Healing By Looking Back

Jim Calbreath

There are people in our lives whose actions we can only completely appreciate after they are gone. My sister was one such person. Like your mother did, she saved all of the letters that I sent home to the family from VN. I didn't know about this at the time and only found out about it after her death when my niece called me to ask if I wanted to do anything with the letters. Thankfully I had moved far enough along to quash my first response, which was to burn them.

A couple of months later I had the letters in my hand and the house to myself. I had scanned the letters when they first arrived and chose this as a time to really read what was written. I put all of the letters into chronological order, took the phone off of the hook, and poured a generous ration of Uncle Jack's best.

About an hour later I was back in the comfort of my own home. My cheeks were wet and I was very very sad. The letters started off with the braggadocio of youth and the message was all about how easy this tour was going to be. I was in a nice safe hospital located in what was nearly a seaside resort, the bad guys were kept out by coastal mountains infested with ROK's (Korean soldiers). The final letter was all about the need to find a safe place to sit for awhile and just try to rest my mind, I needed to find a place where I could let my mind and body recover from the last year's assault. That letter was written from a small field hospital just south of Quang Tri.

Somewhere in that odyssey the youth who was going to slide through his tour had had the bubble burst and was nearly driven into the ground by the crush of what he had seen and experienced. The young boy's brain had been replaced by that of a much much older person.

These letters did an amazingly harsh job of pointing that out. I knew that I had been affected by my tour, but had no idea of how much it had affected me until I had the opportunity to watch the aging process through the words that were there on paper. Written by my own hand 20+ years before. I would urge you all to look for those letters and or tapes, once you find them set some time aside and really read what is there. The healing that comes from this type of understanding is well worth the trip.

Copyright © 1997 Jim Calbreath All Rights Reserved

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Added 11/27/97