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Commentary on Absolution

By Michael Pectol

Written in response to a review submitted to Amazon.com by the webmistress. (See books section). That review was awesome! The only thing I might add and in a way, it is not applicable to the circumstances, except maybe for those who might not read it otherwise and get the value... It's one hell of an adventure story, too.

It is also highly personal, in every case. I know that we, some of us, think we have all the answers, but some of the answers we have are wrong. It is that way for most of us, on one level or another. It helped me a lot to read Absolution. While I like other vets consciously knew that we had nothing to be ashamed of, at some deeper level, I felt that I needed absolution.

Absolution expresses the fact also, on some level, not realizing, we "bought into" the trip. (After hearing that negative bullshit from so many people, you wonder on some level, if they were not partly right.) Like, if a person is told all their life they are stupid by people they care about... even though they may be brilliant, they are hurt by the power of their love. For many years I and many other veterans had to deal with deep-seated feelings of inadequacy, that we basically brought on ourselves, by America's abuse of the power we gave them.

Sometimes, people become over-achievers to deny their feelings, convince themselves they are not true. If in the long run, it doesn't work.. .they may have careers with a lot of money and influence, and etc., but the feelings persist.

Speaking mostly for me, but it probably applies to other veterans, we didn't need absolution. We did and do need Absolution the book, because it is the best argument I've seen for all the reasons why we as American fighting men, do not need ABSOLUTION.

The logic is powerful enough... at least for the soldiers... because it is spiritual logic... that it made me realize a lot of veterans felt the same way... and runs down all the reasons why we don't need to feel that way. A lot of that is done by proving out what we believed on a conscious level, that we were just like our fathers.

We felt the same things, suffered in our bodies, minds and hearts, and still did the best we could. In a different war for our fathers and uncles, that was enough. They were provided with Absolution they didn't need in the phrase... "It had to be done," by the same people who called us baby killers... the public at large. They were reacting to their faulty impressions of the war, and the men who fought it. It was conveniently provided to them by the Media. What would it have been like if the media had played up Dresden, Aachen, Hamburg, Hiroshima and Nagasaki... where a grand total of millions of babies died... in the same light as they did MY-LAI, (a relatively isolated incident, not nearly the norm)?

Besides being a hell of an adventure story, Absolution helped me realize that I had to take back the power that had been misused against me and most importantly, take back my participation it that abuse. In some ways it is a form of co-dependency on our part. In our relationship with an abusive America we were mistreated by our lover, but we put up with part of it, and unconsciously took part in it. The absolution comes in the form of freeing us from the need to do that. If we can see it.

Absolution helped this veteran see that.

I forget whether it was Bull Halsey, or Chester Nimitz, but they had the first serenity prayer:

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference."
(1)

But the explanation showed me, after Absolution and a couple of good counselors, who told me to remember that I am a survivor, and go on from there and act like one, and build on that, the positive part, as opposed to the negative.

In the course of doing that, I realized that the biggest problem for me in the prayer was:
"The wisdom to know the difference."

I thought certain things were things I could not change, when in fact they were not.

I also thought some things I could change that I could not.

Then, it became apparent that:

I cannot change the way people feel.

I can show them they are wrong, and how they can change the way they feel through understanding.

First though, I have to realize that the courage to change the things I can applies to the courage to realize that since I cannot change them, I need to change me. The way I react to the way they feel... understand that they don't understand and they cannot... unless they want to and even then, only partially not having lived what we lived.

Part of that understanding came from the admission that it is only natural... after all, when I was like them, untried in the fires of hell, OF COURSE I DID NOT UNDERSTAND.

So, therein lies the similarity, which is always better to emphasize than the differences. Once, I was just like them. That can help me not feel so adversarial toward them. Their understanding that I was once like them can help them not feel so adversarial toward me and my fellows.

Try to help them know why they should want to, that their understanding is artificial and how to gain real understanding or as close as possible.

Understand that it is impossible for some to understand, because they do not want to. Which in turn, is understandable... because there was a time when I did not want to understand, but for me the understanding came through the living of it, like it or not.

And for those who do not want to understand, forgive them if they do not want to understand why understanding would be helpful.

In other words, I had to come to grips with the courage to change me.

But of course, I still get confused and have to work on the wisdom to know the difference.

One thing... from my perspective, we actually had an incomplete perspective. We did not send men out to die. Most of them were volunteers, and they all had a choice. In the long run, a lot of them chose to stick it out, for Bill and Bob, and Jim and Boony, to do their part to help see them safely home. We did not send them out.

We LED them out.

