Talking to Veterans

I’ve devoted several posts in this blog to the time I spend with veterans and my sense of kinship with them. These men are my brothers in arms. We understand each other in an unspoken way. They share my tortured memories of combat.

I’ve now given my presentation on the fall of Saigon more than sixty times. I’m struck by how people react to it. I recently did it for a group made up primarily of women who had never done military service. They were much more responsive than most of my audiences. They laughed openly at the humor, gasped at the bloody memories, and were visibly moved by those moments that always bring tears to my eyes. And they awarded me with a standing ovation.

When I do the presentations for veterans, the reaction is much quieter. They give me their undivided attention but rarely respond audibly. When I am silent, preparing for or recovering from the telling of a particularly grievous event, the silence in the room is profound. These men know and understand what I’m talking about. Nothing need be said.

Over time, my favorite audiences have been men known for their courage in combat. Typically, they are Marines or Special Forces. I feel with these men the strongest sense of brotherhood. I know that my stories bring up their own memories. They watch me with pain on their faces. They are profoundly silent while I tell of ghastly events. I see in their eyes a shared anguish. They are with me, and I am with them.

Thanks to the veterans in my audiences, I know without being told that I am not alone. I am with my blood brothers.

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