Tag Archives: duty

Holy Duty

Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. December investigates charity.

We cannot experience charity by sharing ourselves with others unless we can accept ourselves, even our egos. Yes, the goal of many spiritual growth paradigms is to abandon ego; however, in my lay opinion, abandoning ego completely may lead to spiritual enlightenment and physical death. I aim to abandon the ego as the center of my existence.

And, that brings us to duty.

“Holiness is not the luxury of the few. It is a simple duty for you and for me.” (Mother Teresa)

I have made a leap from lay psychology to spirituality of the masses (pun intended). Come on, you knew it was coming. I have given you enough Jungian kind of psychology to expect some commitment to the unconscious.

This has been a challenging week for the entire concept of duty—with the release of the torture report. Last week I had searched for duty quotes and found many that are negative or inappropriate for this blog. I think the explanation is fairly simple: Egocentric duty is damned dangerous.

I recall a story about young Mother Teresa, but I could not find it. It claimed she was so moved by the hunger of the people she cared for that she gave away her own meager lunch. Day after day. And, being of youthful metabolism, she soon began to weaken until a superior noticed her failing stature and inquired. Young Mother Teresa was admonished to eat her lunch.

The point of the story? Unless we keep ourselves alive and reasonably healthy, we will have no strength, even no life, perhaps, to share with others.

I do not know if the story is true about Mother Teresa, but I know it is true about me.

It is the oxygen mask rule. In the case of a sudden loss of cabin pressure in the airplane, your oxygen mask will drop from the overhead panel. Put it on as demonstrated. If you are traveling with a dependent, put your mask on first so that you will be able to help your child or mother traveling with you.

That is why I say we must not abandon our ego—only put it in its proper place.

Proper place?

Yes, in service to others.

I am not Mother Teresa. Neither are you, I’ll bet, or you would not be reading my blog. We are people wounded by life, sure, but more than that, we are people with different duties, different callings.

Duty to whom?

Oh, no. You are not going to trick me into giving you my meager lunch. I have a deep conviction about my calling, my mission in life, and I am trying to live that. My gratitude is that I have been blessed with opportunities to serve others in that calling and that I continue to be so blessed.

For each of you, I pray such a blessing.

But, I am not a missionary to the poor. I am a teacher and occasional minister to the poor in spirit.

Who are you?

Whom do you serve?

There are very old ways of answering those most personal questions, ways that have much in common across indigenous cultures, ways that do not fail when the ego has been relegated to service, for then we become blessed with the joy of charity, of giving of ourselves, of doing our personal duty.

“Is it I, Lord?” (Daniel O’Donnell)

The answers are inside you, deep down beyond your ego, and they are Holy.

Happy Tracking!

Shades of Pride

Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. October looks at humility.

“In reality, humility means nothing other than complete honesty about yourself.” (William Countryman)

I began to look at humility years ago as the opposite of pride. That view was, at best, sophomoric. I know a little more, now.

I am proud of my Green Beret, the same one I wore to Vietnam and back that now lives in a zippered plastic hat box with Nancy’s Madison General RN cap. I worked for it and I earned it by doing some difficult things many other men chose not to do. This might be a healthy form of pride, good pride.

I am proud of my Combat Infantry Badge. I faced the enemy fire with some courage—enough so the Sergeant with me recommended me for a Silver Star. I told him not to pursue it because I hadn’t done anything heroic. I picked up a machine gun from a wounded man, but the firefight was already over. It only made sense since I had qualified Expert with the M-60. Besides, in a fight, there was nowhere I would rather be than behind that weapon. I only did my job, but I am proud of that and I believe that is a healthy pride.

For forty years, I was not proud of my Bronze Star awarded not for valor but for service. Then, one day while processing PTSD, I talked with Nancy about our operations, how we walked the jungle with one or two other Americans, two or three Republic of Vietnam Green Berets, and interpreter, and fifty to a hundred Civilian Irregular Defense Group soldiers, some of whom were likely Viet Cong.

She looked at me and said, “That’s nuts.”

I decided right there that I really had served well. Discounting my Bronze Star was a false humility, a form of unhealthy pride, bad pride.

Have you ever had a dream about embarrassment? You know, naked in public or doing something totally inappropriate or unacceptable like singing off key in front of a crowd? See, that is a bad form of pride. Fear of failure, embarrassment, or shame robs me of my power, even the power to serve others. Humiliation does not equal humility. It equals false pride.

