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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Newtown Assault (Shadows in Dreams)

   The terrible murders of Newtown, brought back shadow memories and a whole new series of dreams for me. Those dreams have never gone away entirely.

The dreams, the nightmares, subside for awhile and then something like Newtown happens and vivid images come back strong as ever. The shadows are always there.

   I wish the shadows would disappear. I wish the memories would fade from my thoughts. Instead they become stronger as I get older. As I live out my final days, vivid shadows and the dreams of death and destruction become more real.

   I wish there was someone I could share my thoughts with. I don’t know anyone I can talk to.

   I’m afraid I will die and all that I have learned and experienced will just vanish. My life will become  a wisp of smoke on a windy day. Quick now! With the next gust, I’ll be gone.

   Like Newtown, I had similar thoughts on 911. I’ll go along for awhile with only a vague memory of past events then something big will happen and a blast of bone shaking memories invades every thought, day and night for awhile.

   I was at a truck stop on 911 eating lunch at the counter and watching TV when it was announced we were being attacked.

   Like everyone, I was shocked and horrified by what people in those buildings were experiencing. People were dying before my eyes.

   As the twin towers fell, memories of what I had done in 1968 overwhelmed my thoughts even at that moment. No matter how many years pass, the memory never goes away.

   On a sunny day, your shadow is always present. Reality is like the sun and sheds light on the real world, exposing  shadows burned into your mind. Nightmares will reappear  to haunt me for several days. The shadow is always there.

   On 911, watching the twin towers collapse, and with total recall, I went back to a small village in Vietnam and a hole I found leading to an underground hiding place.

A descent into darkness, an unarmed man choking on tear gas, my 38 police special firing two shots and looking into a man’s eyes, dying just two feet in front of me.

   It’s the eyes of a man losing his life that stays with me. It’s the eyes that linger the longest in shadows. It’s funny how a pair of eyes can burn a hole through all my defenses and appear over and over again, year after year.

   I knew then, as I know now, I didn't have to kill him. He was defenseless. Yea I know. It was war. That’s why I got away with it. However, when I’m faced with final judgment, the bull stops. I fear for my soul.

   The dream, the shadow, never goes away. When it hits me, no matter how much light there is, the room is always dark. I am the only one aware a shadow has been cast upon my soul. The horror within the shadow will not go away.

   Later, with the mans body laid out on the ground and every detail of his face visible, a woman cries out, and kneeling by her dead husband, looks up at me, tears running down her face.

   The hatred in her eyes cast another shadow to be dealt with all my remaining years and it will not go away. It becomes more profound as the
years pass.

   A thousand times I will see those eyes looking at me, hating me. Without warning, those eyes will appear while doing the most mundane things. The vision, the memory will burn me like a hot poker inside my brain.

   Then in my thoughts, whether awake or asleep, another memory slowly forms. It’s a little boy, about five years old. He’s sobbing and looking down upon his dead father and hitting me with his small fist.

   He looks up, and meeting my eyes he begins a haunting wail as he continues to hit me with his little fists. I had just killed his father and he will never forget me.

   As the twin towers fell, a small boy, now grown into a man, would let out with a silent cheer half way around the world. What goes around comes around. America deserves what they got, according to him.

   No, No, No! We didn't deserve 911. There are too many people perishing before my eyes. Yet, the thought will not escape me. Did I help make 911 possible?

   Am I partly to blame? Did I contribute to the millions of voices around the world expressing their joy knowing that Americans are suffering? Surely not! Innocent people never deserve to die from an act of vengeance. Right?

   However, the shadows ask the question, I dread to hear when alone at night, in the darkness or sitting at a lunch counter. Will I burn in hell? Are there sins never forgiven?

   Later, the news hit all the broadcast channels. Twenty seven innocent souls had perished at the hands of a mad man. Twenty of the victims were kindergarten children. The horror. The madness. The tragedy.

   Like 911, shadows emerged again within moments of the Newtown news. Temporarily forgotten, memories exploded in vivid detail.

   My God, please stop! I don’t want to remember those things! I can't live with the thought! Please, dear God, help me! Don't punish me now for what I have done. Wait until I die. Then have me pay for my crimes. Do with me as you seem fit.

   Again, back when I invaded another country I couldn't speak the language, memories of an event revived itself with absolute detail and clarity. The images of Newtown and some place in Vietnam merged together into a single shadow.

   I was Infantry. My unit did search and destroy missions. On several occasions it was determined a village had collaborated with the Viet Cong or North Vietnamese Army and the village was scheduled for total annihilation.

