Why Hacksaw Ridge Brought Me Full Circle

It was only fitting that I would choose this movie as the week closes on Veterans’ and Election Day.

I watched the movie as close to home as I have gotten in the last 15 years – Smith Mountain Lake – since my parents have passed. Ironically, this location is only an hour from the setting of the movie and where my parents took retirement after active service (Lynchburg, VA).

One of my earliest memories is meeting my father in Honolulu while he was on R & R from Viet Nam. He had already served in World War II and Korea. I wasn’t more than five years old when we swayed and danced to The Girl from Ipanema. He led while I positioned my feet on top of his. But something happened in those post retirement years, not long after our dance. How one handles horrific experiences of combat is unique.

In the years that followed, I went to college, married, and became a mother. My young adult self would utter, “I just don’t understand,” when my father, this Army colonel, never volunteered to discuss his more than 30 years of active service.

A few years before his death, I imploringly wrote a short note inside a Father’s Day card, asking him to share his experiences with his young grandsons. The card was coupled with a shadow box of medals I had stumbled upon that had been tucked away in old bandaid boxes. How could something so valuable be hidden or kept in this manner?

I “consciously objected” to what I perceived as his lack of understanding on my part to know his history. I was trying desperately to understand the father I didn’t. And to know the father who had survived 3 wars and 8 combat campaigns, but slowly died in life engagement during post retirement years. But you don’t know what you don’t know. And, because I didn’t know, I lacked understanding.

———

The graphically visual scenes of this movie left clear understanding of what these veterans lived through and died for on behalf of each of us. We don’t know what we don’t know. And we don’t know what we don’t see, live through, or experience.

Except for those who are or have been serving in the last decade or so, many in my generation have no idea what sacrifice means. And neither do our children. I don’t know what I don’t know. They don’t know what they don’t know. And for this I am convicted and feel ashamed. I have no idea what sacrifice means. Really.

The awareness that this movie provides is impetus for shattering some beliefs while strengthening others. Here’s what is true about life:

  • Battles in life can make us better or bitter.
  • Faith carries when foes throw us down.
  • Stamina is strengthened when strained.

My encouragement is for you to see this movie. Perhaps it will lend insight into a family member, yourself, or another.

And now I know what I know. And because I know, I understand. And because I understand, I can accept that to which I previously consciously objected. And maybe you will too.

Dad, I miss you. I have come full circle.

This blog is dedicated to all the men and women who serve this country. You truly know and understand. I salute you

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