I'm pleased to post two stories for you from my readers, Heather McCorkle and Marcia Laycock.
Heather and Marcia, thank you so much for sharing with us! If you will contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, with your addresses, I will send you a copy of Yesterday's Tomorrow!
It is a pleasure to participate in your Veteran's day contest and remember those who have served in such a way. My entry is from a photo album I made for my little sister. It contains the photos our Dad sent back to my Mom while he was in Vietnam during the war. Sadly, my Dad got agent-orange related cancer from his time in the war and died at the young age of 48. Just after he got sick I showed him the photo album and he read the title page which I had written. It brought tears to his eyes and he thanked me, saying it meant a lot to him. My Dad was not one to show much emotion beyond joy so it touched me deeply that I had been able to do this for him. Here is that page:
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil~even that which has conditioned and trained me to bring out the evil within? All of humanity has a dark side, a primal instinct which can be tapped into. I do not blame or condemn my father, or any soldier for what they had done while tapped into this instinct, it is what they were trained to do. It's what their country worked so hard to create, the perfect soldier.
Instead I forgive him, and I hope he can forgive himself. It is a great accomplishment in itself for him to have come home and learned, on his own, how to shut that instinct off. The war has affected who my father has become, it has affected me and who I will become, as it will affect my little sister. The Vietnam war is part of our family legacy.
My father believes he is going to hell, he often jokes about it. But I know he's not, because he's already been there.
By Marcia Laycock
My father would tell me only one war story. He spent the first years of World War II in Canada, a clerk in a RCAF office. There's a picture of him in uniform, brandishing a rifle, the Halifax harbour behind him. Then he was moved to England where he again worked at a desk. There's a picture of him on a golf course in Ireland. Then the war was over, and my father was sent to Germany with the occupation forces. He found himself with the liberation army at the gates of Bergen-Belsen. It was at that point, after the allies had won and World War II was over, that my father's war began.
He would never say what it was, specifically, that caused it to happen. Perhaps he looked too long into eyes glazed with hunger and shadowed with pain, eyes belonging to men who looked a hundred years old, 'though they were in their twenties. Perhaps he could not stop staring at the piles of dead bodies, the bones and skulls, or perhaps he was required to record the numbers, the unfathomable numbers. Perhaps he could not bear the smiles of survivors who welcomed their deliverers in silence. He would never say what it was, but something that day, in that place, made my father's mind stop. It stopped and could not go beyond the horror and the fear.
The fear put him in a psychiatric hospital. He was afraid to leave it, afraid even to go for a walk beyond the grounds. One day a nurse came with some clothes and told him to get dressed. Thinking they were taking him for a walk in the hospital gardens, he complied. The nurse returned and escorted him out the front gate. She locked it behind him and, without a word, left him there.
The familiar panic attack was immediate, but this time something else rang in my father’s mind. In the midst of his fear he became overwhelmed with the need to find a church. So he started walking. He found one of the huge gothic cathedrals so common in Europe. He stepped inside and sat down. Above the altar, high stained-glass windows glowed with light. As he stared, they began to move. My dad said he did not know how long he sat there watching, but the entire life of Christ flowed by before him, as though on a movie screen. When it was over, my father was no longer afraid. He returned to the hospital and told them it was time for him to leave.
My father’s war story is about a miracle, an event that healed his mind and his soul. In the midst of horror and fear, God was there. Isaiah said it well – “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation” (Isaiah 12:2).