I was watching “Mash” the other day, when I broke down. It was the episode where Major Winchester was almost killed when a sniper was firing on the compound during Triage. A bullet went through his cover (cap). When he realized this, he felt a very strong need to know what it was like to die, and the rest of the show was about his search for that knowledge.
I think all of us combat vets can relate to that need to know what it is like to die. Many of us have either had an experience similar to Major Winchester’s or we witnessed someone die, and that too builds the curiosity.
I personally had several experiences that brought on that curiosity. First, one of my airplanes did not come back from “Yankee Station” and its mission near Hanoi. The wreckage was never found, and we never found out what happened to the two-man crew. That loss made me aware of my own vulnerability.
Then I was hit in the flak jacket (protective equipment made to repel or absorb bullets or shrapnel) by a seven inch piece of shrapnel. Between that impact and the concussion of the 122mm. rocket, I was thrown about 15 feet. The flak jacket did its job and I was only sore. But afterward, I thought a lot about dying.
Then, I had to kill my first man. I was looking him directly in the face when I shot him. I again wondered what it was like. Another time I was almost thrown from an airplane without a parachute. And there were several other experiences, but none of them answered the question.
I don’t know what it is like to die. I wonder. I hope I don’t find out any time soon. I’m a Christian and not afraid to die, but I do wonder what it will be like.
Then I saw a “Mash” episode where a nurse sat with a dying soldier until he was gone. She comforted him, helping him get through it. She coached him to think about the future, and what he would do when he got home. Not what dying would be like.
I broke down again. I don’t mean that I got teary. I broke down. In both cases I was a blubbering idiot for ten minutes. Uncontrollable. Inconsolable.
I wish that every veteran who had to die had someone to be with them and comfort them at the end. Someone to help them think about the good things in life both past and present.
Life is good. And we should always focus on the good.
I must admit that it is hard for veterans (and others) to focus on the good, when there is so much bad in the world and sometimes in our own lives. I have personally experienced things that today I can’t believe I did or experienced. Bad things. Not all of them as a Marine.
But, there are good things in life that overcome and over-rule the bad things. When we help another. When we do something that no one else can. When we share what we have with someone that doesn’t have something.
What are you doing that is good? I am a Veteran Service Officer. I work for my church. I serve many positions for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and a few other things. Is it all good? Of course not. We are human by the way.
But, good is good. Focus on the good. It won’t earn you anything, except the respect of those who know of your efforts. But good is worth doing.
Now for the $64,000 question: What good are you doing?
Please Remember: Many of our young men and women have sacrificed greatly around the world, to protect our country, our rights and freedoms, our allies, and the Flag of the United States of America. I am proud to have been one of them, and would gladly defend this great country again today or any day.
Jim Daly, a retired captain in the U.S. Marine Corps, is a member of the Aberdeen Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 224 and its Veterans Service Officer. He is also a member of the Vietnam Veterans of America.