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Vietnam veteran and author John Harriman is writing a weekly column for Montana newspapers, Warrior to Warrior, letters from a Vietnam veteran to our soldiers in Iraq, telling them "what to expect based on the experience of those who already went through an unpopular war". John contacted me and offered to share these columns with readers here.
This is awesome - given the readership here and the nature of blog communication I realized Mudville can be a place where Vietnam vets, Iraq vets and those from other wars can connect - anonymously even - share experiences and advice, and maybe get help they need for issues about which they otherwise might not speak up.
Enough of my words - here's John Harriman's introduction to the project:
Dear Warrior . . .
Ten years into my Army career, my three children ran out the door to meet me after work. "Daddy!" "Dad!" "Dude!" I figured they wanted money.
But no, they had questions, questions no combat veteran ever wants to hear from his kids.
"Daddy, were you in Vietnam?"
"Yeah, Dad, what did you do in the war?"
"Dude, did you kill any bad guys?"
My answer was brief. Yes, I was in Vietnam. You want some money? Here, go buy an ice cream.
They got the ice cream. I got to grapple with their questions for 30 years.
Fast-forward. To today. And I finally have a good answer: My dear children. It does not matter so much that I went to Vietnam. It does not matter what I did in the war. What matters is that . . .
I am the war.
Yes, I was in Vietnam. And, yes, I was in a war; and when I came home the war was in me. It has shaped me ever since in the way that I see the world, my family, my community, my friends, politics, the media, my God and all the rest.
So it is with all veterans.
You always remember the big moments in your life. The day you met the love of your life. The birth of a child. The death of a loved one. But few things in your life will shape it like a war.
Every veteran of combat can vouch for my saying war will change you. Most veterans would also agree: When you come back from Iraq, you will be your war.
Not to fear. This forging of your future is nothing to dread. Rather, something to prepare for. It will happen, and you will live it. We older veterans can help you see it coming, although most of the veterans of the country's past wars do not talk much about their combat.
Too bad. I might have learned something from them before I went to Vietnam. And I might be able to teach something now that I am back.
So. Against that tradition of silence, I have decided to speak out to you.
I will write to you, a letter a week, passing along some insights from previous veterans and previous wars. Some tips, some bits of advice, maybe a war story, along lots of encouragement and all my prayers and the prayers of other veterans and your fellow citizens.
I ask veterans to write notes to me, tips and thoughts I might include in my letters. And I'm asking the national veterans organizations to print a request to contribute wisdom to pass along to you.
Until next week, God bless and keep you.
Sir, thanks for your service - which obviously didn't end when you hung up the green suits!
I look forward to these columns. My grandfather-in-law is a WWII vet (Lieutenant in the Army, 1st infantry division), and he wrote a book last year. I really enjoy talking to him about what he went through. He went through some horrible combat, and I appreciate that he has the courage to talk about it.
Kudos to this man for doing the samePosted by Max Wright at March 8, 2005 04:54 PM
I think this will be a great feature. I went to an Operation Homecoming write's workshop, and we had several vets from previous wars and it was good to hear how they dealt with thingsPosted by SFC Ski at March 8, 2005 08:56 PM
This post was the "tipping point" for a decision I've been arguing with myself about. With our local Guard unit on the way to Iraq, it's time for this Viet Nam vet to "come out of the closet" and join the Legion and VFW and do some local networking so I can get very involved with helping welcome them home in a few months. I know a little something about coming home from unpopular wars myself and maybe I can help some of them a little. Thanks for a great post.Posted by Bill Faith at March 8, 2005 10:18 PM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(3) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)