My first hour in country and everything appeared to be moving at a heart racing pace. As an Air Force “Buck” Sergeant, I had to adapt quickly with the rhythm of Vietnam, at least for the first few hours. It was daylight, and my eyes had to adjust quickly to the blur of everything going on around me as we were ushered off the C5A military transport onto the hot tarmac
We just got in from the marshes of Florida, U.S.A. after some intense survival training, which was required as a part of a unique Air Force unit called, “Red Horse.” This was a combat ready, highly trained and specialized Civil Engineering squadron that could be deployed at a moment’s notice anywhere in the world. It is or at least it was then, similar to the “Seabees” in the Navy. The unit I was trained with and now catching a ride with had their separate orders. Mine were to find my own team, which was in another direction. There was no gentle ease in transitioning into this combat zone. There was only heads-up and trusting my instincts to guide me since I had no seasoned senior sergeant or commanding officer to tell me what to do and how to get to my destination safely. It was like trying to get around Europe without a map or GPS and getting lost, but at the same time learning and remembering how to get from point A to point B all the while adrenaline kicking into full gear.
I remember my first thought on that first day, “wow, Vietnamese people are very short.” I also remember seeing individual soldiers falling asleep with their weapons in hand while sitting at the edge of the tarmac waiting for a smaller air transport to go somewhere. I finally got to Saigon City (now Ho Chi Minh City) aboard a C123 transport, resting overnight in a U.S. joint military barracks. That night I was jolted out of a deep sleep from a screaming soldier who was apparently having a nightmare. It scared the crap out of me, as I had no idea what was happening. The guy in the upper bunk above me explained that it was common with some field soldiers who had experienced severe combat situations and not to worry. It took a couple guys (not from his unit) to hold on to him until he calmed down. This happened with another soldier that night, needlessly to say, I couldn’t sleep the rest of the night. Little did I know then that I would be having my own nightmares from my own experiences years later.
Although this is the very fist time I have ever shared any significant thoughts about my two tours in Vietnam (’69 – ‘71), this article is not really about my personal experiences in combat or what I had to endure in Vietnam or even what I did there. As with some vets, there is a nondisclosure agreement with the military from specific activities, especially if it involved sensitive missions. For example, and I feel ok about saying this to you today, I was in Cambodia when the U.S. president at the time told the world that the U.S. military was not in that country. I know many other soldiers personally that had to keep a “zipped lip” on their activities including rescuing POWs!
What I really want this article to focus on is the question, “what about the souls that were left behind?” We all know the phrase, “no soldier left behind,” but no one that I am aware of has addressed our responsibilities to souls that may still be wondering the plains of a foreign land. When you care deeply for your buddies in your unit, that you have known through dark times and joyful times of military life, especially in a combat situation, you would never consider leaving any one of them behind, no matter what the consequences. This is true even with those that we don’t know personally. It is a basic rule in all branches of military service; one that still goes on well after a war is over. Today we are still going back to past combat zones looking for and recovering soldiers and airmen lost in combat.
If we really understood the possibilities and potentialities of trapped souls on the earth plain caused by a sudden trauma (there are other causes of course) to that individual, we would be just as committed to retrieving these souls as we have done for their physical bodies. Some time later in one of my ho’oponopono training, one of my Hawaiian elder teachers took me through a more detailed process of helping a soul stuck on this plain from a suicide. I realized that most are in a confused state of being and we just have to help them see the light to go home.
Not only is there a possibility of a soul being left behind, but there is also the possibility of a soul being fractured. This is when a traumatic event can cause the connection between the soul and its physical and spirit self to be more distant than when we were born. When the soul has been forced apart (not separated, but more distant) from the rest of itself, it affects the behavior of returning soldiers including severe bouts of separation anxieties, depressions and coping issues with daily living.
After my first tour, I was able to return home for some needed R&R. Not realizing that my soul was showing signs of fracturing, I was approached by my Na Kupuna (Elders) to have a “once over.” It was sort of like being scanned by wise souls who looked into the eyes with an energetic connection of love. In an instant, I felt as if I was asleep for some time and now I was beginning to wake up. I had been in a dream state of life experiences and suddenly the present moment felt more real. I was told that there were some personal obligations that I was responsible for in Vietnam and a specific ceremony was in order. I further learnt about souls trapped on the earth plain for one reason or another and that I could help some of them to “cross over” if they so chose. Through a form of energetic ho’oponopono, I participated in a ceremony of disconnecting from my responsibilities of past experiences and actions that did not serve my highest good before returning to Vietnam. Before leaving Vietnam for the last time, I did a private ceremony that involved the thousands of footsteps that walked before me on that land and my actions while there as a visitor. My mantra was, “if I have harmed any one knowingly or unknowingly in any way, forgive me and I disconnect from that responsibility.” It also included, “if anyone has harmed me in any way knowingly or unknowingly, I forgive you (them) and I disconnect from that responsibility.” I then did a ceremony for those souls I was aware of that could have been stuck on the earth plain in that combat zone. I did not want to leave Vietnam with any possibility of souls that I knew being left behind. I wanted to be sure that those I knew got to the other side if they needed help!
My last tour involved working with VC (a term used for Viet Cong – a made up name by the U.S. for the enemy) sympathizers to help build market places for their villages and other living needs important for them. I received many awards and recognition for my efforts and by the time I got home with an honorable discharge from the Air Force, I felt good about my future and about myself. The past was the past, good or bad, as I disconnected (‘oki) from any responsibilities from those experiences. I am truly grateful for my na kupuna as they continue to support me from the other side of the veil.
I would like to end this story with a touching experience a fellow vet and dear friend of mine shared with me recently. Her story is similar to the many other Vietnam vet’s story I have personally had the privilege of hearing. I have left out personal identifications from her story for obvious reasons, but left her words and sentences intact. I love you S5.
Unable to sleep… Vietnam fills my mind… remembering a Vietnam “brother” who died recently. He’d been living off the grid in the Pacific NW. He came out to my town to see if I could come visit him. He was dying of cancer, compliments of Agent Orange. When I arrived, I found him living deep in the woods surrounded by other vets also living there.
We talked… it rained… we remembered… it rained. We kept warm by the fire… it rained… we laughed… it rained. He was in pain, so I held him and sang. The sun came out. He smiled, then was gone… I sang. I only knew him as “S2” (Soldier 2). I was “S5”. He was a “brother” that wanted to have lots of children and teach elementary school. He was a good soldier… a good man.
Some think of the military as black and white, even some vets. There are those of us who completed our obligations in a military that was more various shades of gray. Some of us got lost there, left behind by a government that didn’t know what to do with the warriors they had created. We are like ghosts moving amongst our fellow veterans, memories intact but not allowed to speak.
Here’s to “S2”
My prayers go out to those left behind and to those that have fractured souls. May you all find your way home and be in the light of love.