We never fully forget the losses sustained in war
Written by Edith Guffey
May 2003

Edith A. Guffey

It's the end of March as I write this column, and I wonder if by May the war will be over. If it is, thank God. But even if it is over, I have come to realize anew the long-term impact of war. I totally support every statement that the Collegium has written about the war. What may differ a bit among the five of us Collegium officers is how we have each come to be where we are.

For me, besides how I understand the gospel in my life, I bring my personal experience of having a brother killed during the Vietnam War. That was 35 years ago this March. For the last several years, this particular anniversary has just passed through my mind and heart. This year, however, has been different. It's as if I have been transported back to 1968 as I have watched the news and seen the families of soldiers waiting and watched the number of deaths climb. The fact that the war began the very month of my brother's death has made it more intense; but I thought I was beyond that. The lesson here is that we are never fully beyond a loss and that those feelings and memories can be with us in very intense ways when the circumstance are right ... or wrong.

I listen today to the words of families. I was 14 years old when my brother died and I wasn't the least bit taken with the notion that he died for what he believed in. He was only 22 years old and I'm not sure he could have articulated for himself what he actually believed in. All I knew at the time was the pain of having lost my only brother. As I look at the soldiers today, I see not only my brother, but as a parent now, I also see sons. Many of today's soldiers are the age of my son. I saw an interview with a wounded soldier in which he said at first it felt like playing a video game, but he now knows it's for real. He's 20 years old, just a kid.

I admit to not having the answers. I do believe that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and dictator who is cruel beyond measure. Perhaps in the face of that reality, I should trust and support our leaders that their decisions are right, just and justifiable. Maybe so. But I cannot move myself to support the killing of hundreds of thousands of brothers and sons, fathers, mothers and children.

I ask that you continue to pray with me for peace and for the families whose lives are changed forever by the loss of loved ones, here and in Iraq. May we somehow, somehow, find a better way.

Edith Guffey is Associate General Minister of the United Church of Christ and one of the UCC's five-member Collegium of Officers.

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