Friday, April 4, 2008

Hearts and Souls and Lives

This blog has a major theme that could interest combat veterans and those who interact with them. Considering this it might be beneficial to consider combat veteran Davidson Loehr’s words that call for empathy and compassion from those who would associate with such veterans. His words suggest the basis from which care for veterans need to proceed. Loehr drew on Herbert Butterfield’s critique of documented history. Butterfield comments that the condensation of history into a manageable form eliminates the “chaos” that makes up historical reality:

"There is not an essence of history that can be got by evaporating the human and personal factors, the incidental or momentary or local things, and the circumstantial elements, as though at the bottom of the well there were something absolute, some thing independent of time and circumstance . . . The chaos [of history] acquires form by virtue of what we choose to omit."

Loehr applies Butterfield’s commentary to the healing relationships between Vietnam War combat veterans and caring individuals.

"‘The chaos acquires form by virtue of what we choose to omit.’ In the cases of Vietnam era veterans, the chaos acquires form only by omitting the hearts and souls and lives of the veterans themselves. So that’s really my message and my hope: that you will not try to understand, not try to assign moral values to the stories of individuals in Vietnam, not try to come to an attitude of certainty about the right and wrong of it all. Rather, if you would try to be with us at all, be with us in the chaos and let yourself become confused and disoriented, all awash with feelings, hurts, and memories of both joys and regrets that will never be fully sorted out, never be fully assimilated, and never be gone.
Then, perhaps, we can begin to come home again."

The ambiguity in the word “we” in the last line of Loehr’s statement suggests the benefit for veterans and others. “Coming home” is based on the truths that both Vietnam war veterans and combat veterans of other wars and their friends and associates must come to know. These are truths about humanity that if accepted will help make veterans, minister, associates, and friend whole or at home with themselves.

Herbert Butterfield, The Whig Understanding of History (New York: Norton, 1965): 31,66,68, 97. Quoted in Davidson Loehr, “To Care Without Judging” The University of Chicago Magazine. (Spring 1985): 49, in Walter Capps, Ed. The Vietnam Reader. (New York: Routledge, 1991): 25.

Davidson Loehr, “To Care without Judging” The University of Chicago Magazine. (Spring 1985): 49, in Walter Capps, ed. In The Vietnam Reader: 25.

1 comment:

Rick in Powell said...


Loehr's statement resonates strong with those of us who have been there. Praise be to those who have not been, but choose to try.