My Lai 4

9 07 2012

I have a friend who is a Vietnam War veteran (1967-1968). He is a wonderful person, kind, deeply spiritual, and soft-spoken. One topic has dominated his conversations ever since I have known him…My Lai (pronounced “me lie”). He was stationed at Chu Lai and was one of the support battalions for the infamous Charlie Company.

On 16 March 1968, Charlie Company entered the hamlet of My Lai and systematically killed over 500 babies, children, women, and elderly men. It was a horrible massacre under the leadership of LT. William Calley. I was only in Jr High but remember the story well and the many demonstrations held in protest. It was covered up for almost a year by the Nixon Administration and severely damaged our credibility among the Vietnamese and around the world.

My friend let me read a book entitled “My Lai 4, A Report of the Massacre and its Aftermath” written by Seymour M. Hersh; I just finished reading it. The description of the massacre was brutal, the disregard for human life was appalling. My friend is quick to point out that the majority of soldiers sent to Vietnam were honorable men with integrity and that in war the rules of engaging the enemy are often decided in seconds or less and that an order from a commanding officer is to be followed without question.

For over 40 years my friend has struggled with the question of whether he would kill in those circumstances. The moral dilemma has taken its toll. He still has functional PTSD, sees a counselor on a regular basis, and basically is still in Vietnam. Mind you, he was not in My Lai when the massacre occurred, but he was within 5 miles of the hamlet and had seen some of the soldiers involved after the incident.

I do not wish to reopen wounds, but just want to make one observation. Our war veterans have seen more than the average person and constantly deal with issues in which we are not aware. Issues that may haunt them the rest of their life. They may not have been physically disabled because of a war injury, but they are mentally and emotionally scarred, for life. Thank a vet for their service and be understanding of their world view. Their only hope is found in Christ.

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