   Before my unit would destroy a village, helicopters would drop leaflets warning the villagers to get out because their homes were about to be destroyed. This is what I thought, sitting outside the village, as I waited for the air strikes to begin.

   Soon, as dawn approached, shadows of trees and homes extended towards the dug in American Infantry. The sun was very bright in my eyes and I couldn't see anything.

   At the time I was about the only person that could read a contour map. I called in the air strike. I would pay for that deed the rest of my life.
Phantom jets appeared over the village dropping 500 lb. bombs and napalm, totally obliterating the village off the face of the map. From a distance, the napalm was very pretty.

 After a while  when the fires subsided and the smoke cleared, the Infantry moved in to survey the damage. I was part of the point squad that went into the village. I called in the air strike and I wanted to see the results.

   Immediately we came upon what was once a home and it had been totally burned to the ground by napalm. It was common place for the Vietnamese to dig bunkers into the floors of their homes so they would have someplace to hide when American artillery or aircraft would attack their cities.

   I could see the door covering the entrance to the bunker and as a
precaution, I threw a grenade into the hole before opening the door to the bunker. The civilians had evacuated and anyone there was the enemy. I had to be careful.

   When I looked inside, to my horror, I saw the bodies of ten small children and what looked like two adults. It was hard to tell exactly how many were there because napalm had leaked through the door of the bunker and had burned alive all the occupants.

   All the bodies were burned so badly that I could barely tell they were human beings. Their bodies were burned so badly a lot of bone was exposed and the flesh was gone. On several of the bodies you could see screaming dying expressions, frozen on their faces. The children had been burned alive.

   Before long a Kit Carson (interpreter) walked up to me waving one of those leaflets warning the villagers of the impending destruction of their homes.

   With tears in his eyes, the Kit Carson explained that a terrible mistake had been made. The village wasn't supposed to be wiped out for another three days.

   The villagers had not evacuated yet. All the men were gone because they were fighting for the Viet Cong. Only women, children and grandparents were left in the village. They were all there.

   About three hundred innocent people had been slaughtered because of a mistake. I called in the air strike. Why didn't I look into the sun with more effort? Would I have seen people were in the village?

   I remember suspecting something was wrong. Did I see a hint of movement with the sun in my eyes? I knew the moment I saw those dead children that I had been lazy. I knew I should have been more careful before calling in bombs and napalm.

   Looking at those dead children and watching the women remove little bodies from that burned out bunker I began to feel sick. The memory, the guilt and sadness have never left me. What have I done? Will I burn in hell?

   With news about Newtown emerging, memories of burned children entered my mind in vivid detail. Images forgotten, suddenly became clear again.

The sorrow is equal World Wide
   Survivors of the napalm attack slowly streamed in and the cries of relatives looking at dead kids in the bunker will never leave my memory. The tearful eyes of mothers are what I remember the most. It’s like it happened yesterday.

   Newtown, for me, has shadows attached and brings out memories of terrible things that won't go away. Visions of those kids in Vietnam and the kids in Newtown blend together in a singular horror.

   There were only few mothers who survived but those poor women didn't have the luxury of police and ambulance personnel to discreetly remove the remains of their children. The parents of Newtown were very lucky.

   It was just horrible. I watched mothers remove the charred remains of their children from the bunker. I watched mothers cover the faces of their children to hide the frozen screams on hairless burned skulls.

   Seeing the agony, the suffering and grief first hand for the children burned alive only amplifies visions of mourning parents in Newtown. I’m
sure the tears are the same for all.

   Though I have not seen first hand any of the parents in Newtown, my dreams and the shadows tell me exactly what the parents feel and look like. There is no difference between the time period and the location.

   So, here we go again. After all these years the thought is with me morning, noon and night. Am I any better than Adam Lanza? What about US troops posing by the dead bodies of children in today’s pictures. What about US troops urinating on dead bodies?

   What about fighter bomber pilots who have killed so many children in Afghanistan and Iraq? What about me? Are we any better then Adam Lanza?

   Do the parents in foreign lands grieve any less then the parents in Newtown? I have seen pictures of parents grieving for their children in Connecticut. I have seen the eyes of parents in Vietnam grieving for their children.

   In my dreams those eyes look exactly the same. Newtown was devastating to me only because that horrible event brought back images I tried to forget. Those images won’t go away. I bear those thoughts alone. Always alone.

   So! There you have it. Not words easily spoken or written about. As I approach judgment day, I worry more and more for my soul. Will I be shaking hands with Adam Lanza soon?
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