When I was a boy, I easily answered the age-old question, “What do you want to be when you grow up”. I vacillated now and then, according to what was going on in my life. When my father was ill I decided that I wanted to be a physician. Later, it was athlete during football season, actor during spring drama season, and so on. I felt called to be a minister like my father, but I pretty well rebelled at that idea. I thought pretty seriously for a while about becoming a police officer, I kept going back, however, to the idea that had always excited me most. So, as quickly as I could do so following completion of high school, I became a soldier. I had big plans for accomplishing all kinds of things in the United States Army. Regardless of how good or bad I was at the job of soldiering, however, the nature of the profession required that, at some time sooner or later, I would have to transition to plan “B”. For me that time came sooner. One sunny day in South Viet Nam we went out looking for an enemy headquarters and found it. The paratroopers took the objective. Casualties were heavy, and I was among them.
I was twenty years old with a high school education. I had barely begun my military career. Now career plan “A” was out of the question and I had no plan “B”.
Some of us believe that our lives are divinely planned. Some believe that the Creator presents opportunities that we accept or reject. Some believe that we have been given intelligent minds in order to make our own decisions. Some of us believe that the Creator makes no intervention in human affairs at all. Of course, some of us believe that there is no Higher Power at all. Regardless of how we come down on the question of divine intervention in our lives, decisions such as switching to career plan “B” when one’s entire focus had been on a now unavailable plan “A”, are difficult at best. They become even more complex when issues such as emotional maturity, identity confusion, anger, depression, and physical disability are included. Such complex dilemmas are common to young men and women who must deal with combat related injuries.
All too often in such scenarios as mine outlined above no plan “B” exists. While it may seem to those who know me all these years later that I landed on my feet, I assure you that I did not. I had no plan “B”, nor do most of the youngsters who defend us in this crazy world. Through hard work, family support, and wheelbarrows full of V.A. as well as Defence Department money, I feel that I have made a success of my life. While I am not unique in this sense, many of my former brothers and sisters in arms have not achieved such a feeling of success. Too many aging warriors continue to live too much of their lives lost on shadowy battlefields of long resolved wars. For some, there is never a career plan “B”. There is only a quest for survival, even after returning home.
I’m unsure what the point of this column is intended to be. I think I am asking for community support for those who are still searching for peace. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if plan “B” could be peace for all of us who have picked up arms against one another.
Peace and God Bless