Vietnam Full Disclosure



Letter to you all,

What was it, what was it that made this war so evil for me, who lived in rural America, who helped with supper and laundry chores, the good girl who did all of her Latin and social studies homework, helped her father – a WWII veteran who was happiest working quietly in the fields, who refused to tell any war stories – in his beautiful garden.  Maybe it was seeing the body bag count on the screen when my parents watched the national news.  I think it was mostly that. That, after seeing the old black and white videos the nuns showed us of the Holocaust, of pre-war Germany, filmed in the years before I was born.  Maybe it was also the nightmares those films evoked, of troops marching lockstep, crossing the little bridge over the dam below us, coming for me, over and over. All war is evil. All war is evil.

It was so clear, so clear.  War is destruction of not only human life, but community and culture and environment.  All ripped asunder, all creating trauma handed down to those who come next.  Why wouldn’t I encourage those with low lottery numbers to travel to Canada?  Why wouldn’t I write, make posters, sit in vigil, demonstrate?  All, all war is evil.

You could see it in their faces when they came back, your brothers.  The tension in their jaws, the flat look in their eyes, the depth of pain walled away.  They were waiting to detonate.  Or, they were so used up, they crawled away to sleep or not sleep on the streets. Or, they found some circuitous path to a quiet life somewhere.  Some created gardens, a spot of restoration. I’m sorry they went.  I am grateful they returned.  I’m sorry we were all so inadequately prepared, still are inadequately prepared, to create supports and a sense of safety, of coming back to a loving home.  I’m sorry we simply didn’t sit with them and sing a lullaby, over and over. I’m sorry you went and never came back to us.  There is a chasm where you once were.  I’m sorry I still had to stand in vigil against the War with Iraq, standing with Korean vets, with Viet Nam vets, shivering in the cold Maine winter.  It doesn’t stop.  It is every war.

We miss you. We come up against this sacred wall of pain, an inscribed and incomplete record of sons, brothers, parents, and we are bewildered by grief and time and loss and by all the work yet to be done.  To touch our palms against this smooth stone means we attempt to carry you with us. All war is evil. It took you.  All.

Mary Anne


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