My Gift to Every Combat Veteran, & Their Families & Friends
My Gift to Every Combat Veteran & Their Family & Friends
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”*1
Recently came across some searing quotes in a true story, describing the combat experiences of Sergeant Dakota Meyer, the first living Marine recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War.*2 Not only did these passages stir personal memories of a lonely Christmas 43 years ago in Vietnam, but they set the stage to review a new book – or two, that in my opinion, should be required reading for every young man and woman, as well as their family members and close friends, before departing for a combat theatre.
“When you leave the (defensive) perimeter, you don’t know what’s going to happen, regardless of what war you’re fighting in,” Sergeant Major Kellogg said, “Once you get to a point where you make the decision – ‘I’m probably going to die, so let the party begin’ – once you say in your mind you aren’t getting out of there, you fight harder and harder.” P.16 This so true view begs this question, ‘How does one return home and leave such a mindset behind?’
“I lost a lot of Afghans that day,” Meyer said. “And I’ll tell you right now – they were just as close to me as those Marines were. At the end of the day, I don’t care if they’re Afghans, Iraqis, Marines or Army; it didn’t matter. They’re in the same shit you are, and they want to go home and see their family just as bad as you do.” P.18 Then these questions, ‘When they return home, how do they leave such experiences behind – or do they, or even, should they?’
“Being a Marine is a way of life,” Meyer said. “It isn’t just a word, and it’s not just about the uniform; it’s about brotherhood. Brotherhood means that when you turn around, they’re there, through thick and thin. If you can’t take care of your brothers, what can you do in life?” p.20 That’s why I’m grateful for my military heritage. To this day, Marines JD Richards, Spanos, Dietz, my brother Mark, and others, all ‘Have my back!’
With that said, Karl Marlantes’ new book, What It Is Like to Go to War, while probably not for everyone – particularly those who abhor war and the killing that goes with it; is indeed, a ‘necessary read’ for we who appreciate our freedom and lifestyle as American citizens, as well as our men and women of combat, who protect and preserve those highly valued qualities in our behalf.
Some may remember the Marlantes’ first book, Matterhorn. While couched as historical fiction, it is in truth, a wholly accurate and graphic account of small unit infantry combat in the Republic of Vietnam during the late 1960s. Having been there, at the same time in the I Corps theatre of operations, as then Marine lieutenant Marlantes, I’m familiar with incidents he describes, to tell his story. And it was through reading that book I became convinced ‘he well knows about what he writes’ in What It Is Like to Go To War. Here’re a couple passages, from the beginning and near the end of this book, that touched me, as they will you – or a friend or relative, in personal and special ways:
“The Marine Corps taught me how to kill, but it didn’t teach me (how) to deal with killing.” P.3. And, “The returning warrior needs to heal more than his mind and body. He needs to heal his soul.” P.196. For those who’ve read my short story, ‘Making Amends’, know the culmination of my healing didn’t occur until Christmas Eve 2005, 43 years following my return from the Republic of Vietnam as a Marine lieutenant. That’s when I met Catherine, the manager of a pharmacy in Indianapolis. At a critical point in our first conversation, and as it turned out – our very lives, we shared what happened to us – from widely different perspectives, during 1968 and 1969, relative to that conflict. And as I wrote in that vignette, “We talked. I cried. She atoned.”
Well, author Marlantes makes this matter of dealing with the personal aftermath of armed conflict crystal clear, in this introduction to chapter # 9, titled ‘Home’.
“Returning from the initiatory space of the battlefield to the normal world is every bit as mysterious a journey as entering the Temple of Mars (war). The world you left behind has changed and you have changed. You know parts of yourself that you, and those you’ve lived with all your life, never knew before. You’ve been evil, and you’ve been good, and you’ve been beyond evil and good. You’ve split your mind from your heart, and you’ve split your heart with grief and your mind with fear. Ultimately, you’ve been in touch with the infinite, and now you are trying to reconcile yourself to the mundane. The warrior of the future will need to know how to enter and exit both worlds, if not with ease, then at lest without permanently disintegrating his or her personality.” P.176.
This is why every combat veteran, past and present; as well as their family and close friends, should read Marlantes’ new bok. And there’s much more within its’ 256 pages; everything from the act of killing, feelings of guilt, numbness and violence, ‘the enemy within’, lying, loyalty, heroism, ‘the club’, and much more. One simply cannot read this book and walk away unaffected, whether for personal reasons – or just as important, how one henceforth relates to friends and relatives, who’ve gone off to war and likely returned less and more than whole.
If you’d like a copy of ‘Making Amends’, request it via (317) 346-7156 or firstname.lastname@example.org George Allen c/o Box # 47024, Indpls, IN. 46247
1. John 15:13, and 2)‘Marine Braves the Jaws of Death Five Times’, by Cpl. Reece Lodder, USMC, Soldier of Fortune magazine, December 2011, pp. 14 – 20.