“ONLY THE DEAD HAVE SEEN THE END OF WAR”

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To the Editor,

They too are the only ones who come home from war without wounds.  None come home with their soul in tact.
Don’t know just when my soul and I parted ways.  I think it was that night in the rain near Hill 370, Central Highlands, Vietnam walking the perimeter,  I had stopped and nudged a young soldier with my boot to quietly make sure he was awake and stayed that way.  However, when I stopped I had a feeling some part of me kept going out past the claymores and trip flares, into the jungle.  It was October 1969.  Next month my son was to be born 10,000 miles away.  Past the hazy jungle and across the inky black Pacific, had to wonder if I would still be in this world to greet him.  If not, would I need a soul to meet him on the other side in some other world.  And what of the people I was sent here to kill.  Were they parents?  Surely they were someone’s child.  And when the time came, could I do it?
We all go to war alone, despite the size of our unit.  In spite of all the training you still never know how you will act when that first round cracks over your head.  The first reaction is shock, disbelief, maybe a bit of indignance that they had the nerve to shoot at me.  Then if you’re lucky, rage kicks in – and that’s where the training takes over.  If you’re quick and decisive,  you walk away and he doesn’t.  Maybe my soul knew this day was coming and bailed out so I wouldn’t be bothered with all those pesky, moral questions that might have slowed me down.
Sincerely,

Jerry Donnellan
Director
Veterans Service Agency of Rockland County

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