Lesson Learned (March 24)


Granted, I have lived my life basically with a peaceful frame of mind centered in a strong belief in the Prince of Peace. However, now alarms are going off in my body, mind and soul. Russia has invaded Ukraine. Bombs are falling on innocent men, women and children. Communication with the tyrant Putin has broken down. His verbal threats imply use of nuclear weapons under his order is possible. Such horrible ideas unsettle me to the core.

Oh no, war!

This current state of affairs causes me to look back over my own life.

I grow up listening to war stories my father and our neighbors tell in the twilight after a full day working. The sun sets. Darkness engulfs us. Around a campfire I hear horrible stories of my Uncle Ralph dying in a plane crash in New Guinea. I bear his middle name. I am his namesake. I am told of his great mechanical skills and his engineering prowess. I weep that he died leaving his beloved and their young son. How sad I feel placing myself right in the midst of that tragedy.

I mature as a young man knowing of the Vietnam War being fought in the jungles of tropical Asia. Twelve of my friends and neighbors die young. How do I feel? Devastated. I must buckle down studying Chemistry and Biology, knowing my goal of following my father as a doctor, hinges on not having a bad semester in college. My close friend Fred fails at Fairmont State College then dies in a helicopter crash into a rice paddy. I feel the August heat. I taste the muddy water. I hear the whirl of other choppers. I cry in profound grief.

Falling in love with my beloved Araceli, who grew up in the Philippine Islands, gives me another glimpse of war. Her mother, Maria, hid with her and her siblings in the central mountainous rain forests of Tablas Island during World War II while the Japanese occupied the coastal villages. Her father, Nemesio, negotiated with the enemy for safety as Mayor of San Andres. All Filipinos rejoiced when General Douglas MacArthur and the American Armed Forces returned to defeat the enemy.

During my West Virginia University School of Medicine years, 1970 to 1974, I witness the devastation of the Buffalo Creek Disaster in Logan County, West Virginia, followed by the formulation of the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder syndrome. Like war, 50 years ago following that February 26, 1972, devastation when 4000 West Virginians suddenly became homeless and 125 died, my heart’s desire is to relieve their suffering. During my specialty training at West Virginia University / Charleston Area Medical Center, I treat flood victims and extended families.

Born and bred in war, my doctoring leads me to help the ones who suffer most. This turns out to be our brave men and women who fought for our freedom as combat veterans seeking care. No surprise then that I join the Veterans Affairs healthcare team as Chief of Psychiatry and Medical Director of the PTSD rehabilitation program at the Louis A. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center. I relieve some suffering, but I also ache with my patients learning from their stories how horrible war is! I learn, too, how fragile our natural world is.

Now our planet earth and all human beings are once again endangered.

Oh no, war!


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