I think.

It gets confusing. It seems that searching out and finding my false pride, boastful pride, or bad pride is healthy. But, looking for my humility is like trying to catch a rainbow.

Maybe true humility is the act of looking for tracks of false pride in me while false pride is looking for the tracks of my humility.

Happy tracking.

News Blues

“We sure could use a little good news, today,” according to lyricsdepot.com, written by Charles Black, Rory Bourke, and Thomas Rocco, and sung by Anne Murray.

Yes, gatherings and remembering our troops and Veterans on special days helps; however, there are some precautions.

“One of the biggest sources of arousal or a trigger for combat veterans is a steady diet or exposure to the news.” (Hart, 2000, p. 68)

Reminder: For the next few months, this blog is dedicated to my reflections on a book by Ashley B. Hart II, PhD, called An Operators Manual for Combat PTSD: Essays for Coping.

One of the first things I did this morning, even as I prepared to travel half way across the country, was to bring in the daily newspaper. Yes, my eyes went immediately to the front page headlines: killing of a local police chief, arrest of a businessman for fraud—I stopped. Fortunately, the lead story was our high school graduation celebrations.

We are compelled to watch the news. In my limited view, it is a part of the compulsion to save the world, even while I am obsessed with freedom from such responsibilities. It is common for combat veterans to fixate on news stories (especially cable TV), to obsess on the stories, and to talk about them. They bother us.

It’s almost like a food allergy. As soon as we are exposed to any amount of certain kinds of news, we develop a craving. We can’t stop watching.

When the U.S. began Operation Desert Storm right after my birthday in 1991, I could not stop watching. Even then, I recognized that I had an unnatural fixation, but I was compelled. It seemed I thought if I didn’t stay with it, something bad might happen.

“No, I wanna go, sir. In case something bad happens, I wanna be there.” (Private Witt near the end in The Thin Red Line)

But, the reality is, we can’t do anything. Bad stuff happens, and we are helpless.

That’s the trigger, the feeling of vulnerability. We go into full survival mode of noradrenergic dysregulation, a wild ride or dinosaur dump of primitive brain (limbic system or the reptilian brain) control. Adrenalin changes our physiology and psychology, and it feels very uncomfortable for days.

The process is adrenalin leading to dysfunctional self statements (stinkin’ thinkin’ or wearisome worrying, as Dr. Hart says). He goes on to caution us, “Remember, hearing, reading, or watching the news will give you the blues.”

You can help. As you honor our troops and Veterans on Memorial Day or any other day, stay positive. Avoid talking about war, politics, wildfires, hurricanes, or dastardly deeds. Take a break from doomsday prophecies and character assassinations, even if the Veterans initiate it. Focus on something positive—say, graduation, a new baby, somebody coming home, an upcoming wedding, or the simple beauty around you, because it is there.


Dreadful Day

‘Tis mem’ry of that dreadful day,                                                    That lasts a hundred years,                                                               And grief for loss of youthful self,                                                   That bleeds a million tears.

Erv Barnes, 17 May, 2012

We were young, relatively innocent, and full of health and hope. Then, one day, we were old, experienced, and jaded to the core.

Reminder: For the next few months, this blog is dedicated to my reflections on a book by Ashley B. Hart II, PhD, called An Operators Manual for Combat PTSD: Essays for Coping.

“Who were you before you were exposed to the trauma of war?” (Hart, 2000, p. 62)

For many years, I rejected the notion that I could have combat PTSD. After all, my combat experiences had been brief and limited. I couldn’t believe that I deserved to be affected.

I am.

Maybe watching a fire base camp getting attacked for hour after hour, from the safety atop our team house, scared me. All I could do was coordinate the firing of our two little 105mm Howitzers.

Maybe watching whole families of Cambodians streaming south along the road by our camp, all their possessions in oxcarts, confused me.

Maybe saying goodbye to my Vietnamese and Cambodian friends when we had already evacuated most Americans from our Special Forces border camps saddened me.

I cannot say which time was my bad day at the war.

Others can. Some of my friends have horrific memories of the Tet Offensive of 1968, battles that raged not minutes or hours, but days. Each year as the anniversary approaches, they take steps to brace themselves for the wave of vulnerability and despair—and, perhaps, survivor guilt—that is inevitable. Their souls flash back to that time and relive the emotion, anger, and helplessness.

