Shepherd Bliss writes at Counterpunch:
“My God, what have we done?” combat soldiers sometimes gasp as they see those they or comrades just killed, especially when they include innocent children, women, and other civilians.
“We knew that we killed them/…the terrified mother/ clutching terrified child,” writes former Lieutenant Michael Parmeley in his poem “Meditation on Being a Baby Killer.” In l968, Lt. Parmeley led a combat platoon in the American War on Vietnam. He receives benefits for what is clinically described as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
“My gunner…started to cry,” Parmeley writes. “There’s a myth of recovery,/ that you put it behind you/…but memories aren’t like that/…I know that we killed them.”
Parmeley and I have participated in the Veterans’ Writing Group for twenty years. We attend regular meetings, break silences, tell our stories in a healing context, and listen without judgment. His poem appears in our book “Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace,” (www.vowvop.org) edited by our writing teacher, award-winning author, and former University of California Berkeley professor Maxine Hong Kingston.