Overcoming Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
A Biblical Approach
Excerpt from Vietnam: A time of war & a time of peace
by William R. Kimball
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"Man, What I'd give for an ice cold brewski," Peewee groaned as he wiped a patina of grimy sweat off of his face with the olive-green towel draped around his neck.
"You got that right, my man," Washington agreed as he laid his helmet on the ground and sat down upon it. "Its a real cooker today," He added.
Down the road, Marble Mountain wavered through the heat ripples radiating off of the blacktop. A blistering noonday sun glared mercilessly overhead. The squad of MP's had been patrolling the perimeter of the Marine air base at DaNang. They were outside the wire, hot, wrung-out, and miserable. The base had been rocketed the last few nights and the Marines didn't like being sitting ducks. They were on edge and uptight.
A group of dirty kids had clustered around and were yelling at the Marines to toss them some chow.
"Gimme, food, Joe. Hey, you gimme food. Gimme cigarette." The kids chattered away.
"Get lost you little grubs," Carney growled.
"G.I. numbah ten," One of the road urchins yelled.
"Ten thousand," Scooter yelled back.
"Beat it! Didi-mau!" Carney shouted.
"G.I. no good!" One of the older boys, who looked like he'd be prime V.C. material in about a year, snarled back, then curled his lip and trudged down the road. The other kids only backed off a few paces like hungry wolves at bay around a trappers campfire.
A big deuce-in-a-half rumbled by, belching diesel exhaust and kicking up a cloud of orange dust which coated the sweating Marines with another layer of funk. "I don't know about you, but the 'Armpit' is gettin' old," Peewee complained as he took a long drag off of his smoke.
No one responded. It was too hot. The men were digging into cans of C-rats, gulping water from their canteens, or smoking cigarettes. The pack of beggars was ravenously eying the G.I.'s a safe distance away making pathetic pleading motions with their hands and facial gestures.
"Fifty-nine days and a wake up," Carney reminded himself. He was slowly turning a warm can of peaches over in his hand as he daydreamed about catching the "freedom bird" home.
"What the ....!" he suddenly jerked and bolted upright.
An ancient looking mama san was backing away in terror. She was bent over, wrinkled, and leathery from years of hardship. Phil was really ticked off that she had snuck up on him and tapped his shoulder for an offering of food. She was cringing with fear. Her claw like hands were outstretched, pleading for food.
"You want some food, you miserable old hag?" Carney taunted as he palmed the can of C-rats like someone getting ready to pitch a baseball. "You want this?" He shouted as he raised his arm and threw the can as hard as he could. The projectile slammed into the old woman's chest with such force, it spun her around and knocked her to the ground. The Marines were laughing cynically.
"One for the Marines, zero for the gooks," Scooter said.
But Carney just stood there starring at the crumple of that old woman groveling in the dirt. She was still clawing the ground in search of the can which had hit her. A sickening wave of guilt suddenly swept over him as he watch this pitiful bag of humanity groveling before him. She had been reduced to little more than a starving animal.
Her bony fingers found the prize and she struggled to her feet clutching the can to her chest with one hand while half pleading, half thanking him with the other. She bobbed and bowed as she backed away leaving Phil standing there overcome with shock at what he had done to a helpless old woman.
The sight of that old woman would be indelibly burned into his brain. The experience would haunt him for twenty years with stabbing pangs of guilt whenever he thought of that day.Twenty-three years later, Phil had made his pilgrimage back to ‘Nam - not as an act of penance or to assuage the guilt, but to simply have a second chance to make right the wrongs whether real or imagined. Not through placebo rap sessions or sentimental bar talk, but through God's forgiveness and, in some cases by doing it right this time around.
He was strolling down the narrow gravel road bordering the south side of Marble mountain stopping here and there to check out the hand carved marble statues and figurines in the roadside stalls which were carved by local craftsmen. It had been many years since Phil had patrolled this very area as a young Marine. He wasn't thinking of the past at that moment. He was too caught up in the present. It was a beautiful balmy morning. A brilliant sun was arching out of the South China Sea. The air was laced with the feint smell of salt water from China Beach. The sky was crystal clear and azure blue.
A small throng of village children had gathered around and were smiling and giggling as they followed Phil. Phil paused to take off his day pack. He reached inside and began handing out little cans of "Vienna Sausage" to the children. They weren't begging or pulling on his arms. They were just happy that this stranger had appeared out of nowhere and was giving them something.
Just then, an old haggard mama san stepped through the crowd of giggling children and smiled up at Phil. Phil smiled back. The children fell silent as the old women reached out and placed something in Phil's hand. He looked down and was thunder struck at the sight of an olive green can of C-rations laying in his upturned palm. The old woman had given it back to Phil as a simple gesture of kindness. That's when it hit him like a point blank round. That simple act of kindness blind-sided him with an emotional ambush. At that moment, he hadn't even been thinking of that other old woman years before, but how incredibly ironic that he was standing only a few yards from that very spot when this old women stepped up to him and handed him a similar can of C-rations. It was like it had been planned and reenacted - as if he rewound the tape of his life to that moment he so regretted and had been given a second chance to do it over.
It was so disarming. It was far more than a can that was being given back - it was a moment of closure and healing - an end to that insane act he had regretted for half a lifetime. For Phil, It marked an end to the guilt he had carried. It ended where it began."
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