Holidays are difficult, special days such as Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Veterans Day. Maybe it’s the anniversary of getting sworn in (17 May 1968), or the day you left “Country” to return home, DEROS or Date Eligible to Return from Overseas (1 Nov 70). Maybe it’s other special days, family days of celebration including Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, wedding anniversaries, or birthdays.

After our first experience in battle in the jungle, while we paused for a break as we moved toward a clearing where we could evacuate wounded, we stopped for a smoke. The Sergeant confessed, cigarette shaking in his hand, “…I just realized them sons-a-bitches were trying to kill me.”

Dr. Hart explains (p. 65), “When you realized this, you lost your sense of being invulnerable and were overwhelmed with a sense of vulnerability. In that moment, your basic cognitions regarding how the world worked and what you needed to do to survive, changed.”

In order to survive, I needed to kill people.

There is no going back once that realization has crystallized. I had become a different person, and I grieve the Erv that I can no longer be, my pre-trauma self.

You can help. When you honor our troops and Veterans, you validate me. When you remember the sacrifices of my fallen comrades, you validate me. When you help our troops return to families and communities, find jobs, go to school, and buy a house, you validate me.

When you honor us on Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Veterans Day, you validate the reality and the importance of that loss of youthful innocence.

Saturday is Armed Forces Day. Thank you for honoring our troops and validating me. It helps. It really does.

Suns of Orion

By the dying embers in the darkening forest midway between equator and pole on a tiny blue marble in Constellation Orion of the Milky Way Galaxy, somewhere in the everness, sits a soul wearing a young man’s clothes and contemplating his place, his role, his relevance.

In a few short laps of the marble about the nearest star, he sits by dying embers in the same forest, wearing a much older man’s clothes and contemplating his loss of place, role, and relevance.

Combat ages men and women at the speed of death—which is much quicker than the speed of life.

“Sixty five years. Doesn’t it go by in a blink?” (Bill in Meet Joe Black)

Reminder: For the next few months, this blog is dedicated to my reflections on a book by Ashley B. Hart II, PhD, called An Operators Manual for Combat PTSD: Essays for Coping.

Vietnam was an interruption of my quest for relevance, my study of how the universe works, my path to greatness. Yet, in service to my country, I found another form of relevance and wore it on my sleeve, collar, chest, and head. A Special Forces unit patch, Combat Infantry Badge and Bronze Star for Service testified to my sacrifice. A Green Beret spoke of my specialness. A “thousand mile stare” over tight lips whispered my experience.

Then I came home.

I returned to family, friends, and a place of relevance on campus of the University of Wisconsin. My destiny was in my grasp, again, but it slipped away.
I had changed. America had changed. And, we had not done so together. Dr. Hart calls it the Rip van Winkle effect.

The Veteran separated from his/her duty, back in a world focused on things that seem trivial against the experience of combat, a world that seemed to go on in her/his absence, feels out of place, unnecessary, strange, and even disenfranchised.

It is a feeling of being discarded and of being worthy of being discarded. We have lost our way.

In combat, our presence meant life or death to those around us. Our actions were not only relevant, they were all that separated vulnerability from extinction. We were survival to each other, to our teammates.

Back at home, we became decoration, nuisance, and the painful reminder of America’s choice for war. We complicate families and communities that seemed to function better without us. We struggle to find something to do that might be relevant, meaningful, useful, and positive, but we don’t seem to fit, anymore.

Aging accentuates the mortality, the vulnerability, the reality of life, and we long to leave something of ourselves for posterity.

Our little star is a son of the Orion Nebula, our planet recycled stardust. That is all we want—to be recycled stardust finding something important to do with our lives.

Support Troops After Return. Help us find something to do to serve America at home.

Why Write What We Do Not Know?

Say, what? How can I write what I don’t know? I always heard the advice, “Write what you know.”

Absolutely. Do write what you know, but if that is all you write, you aren’t going to learn much, and learning is one very important reason for writing.

I came to this conclusion with disarming lack of speed. I have written and graded more essays and term papers than the IRS could count. Okay, that’s hyperbole. The reason I wrote and assigned literary composition was that I believed it was a powerful learning process. I was right, it is.

Even though I believed in the value of writing as a learning tool at a cognitive level, I never grasped it emotionally until last week. My writing group, Write on the Edge (.org) asked me to speak and sign my books, Beyond the Blood Chit. My premise was that writing this novel became a part of my combat PTSD recovery process through learning.