And the other part of the correct perspective on that... the one that is fact versus buying into the negative trip... is that for a good, caring leader, it was the leading and being with them in danger and taking the same risks, and showing them the tricks of how to survive that probably cut down the casualties. That probably got more of them evacuated in time to be saved. And as far as whether or not it was all for nothing, in the long run, like I say... it boiled down to what are we fightin' for?.... well, it was Bill and Bob... each other and the chance for as many as possible of us to get back home, because of the support of their buddies, and good field leadership helped support that goal... people like Chuck, and others who cared about their troops.

We didn't realize that we did far more good than we knew, or allowed "the power" to let us believe. The American penchant for emphasizing the negative versus the positive is pretty powerful and hard to overcome. But think about it. It makes soul sense from a soldierly perspective. I hate using me as an example, but I am like some others and that is the only reason I would do it.... It was watching me, and when I bolted for the bunker, my men learned not to stand around saying "What the hell is going on," but to be right behind me, over take me if they could... and ask questions later, in the bunker... that saved some lives, probably.

How many other Officers and NCOs and even pfc with more time in country, saved lives, by merely saying... "Just keep your eye on this or that person, and your ears really open and do what he does."

I had been delaying seeing Saving Private Ryan for obvious reasons, but after Absolution, I had to. Afterwards, while thinking about it, I realized why: The one thing that struck me the most, was the courage of Capt. Miller, who in the long run... was fighting for the chance of as many as possible of his people to go home, and finish their lives. He looked at Ryan, and said "Earn this." But the other most important thing, was Ryan not only remembered his death, but cared about what was necessary to earn it.

This is to me, sort of milestone, maybe it will help others.

I thought about how Ryan felt when he looked back and appreciated what they did for him, and wanted to be sure that he had earned it.

BUT WHAT?

WHAT WOULD THEY WANT? WHAT WOULD EARN IT?

To be a good person... to be grateful to be alive.

To be able to find someone to let love us, and help us learn how to live with it.

To realize that that person doesn't necessarily have to understand at first, but the love can help anyway and help us reach understanding together.

To try to make people happy, instead of sad, and have the house where little people know they are loved, and how to love.

To take every opportunity to make the world a better place for at least as many people as we can reach to live. And to try to help others recognize and earn it.

To speak with authority about how terrible war is, and we pray harder for peace than anyone. For those people who think that those who have to go out there, and take the risk of death in a war are not the hardest prayers for peace. I say... What kind of fool do you think I am? What kind of fool are you?

To recognize that because of them, we have the chances they gave up for us.

To emphasize the negative, and stay in the bunker, and NOT chase down every chance to feel better, learn to live and be happy, and love and be loved... is:


   And this just my opinion::
      A Desecration and an ungratefulness for their sacrifice.

They died to give us the chance to live and enjoy all the things they wanted to get back home to, and have, and enjoy.

Earn it? By respecting it, by making the most of it. I got too caught up in the magnitude of their sacrifice so I couldn't see it's true magnitude! Staying in my bunker and whining about how sad it was that it was necessary for them to sacrifice for me was not respecting their sacrifice and earning it, merely acknowledging it.

I would have done the same for them, almost did a few times, who knows why they got the negative or positive luck of the draw?

Remembering someone sacrificed for you is not enough to earn it.

If anyone gave up anything for me, and I sat on my ass and felt sorry for him because he couldn't then what have I done to actually earn the sacrifice? Not identifying THE ACTION VERBS making them goals and ACTING ON THEM, to me, became not EARNING THE SACRIFICE.

They would naturally want me to feel better about myself, o be loved... to love... to laugh, make babies, dance my ass off to some good rock and roll, then go roll the ole lady every chance I got... I would if I had done it for them.

They would very simply put... want me to identify the things I wanted to make me happy, and find a way to go out and get and do them.

But not as penance for my guilt... because they know, and above a lot of other things, they would want me to eventually realize that it was the luck of the draw, and that I am not guilty of being alive when they are dead. There was no grim reaper who came around and said "choose who is to die" we did not draw straws. I did not trade straws, nor did anyone else, to get out of doing what they did. I would have, any of us... would have done what they did, and it was not a choice... only the choice to be there, together for each other... where the luck of the draw could select you, just as well as the next guy... any of us would and did do what the dead did.

We chose to be there where we could die.

And in the final analysis, when men were sent out on patrol, and some of them got killed, it was NOT BECAUSE THEY WERE SENT OUT TO DIE.

THEY went out to do a job, and it was a dangerous one, and they did it, and the luck of the draw got some of them, but the purpose of sending men out on patrol is to LIVE, and learn how to live... one more day.. .by FINDING AND ELIMINATING THE THREAT TO THAT LIFE... their own and the people laggarded back at the FSB, or patrol base, or Base Camp. They all made the choice whether to let the fear of being a coward and letting their buddies down send them out there to do their duty to their buddies... The chances are very good that because of basically good field leadership, and hastily, well developed skill, and decision making processes... leaders were able to cut down many times the risk factor, thereby the likelihood that the luck of the draw would take any of them at all.

