Saturday, May 26, 2007

Two Healing Words

By Jim Moeller

Written May 26, 2007

Although Memorial Day is a day set aside in respect for those who have lost their lives in protection of our freedoms, the day has evolved to also include a "thank-you" for all who are currently serving.

I remember that for my dad, a WWII veteran, Memorial Day included a visit to all of the local cemeteries to put American flags on the graves of all that gave the ultimate sacrifice.
It is with Memorial Day as the background that I want to share a story, a healing story, that took place a couple of weeks ago.
Needing new glasses, I visited the location of my old eye doctor to find he had moved on and had taken all of the files with him. So, I needed a new eye doctor.
Several days later I was shopping at the newly opened Costco and discovered that they had an eye doctor. The following Saturday morning I called the doctor's phone number and was pleasantly surprised when she answered the phone. In a gentle healing voice she told me I could come in any time I wanted that day.
I did.
She again greeted me with courtesy and kindness that is seldom seen in today's world. During the exam we continued small talk as an internally driven voice started to interrupt my thought pattern. The voice told me to, "Ask her about her background. Ask her where she is from."
As she continued her exam the voice grew louder. "Ask her...Ask her."
The more I denied the "politically incorrect" voice, the stronger the voice became.
"Ask her."
"Ask her."
Again I mentally argued back, "No!"
"Ask her."
"Okay. Okay."
As she finished the exam I finally started to put together a sentence that I hoped would not sound insensitive.
"Can I ask you what your ethnic background is? You know, your family background."
She first seemed hesitant as if digesting my words and my motive.
"I'm Vietnamese. I am from Vietnam."
I hesitated and then moved my head to acknowledge her information.
"You weren't born in Vietnam, were you?"
"Yes, I was."
I then took a deep breath and brought up a subject I seldom discuss. The Vietnam War.
I told her that I had never set foot in her homeland, but as a military jet pilot flying off an aircraft carrier I had seen her country many times.
Not sure why, I went on to explain that I was over Saigon during the last days of the war. As if she was naive, I explained that we were protecting the exit of American troops and American civilians. In addition, we were helping the South Vietnamese civilians who had worked for our government to escape. Their staying would have been certain death under the hand of the Viet Cong.
As I completed my history lesson I could see her eyes had filled with tears.
"Mr. Moeller, on those final days of the war, I was 7 years old and my family and I were some of the people you were protecting as we were airlifted out."
By now her growing tears were rolling down her cheeks.
She then spoke saying only two words. "Thank you."
By now the tears were also flowing down my face as I responded to her comment. "You're welcome."
Anyone who served during those times of Vietnam knows how the experiences, as well as our hostile homecomings, were stuffed. And then here, in the most unlikely moment, this young woman not only unlocked all the pain from a troubled time; she healed it as well with just those two words.
I only wish that all of the struggling veterans of that era could have experienced that "thank you" with me.
We talked a bit more about our recollections from a time so long ago. She told me of the advice given her by her father. "For as long as you live, do something for an American each and everyday. They have given us so much more than we can ever give them."
On that Saturday morning I was the recipient of her father's suggestion.
Finally, on the lighter side, I told her that I did not believe that she looked old enough to have been born in Vietnam.
She replied, "Your eyes must be bad. Now we know for sure that you need new glasses."

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