The idea isn’t new. We can find quotes by famous authors referring to writing as an adventure in exploring uncertainty. No, I’m not going to give references, but I would love for you to provide some in comments on this blog.

We can only write what we know. If we try to write what we don’t know, we fail. Is this a paradox?


We begin to write what we know in an effort to explore what we don’t know, and this may be conscious or subconscious. It is a valid inquiry process. We start with the known and use it to illuminate the unknown. Writing is the tool through which we view and learn, or at least flirt with the possibility of learning.

Somewhere during the experience of writing this novel, originally called, “LG”, I recognized that it was about combat PTSD recovery. I admit that this recognition was empowered through a VA recovery program including individual and group counseling. It was also potentiated and developed by personal friends willing to discuss their own experiences and views.  

Like other activities of life, learning is a dance. We learn, use what we learn to inquire, learn more, and continue to inquire, constantly changing our minds. Sometimes we add new knowledge to old. Other times we modify what we believe to accommodate new tenets. Occasionally we reject old, dear, beliefs to acquire new and conflicting ideas. Writing helps us to do all of these.

So, I started writing a story called “LG” about a Vietnam Veteran, like me, who was trapped in some kind of internal dilemma. Blood Chit emerged as an icon for part of that confusion, the perceived duty to serve, help, and even rescue others. My friend’s tattoo of a daggaboy (retired cape buffalo bull) became the symbol for the other part, the longing for escape from this duty to my private water hole of safety. None of this was in my mind when I began writing, and some only emerged well into the rewriting process.

Because of this writing, only because I finished the novel and tried to market it, did I find out what the real story is about. That’s a lot for this old man to learn.

Finally, by agreeing to discuss the writing process with my colleagues, I have come to understand another piece of the mystery. What we learn depends upon our willingness to doubt, wonder, and work the processes of inquiry. It depends upon a commitment to write what we do not know.

Inquiry is not for the feint of faith or those convinced of their own certainty, but for those who want to know more.

For all people with a longing need to know, I personally recommend writing. Enjoy the journey.

Miracle of Gratitude

Late in the year of 2008, I accepted two related ideas: 1) I was not as happy as I wanted to be; and, 2) I was not as grateful as I needed to be. With the counsel of happier and more grateful friends, I began 2009 with the commitment to write one small gratitude statement in a daily meditation book—a different gratitude each day. Perhaps I missed three days that year, but I made up all my late work.

2009 was a very good year. Something wonderful happened along the way. I found humility (I hadn’t even noticed it was lost). And, there, behind humility, gratitude was waiting for me.

For those of you familiar with the works of one Nazarene, I have a word: Beatitudes.

Misery is a blessing. Power is in paradox, although I do not believe it is at all paradoxical except at a superficial level. Misery is a condition from which we learn. It is humbling. What we learn from such experiences is the blessing. We learn gratitude—if, and only if, we are willing.

Gratitude feels good. It is practically impossible to do evil when grateful. In gratitude, we act from love—and love comes back to us. That is not a paradox. It is the way our universe works.

Okay. I am going way out on a limb here. We have the experiences we request. Prayers are answered. I’ll try to explain.

I watch a movie, To Hell and Back, and wonder, “Would I be brave?” I really want to know. It occupies my mind for years. Then, I get the answer.

Nobody tells me, “Erv, you are brave.” I’m a skeptic. I wouldn’t believe a statement like that. The answer comes in an opportunity to be brave. The opportunity is peril of war.

In 1968, under imminent threat of military draft, I signed a guaranteed enlistment contract with the U.S. Army to train and employ as a Chemical Staff Specialist. It was my attempt to control my own destiny. Within a few days of swearing in, however, I surrendered that guarantee for the opportunity to attend Infantry Officer Candidate School with only one guarantee: I would go to Vietnam.

To this day, November 21st, 2011, I have been confused about why I did that. Why did this peacenik agriculture student volunteer to do such a thing? My friend used my words this morning to answer my question: Go before show.

Permit me an aside. I have disliked yellow ribbons on cars because I felt it was all show and no go. I never wore one. Now that I have an opportunity to advocate for Veterans with combat PTSD through Beyond the Blood Chit (www.ErvBarnes.com) and related personal appearances, I feel entitled to wear a yellow ribbon because I am, indeed, supporting our troops through my actions.

I never had to prove my courage in the way of Audey Murphy, but I did do my duty under fire. Today, I am grateful to know that about myself. Even though many comrades came home dead and wounded while I was unscratched, I have become grateful for my safe return and for the experience which now allows me to reach out to support our troops. Survivor’s guilt has evaporated. Anger over perceived injustices has dissipated. Gratitude remains.

