Vietnam: Armistice of the Soul
Forrest L. Gomez, known affectionately as Old Sarge writes of his experience in which an enemy became a friend, and war wounds were healed by the good will that comes from God.
MEMORIES OF DAYS GONE BY:
As I approach my 65th birthday, and by definition enter the winter of my life, there is a story I would like to tell one more time. It is, in fact, my only good post Vietnam story, and it will sound extremely preposterous to thinking people. I would like to say in advance that I will take no offense to anyone who does not believe me.
In previous editorials, I covered the terrible five-day siege at my team’s base camp by two main-force Viet Cong battalions, and how they went to a nearby town and killed some civilians who worked for the government, including a young Vietnamese woman with whom I had discussed marriage. Fast forward to the fall of Saigon, and an ingnominius end to the war for this country, engineered by this nation’s Left. When I left Vietnam in 1970, I stayed in the Army with people who were like myself, and I had a great extended family structure for support, so I did not suffer from PTSD or anything related. I was embittered, however, and I hated half this nation and the government that got us involved in a war with no intention of winning. At times, I was hard to get along with, and I sometimes drank too much. Now, couple these circustances with the fact that I was one of those geeks who studied military uniforms and decorations.
Shortly after the fall of Saigon, I was stationed at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), near Mons, Belgium. My present girlfriend and I took a three-day pass to go visit the city of Maubege, right across the border in France, a city of castles, war memorials, cafes, museums, etc. While sitting at a sidewalk cafe and enjoying lunch, I noticed an Asian man at the next table, wearing military decorations from North Vietnam, China, and the Soviet Union. (It was Mayday, and in Europe, veterans wear their decorations on their civilian jackets on certain holidays.) We began a slow, cautious conversation, and decided we liked each other, even though we had fought on opposite sides, and began to compare experiences. He said he had been a Viet Cong commander, but had gotten out of Vietnam when the North Vietnamese Army sold out the Viet Cong, arresting many of their leaders. Later on, he became a staunch Catholic. I told him about the siege of my base camp in 1968, and he looked at me strangely, and outlined a very similar scenario he was involved in. For a moment, you could here a pin drop, and even my girlfriend was holding her breath. This man asked, “Son have we met before?” I stammered, “If we did, sir, I’m afraid it was probably over our gun sights.” Then suddenly, it didn’t matter, and we decided we still liked each other. He lectured me like an uncle, reminding me that both our countries had lied to us, that I must go forward and be happy, for we had survived things most people can’t imagine. He had noticed the anger in me, I believe. We parted with brotherly hugs and handshakes, and I felt better inside that day than I had in years.
The war ended for me that beautiful day in May, and I began to learn the real meaning of forgiveness. This was also one of the miracles that edged me towards giving my life to Christ in 1979. Well, there it is, brothers and sisters. Thank you for indulging this old moth-balled soldier one more time. I love you all. May our Lord God hold you all forever in His mighty and benevolent embrace! Shalom!
~ The Sarge
posted with author’s permission by ReaganGirl.com 10/30/13