Last night I presented WAR AND THE SOUL at Transitions Bookstore in Chicago. I inquired whether anyone in the audience was a veteran. One woman said she was. When asked her story, she explained, "My father was a World War II veteran. He was in brutal combat in the Pacific. It so affected his life that growing up with him was like living in a war zone. That makes me a veteran too!"
This woman's wisdom and pain must not be ignored. She understod, through difficult personal experience, that when one family member goes to war, war not only distorts that individual but is also inevitably passed on to spouse, children, and the community. Some Native American communities report that nearly their entire adult male populations are combat veterans. Such communities can become like war zones or armed camps themselves, rampant with violence, fear, substance abuse, instability of every kind. As the woman in the bookstore and the evidence of these small communities tell us, the effects of war ripple throughout our communities and down the generations, affecting and infecting everyone who lives with veterans troubled by the aftereffects of war.
We cannot escape the reach of war. When one of us has gone to war, we all have gone. When one of us is infected by its horror and poisons, we all are.