Many days I still find myself wallowing in the muck and mire of self pity. I stare at the fears of the future and regrets of the past rather than the blessings of my present moment. Certainly, I need to focus on these blessings more than once a year or even once a day, but Thanksgiving is a season of gratitude. I celebrate it. Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

Re Quest: Honoring Duty

I have a confession to make. Those yellow ribbons on cars irritate me. They make me angry. You know the ones—they say Support our Troops. I don’t know what that means. I always want to turn on a red light, pull them over, and ask exactly what they actually DO that supports troops. Okay, I have a little Vietnam Syndrome now called PTSD.

When I returned, I did have a positive experience. My friend and I came home together, and we flew from Seattle to Minneapolis on a red-eye. A group of good ol’ boys on a hunting trip bought us drinks the whole flight, and we drank for effect in those days, especially when someone else was buying. Still, we felt the collective angst and disapproval toward us by our society. We felt un-thanked and unsupported. I want to thank and support our troops. I just don’t believe a yellow ribbon can do that in any meaningful way. If you have one on your car, that’s okay. This is my problem, not yours. Maybe you can tell me how you go about supporting our troops. I want to know.

Opportunities for me to cross paths with active and retired military are abundant in Yuma, AZ. We have two major and famous facilities in our area: Yuma Marine Corp Air Station with one of the country’s largest runways; and Yuma Proving Ground, one of the largest geographical testing sites in the country. How can I support these troops and Veterans?

This has not been easy for me, but I have found some ways. There are meetings to help troops and Veterans recover from combat experiences and adjust to civilian life. Community groups sponsor workshops, forums, and celebrations that offer individual and family support. No matter where you live, you probably have something nearby in the form of a Veterans Affairs clinic or center, or maybe just a community office. If nothing else, you probably have a National Guard or Reserve unit. Make a connection.

I offer written and spoken words. It is something I can do. I am not an organizer, fund raiser, counselor, or leader, but I can write and speak as an advocate for our troops and Veterans. I can share my story. It isn’t much, but if it helps even one person, it improves several lives—the life of that one troop or Veteran, the lives of his/her family and friends, the lives of other troops and Veterans helped by that person passing it along, and one more: me. Being of service is important for my wellbeing. Helping others is a very meaningful way for me to help myself.

Many of our people returning from regions of conflict bear invisible wounds (including those who also have visible wounds). They have troubling symptoms. Most of these will persist and even get worse over time. Our troops will attempt to cope with these symptoms. Many of these ways of coping—alcohol and other drugs, anger/rage, work or hobby immersion, isolation, etc.—are destructive. This defines a disease process, and we can help.

What do we do about breast cancer? Diabetes? Depression?

Action starts with awareness. We can learn about symptoms, treatments, recovery, and support mechanisms. Yes, I always seem to get back to learning as a solution to real problems. That is not because I taught—it is why I teach. Learning matters.

On my website (www.ErvBarnes.com), I suggest Awareness, Acceptance, and Adaptation as the recovery process. It is meant to be suggestive only, my way of looking at things. You can start your investigation there. You will find links to @ervbarnes on Twitter and Erv Barnes Ink on Facebook where I retweet and share PTSD information. Any search for PTSD will get you started. Wherever you go for information, please start now. We can support our troops and Veterans IF, and only if, we know how.

Please share comments with readers here about how you support troops and Veterans. What you say and do matters.

Note: The next thread of Quest for Etymoken will be much more positive, the Science of Joy, and will posted on Wednesdays. The writing thread posts, Journey for Authority, will be made on Mondays. You are the reason for these changes since my data says you like reading on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Public Rug: Learning Duty

In the spirit of Veterans’ Day, I will focus my comments on the positive contributions toward educating our young on the nature of duty. That will be the focus, but first I indulge my critical nature. When it comes to public education within and without the walls of institution, we do a lot of things wrong.

As a society, we tell young people their duty: sit quietly in school, volunteer to answer questions, complete homework on time, prepare for and strive to perform on tests, and successfully compete with peers by doing better than they do in school. Kids know that is a lot of bunk. They can feel it in their guts. They know intuitively that what they believe is their personal business. Because we cannot really teach duty (or much of anything else) by telling others what to do, we end up confusing them about the nature of duty. Thankfully, many of our young citizens and future leaders do learn lessons of duty at home and around the community—by watching how we appreciate those who have done and are doing their duty.

