Today is Veterans Day and I am thinking of my father. His whole life or at least the life that I was witness to was enveloped around his service in Vietnam. His thoughts, actions, and values were reflective of this pivotal time in his life, and his physical limitations were created by it. He carried a pride that had been drilled into him by boot camp sergeants and fellow soldiers, in the essence of his being he was a Marine.
Growing up the child of a wounded warrior, I knew the toll of war. My father was missing an eye, a fancy piece of glass made to resemble an eye sat where it belonged. As a child of four, I once accidentally witnessed my father cleaning his eye. Walking into the living room to find him with his eye in his hand and the socket drooping on his face I was horrified. I screamed and had to be comforted by my mother. For days I was afraid of my father, not understanding what I had witnessed. I have found myself revisiting this moment time and time again in my memory and can’t help but think how terrible it must have been for him, knowing that his appearance had scared his own child so.
Many of my father’s wounds were visible, the glass eye being the most noticeable. He had physical markings to show that he had been damaged beyond repair, that war had taken a great toll on him. But he also carried many deeper wounds that were not visible to the eye, wounds that affected how he saw himself and the world around him. These hidden wounds were far more painful than the loss of an eye, for he was haunted by his actions and the things he saw during his time of war.
My father grew up very poor, raised by his grandmother in the deep North Woods of New Hampshire. He lied about his age and joined the Marine Corp at 17 so that he could send money back home to take care of her and his younger brothers. Having grown up wandering around the woods, his skills made him a natural for reconnaissance work. This was what eventually took his life at 62. He did not die from the grenade that had taken his eye and left him with shrapnel in his brain, in the end, it was the exposure to high levels of chemicals (agent orange) that destroyed his body.
He was thankful for the years he had between the grenade and his death, seeing them as borrowed years. Years that allowed him to get married, have 3 children, and many adventures. But those years between were not all good. Along with the physical ailments the grenade had bestowed upon him, he also lived with nightmarish memories. In trying to escape the thoughts that plagued him, he turned to alcohol and other substances for comfort.
My father’s story, in the end, was one of redemption. He eventually found a path healing, after many losses and many bottles. He lost his family to his own alcoholism and then found it again through sobriety. He found a deep spiritual center inside of himself and embraced the gifts that were his birthright, seeing himself for what he had been all along, an intuitive medicine man.
My experience growing up the child of a wounded veteran shaped me as it did my father. Living with him, his addictions, and his pain, I gained a deep understanding of the hidden anquish anyone who has seen war experiences. This exposure has led me to work with many veterans. I have a great respect for the price they pay, and an understanding of the wounding they carry. I do not think there are words deep enough to express how much respect I have for those who have served. Whether I believe in the war they fight or not, I respect the soldier. I know that there are many reasons why they enlist, choosing to fight for their country. For some, it is a deep feeling of patriotism (something my father also had), but for many their choosing is much more practical. They see military service as a way out of poverty, a way to provide a better life for themselves and the ones they love. They take the gamble, rolling on their lives and mental stability, with hopes that they will be among the lucky.
I would like to take a moment to pause and send love and healing to all of our men and women who have experienced the service of war, and I ask you to join me. Here is what you will need…
*a candle, *a flag or item that makes represents military service to you, * photos of your own loved ones who have served
Set up a small altar with the items of memorabilia & photos & light your candle.
Focus on your Heart Chakra, directly in the center of your chest. Take deep even breathes through your nose. With every inhalation imagine you are filling your chest cavity with love, with every exhalation imagine sending that love to everyone who has served in the military, starting with those close to you and expanding outward.
Do this for about 5 minutes then speak clearly out loud “Thank you for your sacrifice”, and blow out the candle.
Remember not all wounds are visible, not everyone is walking around with a glass eye or a prosthetic leg. Most of the wounds of war are buried deep within. Support your local VFW, and Veterans home. Buy the red poppy from the guy sitting at the grocery store today. Hell, donate more than is convenient, after all, we can not come close to matching the donation they made. Remember to thank them, truly and deeply for they deserve our thanks.
I would personally like to thank the men and women who have served this countries military. I have deep respect for the sacrifices you have made and understand the price it continues to ask of you.