren't alive. I had come home to an army of protesters, and stranger than strange, I understood them. When I was in Vietnam I didn't understand why I was there and some 30 plus years later I still don't know. I know that it changed me. Will it change everyone as it did me? Certainly not; it will change most for the better, but change them it will. Many men saw much worse combat than I did and came home to strengthen their families and raise their children and helped make this country a better place. But the young men and women presently fighting in this campaign in Iraq, will change and their change will change us. But regardless they will learn a lesson like no one else; War is Hell.