But, of course no one could make me, or any of us think any of this... we are smart, and if we really want to feel better, we have to learn to forgive us, and them, and us, and possibly re-think what it is we need to do to earn it, or whether we are earning it at all, instead of only remembering it and lamenting it. There is a certain amount of natural sorrow involved in earning it of course, but if we do not find out what we need, and chase it, and get it, and become happy, and glad to be alive, and recognize that sorrow for them and gladness for us can co-exist without guilt, because they are natural feelings... do all the same things they would have to struggle with doing in our shoes... we are not really doing anything bout it... then are we earning it?

Not me....s o I hadda stop all that negativity, and start doing some things... and one of them is to do what I can to help other vets feel like they DO DESERVE TO LIVE. THEY ARE NOT GUILTY OF A DAMN THING... (being gullible is not a crime) EXCEPT MAYBE CONCENTRATING ON THE WRONG THINGS.

If I were looking down on me, and I would be... almost everyone believes the dead are not really dead... in one way or another... and I saw how miserable I was before, and the ration of bullshit I sold myself, or bought into unconsciously and participated in perpetrating on myself... They would be sad and angry for them and me...

"What would they, and maybe I, or any of us, say if it were us?"

"Is this the life I gave him?... Is this what I wanted for him?.... I think not!!!

Celebrate your life and mine by getting out and making one, and living it!!!" Realize and be grateful for it, if you have one who loves you and stands ready to leave you alone when you need that, and to rush to you and love you back to consciousness when you need that. I do not. I gave it up for you, so you could. And how are you repaying me?... You're sitting in your bunker with no one but me... whining about me, and you.

Get out there! You will always have me with you, but I want to go out and have some fun, by watching you have fun, living vicariously through you. Go out if nothing else, and find a homeless veteran, and help him find a job, and telling him it isn't his fault... buy him a burger, and fries, or a blanket, or whatever. Tell the people who don't know us, what we are like... better yet, show them. The loyalty, the love, the courage to try and understand them, if they will have courage and hope for America and try to understand you., etc. Let them see some of the good things you learned in Vietnam... let them see you dancing in the rain, when not "WORKING." For the sheer relief and gratitude of the coolness and bein' alive and doin' fine, thank you very much... IN HELL! And what about that awesome ability of the American Soldier to make the best of the most lousy situations!!!

Something... anything is better than keeping yourself in the prison you let them make you build between your ears, then willingly walked into and slammed the door behind you, and now, all you have is the peephole and the gun port. BUT don't you see, that is what they wanted? And you gave it to them... It is easier for them to have you out of the way, locked up in your prison of your own accord... .you bought it dude, you bought the trip, so don't put all the blame on the sales person. Anyway, they don't deserve to be able to forget if you can't. Not until they are taught that it is better to remember with pride, and forget till the next time your remember with pride. Forgetting is what has cost America so many casualties in the first days, weeks, months, of all the other wars where they eventually wanted just to forget. You did not have to, you weren't supposed to stay in Vietnam. I didn't and looking for me there you will not find me. You need to look out there in the country I died for, that is where I am. I am in the you that made you like me. That put us there together. And all the things and people that I wanted to preserve are still there, only you are not. Get out there, reclaim your place. You were not bashful about settin' up camp, building a fire, and cooking your rations on any piece of ground you fought for in 'Nam. So be it with your beloved country which you also fought for. It doesn't matter that they and sometimes you don't understand some things... realizing that, and trying to improve it is enough.

Some of the people who were officers, well... they feel separated here... more guilty... more like so many things are more their fault... simply because they had to lead those men out... but see, that is one of the main points misconception.... they did not send them out, they usually led them, and took the same chances... and don't forget about the 3 prime targets... command, commo, medical... so they were in even more danger by mere virtue of their position within the group... if they were honest in trying, their share is done, like ours... and they need to forgive them, us, and themselves.

Absolution/Not required!!! It is only for guilty people! We are not guilty!!!

Awww. Hell, don't know for sure if I even really said anything... or if any of it is helpful, but I are getting tired of listening to me yadda, yadda, and I hope I did.

Time will tell.

Now, we just have to start working on making ourselves believe it :)

Peace, good luck! And best wishes.

Mikie

(1) The actual author of the Serenity Prayer has not been substantiated. For some ideas on the subject please go to: http://www.pcez.com/~dla/dualrecovery/serenity_prayer.html.

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