"Sharing can be a way of healing. Grief and loss can isolate,
anger even alienate. Shared with others, emotions unite
as we see we aren't alone. We realize others weep with us."
~Susan Wittig Albert

Through our writing, we walk out of the darkness into the light
together, one small step at a time, recording history, educating
America, and we are healing.
~CJ/Todd Dierdorff

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Craig Latham: We Were Soldiers

We Were Soldiers
by Craig Latham

Last night, I watched "We Were Soldiers" on TV again. I've seen it many times in the past, and it always leaves me with a hollow feeling at the end, when Colonel Moore reflects about losing his men and yet he is still alive. I cannot fathom ever having to tell someone to put their life on the line like that. I've often felt the same way, 'Why not me, instead of them'?

Anyway, I first saw the movie when it came out in theaters. My ex-wife (my wife at the time) and I went to the theater at the New Philadelphia, Ohio, Mall to see it. There were quite a few people there. I sat spellbound during the whole movie, never glancing around at anyone. Every now and then, my wife would squeeze my hand when something would happen, I guess assuring me that everything would be okay. She was twenty years younger than me, so she would have been two years old when I was in Vietnam. I don't think she really knew the impact the movie would have on me.

After the movie was over, the lights came up. You could hear people around us talking about where they were going to go to get something to eat and then they left -- all but seven people. All were men. Most were with someone, but one was seated by himself. They just sat there, staring at an empty movie screen. Each was lost in his own thought(s). I, too, was one of them. My wife didn't move, she just sat there and rubbed her fingers across my hand. She was also in no hurry to leave, as the others were. I heard a couple of sobs, and then I heard one person say, "Are you ok, Dad?"

I looked around at the men sitting there and I knew. Like me, they were all Vietnam Vets. They might have been there during those days of the Ia Drang Valley or, maybe after that, at some other little known place some 10,000 miles from home. But for a year or so, for us, that place was 'home'.

We probably sat there for fifteen minutes or so and when I got up to leave, I didn't go directly to the back of the theatre to the exit. I went down the isle to the man who was sitting by himself. I walked up to him, shook his hand and said, "Welcome Home." He just smiled through his tears. He didn't need to say a thing. He knew. I knew.

I gave each of the other men a 'Nod' or said "Welcome Home." They smiled back and, for a moment, We Were Soldiers again. There we were in an empty movie theater thinking about a place where we didn't want to be, a place we couldn't completely leave.

Although she is now my ex-wife, I couldn't have made it without her.

Craig Latham
101st Airborne Division (Ambl)
Combat writer and combat photographer
Phu Bai, S. Vietnam

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

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1 comment:

  1. It's not much, is it? A few moments in a movie theatre connecting with some powerful memories and a few other powerful hearts.....
    There are no ticker tape parades or purple hearts that can touch that ever raw space that war creates.....only small bits of compassion quietly shared as your eyes continue to adjust to the light as you find your way out of another dark theatre, groping as best you can towards home.
    with lots of love prayers.....


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