Blaine Stine, a student of Stacy Frazier at Northern Oklahoma College in Tonkawa, Oklahoma, read and responded to the YES! Magazine article, “Heal the Warrior, Heal the Country,” by Dr. Edward Tick, a story about the many veterans he sees physically and emotionally wounded from serving in the war, and how we, as community members, can help these warriors heal.
Writing prompt: Imagine what it’s like to serve in a war. Write a letter to a veteran- fictitious or someone you know. Whether or not you agree with the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, how might you welcome this soldier home, and express your support for the transition this soldier faces as he or she returns to civilian life?
Silence, My Old Friend
An imagined letter to be sent to a fellow soldier.
Dear Brother or Sister,
You know me, but you do not know my name. I am the same as you. I have been to the fields of battle and lost friends. You and I are surrounded by an unseen barrier in the wind. Others see us but cannot hear our pleas for help. We have bled for their safety, but now threaten that safe little world ourselves. Our scars are not always visible or easily explained. Our wounds are buried deep within our own minds. With or without help, we must deal with our shattered lives. I offer what help I can from my scattered existence at the edge of a society that both adores and despises us.
Call out to me in the silence of this world; I will listen. You may even name me Silence. Embrace my silence and tell me your tale. I have seen all manner of depravity and destruction, so you cannot scare me away. There is no healing a hidden wound, so open yours to me and speak to my silence. Our society abandons us, but my silent vigilance still haunts you. They give money to charities and send us to doctors, but this is partially out of a sense of guilt, and not just their concern for us. I smile at their lonely guilt for ours is shared with each other. Many of them do not even realize their shame and are as distraught as us, but they do not know the reasons as we know them.
Society placates us; they say we are not at fault. Yes, we are at fault. We are to blame for every step we take and every breath we have stolen from others. We are guilty, even for the ones who deserved the ends they received. We are guilty and covered in blood, but we do not have to suffer this burden alone. This burden is shared by every society and culture that has ever existed. They will not accept their share of the shame, but we will lay it on them nonetheless. We will share our stories together, even if they remain unheard to all but us.
Our guilt is confounded by our disease. Doctors spout off their research and say that we have 1,000 yards stares, shell shock, or post-traumatic stress disorder. I laugh at these flimsy excuses. We have seen Hell incarnate; naturally, we must be diseased for no “good man” would willingly suffer through such horror. Whatever our reasons, we good men and women choose this suffering. We fight to defend our loved ones from one threat or another, for traditions, or just to have somewhere to belong. It has always fallen to those like us so that the innocent can feel safe and guilt free. I will accept my guilt and yours as well, for we are brothers and sisters. I will not deny my brothers and sisters or claim they are diseased. We are all broken in one way or another. We know our pain, and together we still stand strong.
In his article for YES! Magazine “Heal the Warrior, Heal the Country,” Edward Tick wrote, “Throughout history, the only reason for fighting that has survived moral scrutiny is a direct attack with real, immediate threat to one’s people.” This is a childish dream because we know the truth: war has no moral compunction and truth is only decided by the victor after the war is over. Right and wrong are both meaningless points of view. If anything is “right,” it is that we, the battered souls left over from forgotten battlefields, bear witness to the horrors we have seen.
We must bear witness because history has taught us that forgetting leads to repetition. Our mission is to remember, and it does not end with coming home. Speak to your friend Silence and tell me your story. We will remember together.
Your Friend, Silence