You can never go home…

Get it right in the camera

Milford Road, New Zealand

It is said that once you have traveled, especially anywhere in the great wide world that you can never really go home again.  Meaning that when you do go home, it never really looks the same to you again.  Part of your heart and soul is left in the places you’ve traveled to.  I not only believe this, but I know this to be true from personal experience.  I’ve been both blessed and cursed to have traveled the world.  It’s a wonderful experience and it truly does broaden one’s horizons.

The other side of it is that you never quite see yourself, or your home in quite the same way ever again.  Particularly if you are used to (or have taken for granted) the comforts, freedoms and advantages that we have here in America.  To see how people live, and are often forced to live, the conditions they live in third world or worse situations…. well, you come home with a new appreciation for what we have.

If you have ever served in a war zone, as I have, you have an even deeper understanding of the sacrifices that our military have made to keep us swaddled in the comforts of freedom.  Some of them have made the ultimate sacrifice.  First of all, let me make it abundantly clear that I am not one of those fine people.  I was a civilian contractor and worked alongside of them, but not in a combat role.  Having said that, I do know what it’s like to know that a part of me is still there.  I know what veterans feel like, who upon coming home, feel like they have to go back, that they are missing a part of themselves, and need to go back to find it, somehow.  I did just that myself.  I finally realized what it was that I left and that I wouldn’t get it back and that I was only going to leave yet another part of myself over there.  Eventually I chose to come home again, and I really hope not to go back, if I can help it.  That is a choice our military does not always get to exercise.

If you know a veteran, or have one as a family member, please try to understand how torn in two they can be, especially on this day, even years later.  Many Vietnam vets still experience this, especially on Memorial Day, Veterans Day, or on specific days related to events that occurred in country.  Respect their need for quiet, for space, and give them the support they need.  In many cases, a huge part of them has been left ‘over there’ and on certain days, that void is clearly felt.

Returning to the civilian world is very difficult once you’ve experienced what they have.  The suicide rate is ridiculously high among returning veterans.  It is estimated at about 22 per day.  This is unacceptable.  As civilians with no military experience, it’s probably unrealistic that we can understand what they are experiencing and consequently try to help them unless we are professionally trained to do so.  I know a lot of veterans are actively working at reaching out to other vets to do so.  Nevertheless, the VA system is failing them, and doing so spectacularly.  This is also unacceptable.

So it seems it is once again, as in post-Vietnam, up to us, their fellow Americans, to support them, not with empty slogans, but to actually do something.  So, don’t be afraid of them.  They are people just like you and me, who have lived through extraordinary events who are just trying to become regular people again.  So help them become regular people again by inviting them into our regular lives and doing regular things and allow them to decompress and give them the space to talk about things when or if they feel safe to do so, but by all means…do not ask.  Do not be shocked if you start hearing things that make you feel uncomfortable.  Just listen.  And continue to accept them as regular people.  That’s all they really want to be.



Show of hands, who has made it through their lives without making any mistakes?  Yeah, that’s about what I thought.

We humans are flawed creatures.  The best we can hope for is to minimize our mistakes, keep the damage to a minimum and hopefully be able to correct the damage, unless we are so narcissistic or sociopathic to believe that we are blameless and it’s always ‘someone else’s problem’.

I’m currently dealing with one of those situations which we euphemistically describe as our “chickens have come home to roost”.  After forty years, that’s a lot of chickens.  Those things breed like…chickens.  No, I won’t share the details, as that isn’t the point of this posting.   Suffice to say, if all goes well, it will be a good thing.  If it doesn’t, then nothing really changes, too much at least.  It’s been the single biggest regret in my life, and while I wish I could have made different choices at the time, I still stand by the choices I made then.  It really was an impossible choice, given the circumstances at the time.  My regrets are more along the lines of the effects it has had on the people involved.  That is what I hope to correct, forty years down the road.   I knew that this would surface at some point again, and it seems to have done so, at probably the most appropriate point it could have.  I guess only time will tell, and perhaps the lesson from all of this is…patience.  The long term type of patience.  The exact type I’ve never been very good at.  Ta-daaaahhh!

If life weren’t so dam comical I’d forget to laugh now and then.

Fortunately, I’ve had some excellent guidance through this episode though which I have been remarkably unobjective.  I will not mention his name because I didn’t ask permission of him and I don’t wish to embarrass him in any case.  But you know who you are and I’m not sure if I could have navigated this particular mine field without your assistance and guidance.  Thank you.

I have no idea where this thing will end up, but I have reason to believe, by the way things have unfolded of late, that it won’t be a total disaster.  At least not yet.  There is of course, still a chance that I will step on my…um, make a misstep but I hope not.  We’re all working without a map and without a net so it’s a little scary.  But I remain hopeful.  Maybe I’ll get a chance to write about it all later.

What’s my point?  Don’t be afraid of the past.  We’ve all done things we’re not proud of.  There’s always time to at least try to make things right again.  So try.  You never know what you can gain from it.  Oh yes, one more person to thank, and you know who you are.  Thank you for coming out of the past to reach out to me and make this all happen.  I hope we can make the best of this, and it’s nice to know that we’re on the same page.