When I was in my 20’s, I had a corporate communications job at an airline based out of Phoenix. A pilot at the airline, who was a Vietnam veteran, came up with the idea to fly 50 local vets –at no cost to them– to Washington D.C., to participate in the many Veterans Day ceremonies held there as a way to honor their service. He pitched and sold the idea to our CEO and then I was assigned to coordinate the logistics and be the company escort on the trip. We partnered with the Phoenix Vet Center and the event was called Operation Freedom Bird. I spent three days with 50 Vietnam vets, the pilot who came up with the idea, Pat Lynch, and Ken, a counselor and veteran himself (picture below).
I was young and naïve about the Vietnam War. All I knew was the historical overview I learned in high school. My Dad served in that war, but he never spoke about it. I especially did not know, the sacrifice our military men and woman undertake to protect our freedoms. On the trip, I overheard stories of how integrating back into civilian life was difficult because the trauma of war never completely goes away. We spent many hours at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. More than 58,000 men and women, who lost their lives, have their names inscribed on black granite walls at this memorial. I saw strong men become emotional as they took rectangle shaped pieces of paper and placed it over names on the wall and then rubbed wax crayons or graphite pencils over them have a paper memento of their fallen buddies.
These prompts are dedicated to all of our Veterans.
Write a reflection today about a veteran you know who has sacrificed time, life, limb, blood and/or mental wellbeing in service for all of us. Better yet, write a thank you note to that veteran and send it out.
Today is Election Day. Our country is polarized by politics, yet men and woman still defend democracy in this country by serving in the military. Reflect and write on how you think our country can heal after this crazy presidential election.
While on that trip to Washington D.C., I noticed the mutual respect and camaraderie the men had for each other. Write about the healing that occurs when sharing happens among people that have similar experiences.
At the Vietnam War Memorial, thousands of people take “rubbings” of names every day from the wall. Many of the etchings on simple white paper are further embellished and then framed and hung in homes. Why is creating art, and public spaces like this memorial helpful with healing? Write about an experience where any kind of art or open space made you feel better.
Benjamin Franklin said, “There never was a good war or a bad peace.” Write a word cluster starting with peace.
This is hard to think about, but I did after seeing the movie Eye in the Sky. It’s about a drone operation that escalates and the rules of engagement that are considered when creating a kill zone. One of the characters, a general in the movie, says, “Never tell a soldier that he does not know the cost of war.” Think about the last personal confrontation you had. What did it cost you? Or the person you had the conflict with? Write about what you think “good rules of engagement” should be to use in our personal lives to avoid conflict and move toward healthy relationships.
Military men and women spend long periods away from their families while deployed. Write about missing someone and then your joyous reunion with that person.
Shortly after my trip with those vets, twenty plus years ago, Pat Lynch founded and has continued serving his fellow veterans with a non-profit called, –no surprise here– Operation Freedom Bird. Every year, they take combat veterans, from all wars to Washington D.C. This organization provides a unique healing journey and a therapeutic program aimed at helping veterans heal from PTSD, unresolved grief and loss. Air transportation is donated, but they rely on donations from the public to cover food, lodging and ground transportation. Click here to read more and consider donating.