Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Collateral Damage

(Resurrection House is a day shelter for homeless people here in Sarasota.  I am the chaplain there.)

 

He sat next to me at the prayer service at Resurrection House this morning. 

He was a big man, probably in his fifties.

 

As we prayed he began to sob.  I placed my left hand on his shoulder.  He spoke through his tears.  “Can I ever be forgiven?” was his repeated question.

 

He had been a helicopter pilot in the U.S.A.F during the Vietnam War.  

His brother had been drafted, so he volunteered so that his brother would not have to serve.  (There was a policy not to have two people from the same family serving at the same time). 

 

“Can I ever be forgiven?”    He was haunted by the knowledge that his military actions had caused the deaths of young Vietnamese children. “I killed young innocent children” was his cry.

 

I listened carefully, and I assured him that he had already been forgiven.  I expressed the hope that he would meet those children in “heaven” and be able to tell them that he was sorry.  I encouraged him to get into a Vietnam era support group through the V.A.

 

I felt wimpy and inadequate as I ministered to this man.  The best I could do was to listen.

 

Strange isn’t it, that after I had written just the other day about “collateral damage” in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, I was led to experience the American side of collateral damage today.

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