Sometimes our schools also do this very well. For many years, our Beaver Dam High School Senior Speech Class, taught by Mrs. Jeri Kimmell, presented a whole school assembly in honor of our Veterans. Local Veterans were invited to participate in the audience and join in social activities hosted by the students. Aging citizens came face-to-face with beautiful young people, and the students looked into the eyes and shook hands with genuine heroes. Every veteran on staff and from the community were given boutonnieres in honor of their service. The students dressed in their finest appropriate clothes. It was one of the best school-community functions I have ever been privileged to enjoy.

On some occasions, I was honored to speak at the assembly. I stood on stage in front of more than a thousand people to share a little of my experience as a veteran. That is a very scary proposition for a bashful boy, but I am extremely grateful for the experiences. Besides giving me opportunity to serve my school and community, it required me to process, and make some sense of, my combat experiences. Thank you Senior Speech students of the past, Jeri, and BDHS.

I remember on one occasion, I began by saying that the only good soldier is a reluctant soldier. I expressed my feelings about wishing to avoid war, to avoid the stains of blood, to avoid the sadness and guilt that follow us forever after. I remember seeing the faces of Veteran friends in the audience, including my wife, Nancy, and recognizing their understanding, empathy, and pride as I spoke. It is a very good memory for this tired, old, reluctant soldier.

On another occasion, I began by reading names of fallen soldiers on The Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Wall. I read them slowly and then reported my calculations on how long it would take to read them all. I suggested that if we were to include all the names of Vietnamese and the Cambodians lost in the Killing Fields after we left, we might need fifty walls. Having been a military advisor, I had many real friends among the Vietnamese and Kmer people.

On this second occasion, I also shared my first real spiritual experience at The Wall, an event that moves me even twenty three years later. You might not be surprised to learn that this is one personal experience that found its way into the fictional story of my novel, BEYOND THE BLOOD CHIT. You may read the first three chapters by going to www.ErvBarnes.com.

BE. After all these years of teaching and studying, that is still the summary of my theory on education. If we wish to teach duty, we must do our duty. If we wish to teach value for duty, we must value others who have done or are doing their duty. If we would wish our children to be dutiful, so we must be.

I am neither hero nor victim. Very, very many have sacrificed much more than I have. Today is just one day when I remind myself to honor them—to honor you, each and every one who performs duty in and out of uniform. Thank you for your service, and welcome home.

Mind Wind: Honor in Duty

This is a tough topic for me. It is emotional; therefore, I am choosing to write a letter from the heart rather than crafting some argument. I present it now in honor of all Veterans.

Some years ago, I watched “Saving Private Ryan” in a theater. Later, I heard a highly regarded movie critic review some of the shortcomings of the film on TV. He missed the point. Now, I don’t know what the director or author intended the main point to be, but the message I received was duty.

There is honor in duty.

(Note: I am going to discuss the film with some detail of ending.)

Tom Hanks’s character lost his life doing his duty. He was an Army Captain just trying to get back home to his wife and his teaching career. His purpose was to do whatever it might take to get him home sooner. So, he did his duty to the best of his ability for personal reasons. There is honor in that.

Private Ryan was found, but he chose to stay with his brothers on the battlefield rather than run out and go home to his family. He did his duty for his reasons. There is honor in that.

It was a tough choice. They all knew that staying to help the ragged unit meant danger and probable death. They chose to stay. Many of them did die, but Private Ryan lived a full life. That was his duty. His prayer was that his life honored the Captains’s life lost finding him.

My good friend, a Vietnam Veteran of a battalion recon team in the 173rd Airborne, the only unit other than Special Forces to be on jump status in Vietnam, has never visited The Wall of the Vietnam Memorial. He once told me he couldn’t go there until he felt he had done something with his life. He believes it is his duty. There is honor in that.

The meaning of life is choice. Courage is duty in the face of fear. So, how do we define duty?

I got nothin’, here. I mean, there are no rules for me. Oh, people make up rules, and group leaders like to use rules to tell us what to do. But, in the end, duty is a gut reaction. It is emotional. It is spiritual. Something deep down inside tells us the right thing to do.

The best I can do is work hard to keep fear, prejudice, resentment, and a whole lot of  other selfish stuff out of my mind, heart, and gut so that I might make the honorable choice when I am called upon to do my duty.