Archived Story

You took my jeep where?

Published 2:59pm Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The first stop after landing at Ton Son Nhut air base in Vietnam was a field hospital/ forward aid station in the base camp at Lai Khe – 1st Infantry Division, 1st Medical Btn, C Company. Of course, the arrival of someone labeled conscientious objector necessitated a period of adjustment between me and the members of Charlie Med, as that unit was called.

After a series of misadventures, I ended up as the company clerk, serving

the Commanding Officer and his administrative staff. Eventually I had all the keys to all the locks in the company, including the key to the COs jeep.

There was an intelligence unit quartered in the same building, and in their employ was an interpreter – a mid-thirty-ish woman who lived in the nearby village of Ben Cat. Her adopted name was Rose. She also came to the treatment bay when indigenous patients were being served. We formed a friendly relationship, as we did the paperwork documenting her visits. By this time in my life I had been reading Zen Buddhism for about three years and was very interested in the practice of Buddhism. One day I asked Rose if she thought it would be possible for me to attend a service at the local temple. She agreed to ask and then accompany me after getting permission.

A couple of weeks later Rose advised me that there was to be a special service at noon on Friday at the temple in Ben Cat and that she had made arrangements for me to attend. I dont know where the officers were that Friday, but when it came time to leave, there was no one around to ask permission. So, of course, I made an executive decision, not remembering that I wasnt really an executive.

Rose and I drove to Ben Cat where I observed a ceremony that will always remain in my memory. It was a simple service in a country church. I was frustrated that I didnt understand even one word, but also moved by the simplicity and the sure knowledge that I had been in the presence of something spiritually significant.

Rose tried to explain the ceremony to me on the short drive back to the base camp, but it wasnt important – the experience was the important part. When we got to the gate at the base camp, the guard checked the number on the front of the jeep and advised me to get back to my company as quickly as I could.&bsp;&bsp;&bsp;&bsp;&bsp;&bsp;&bsp;&bsp;&bsp; &bsp;

I dropped Rose off and went to the orderly room where the CO was waiting for me. He asked where I had been and I told him. With a red face he said, Dont you know that Ben Cat is a Viet Cong controlled village? I cant believe you took my jeep into that village. Im giving you an Article

Fifteen. Your rank is frozen. You are fined $50 and confined to base for 30 days.

Currently, I am re-reading Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Naht Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk and the founder of the Order of Interbeing and the Unified Buddhist Church. As a Christian minister in Florida threatens to burn copies of the Quran and Muslims across the world declare jihad, Hanh in the passages quoted below, reminds us of the importance of understanding and respecting the beliefs of others.&bsp; &bsp;

Responding to Professor Hans Kungs assertion that. Until there is peace between religions, there can be no peace in the world.&bsp; Hanh writes: People kill and are killed because they cling too tightly to their own beliefs and ideologies. When we believe that ours is the only faith that contains the truth, violence and suffering will surely result.&bsp;&bsp;&bsp; &bsp;

And then from the Order of Interbeing: Do not think the knowledge you currently possess is changeless, absolute truth. Avoid being narrow-minded and bound to present views. Learn and practice nonattachment from views in order to be open to receive others viewpoints.

So I told the CO that day in Vietnam, Sir, I just wanted to know what their religion was all about.

And he responded, But you parked my jeep in that town?

Don Weathington is a retired psychotherapist and business owner who lives in Gillette Woods at a place called Birdland.

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