Tales of Nam
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It really is over. The things you saw, heard, tasted, smelled; the things you did; the things you failed to do; they are part of your past. So are the horror, the fear, the anger, the hatred, and all the other feelings that accompanied those things. That is what someone (a civilian) who has not been through what you have would say. Would that this were true for us. It probably never will be.
Your civilian friends are correct of course. It should be over. If it truly were over than your current life would be free of all the baggage that you are carrying around. How good would that feel?
I am not suggesting that you can erase any of those memories. Nor should you try to. They are part of your life and you have already paid the price for having them. Throwing away part of your life would be dumb. To rewind a portion of your history and erase it is neither doable nor desirable. What you can do if you are strong enough is to revisit that part of your life and look at it through a pair of eyes that are older, wiser, and safer. You cannot change what happened, but you can change how you feel about it. Perhaps most importantly, you can learn to deal with the legacy of those combat experiences and change the way in which those battle scars may be distorting your current life. When you get to the point that you can do that, you probably don't need this manual anymore. If you are still on the road to that place, you might want to fall in step with me for a little while longer.
It is my belief that the battle for the right path through the minefields of experience is never over. As warriors, we need not back away from that fight. You will learn to see it in your own terms, and attach your own labels to it. My way of dealing with it is to have breakfast with my demons every morning. We gather for coffee and doughnuts, and tell a few war stories. We have no secrets. We know each other like sparring partners. Occasionally, one of them will take me on. Mostly, we agree to meet again tomorrow.
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