Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Surprising Turn, And An Opportunity To Live My Words

I have a saying: World Peace starts in my heart.

Think about it. World peace isn’t about what they do. It’s about what we do.

It’s all very well to talk about what we hope and want and expect them to do.

But are we willing to do it ourselves?

It gets so much tougher when we try to work at peace, with our own issues, in our own lives, with people we know!

I wanted to write this blog without any particular agenda in mine, except what is stated in the “About Me” box:

• I wanted to honor the work of HMH-463. I wanted to document what it is like to be the parent of someone over there. Lots of people have someone they love over there, but not everybody likes to write. I do.

• I wanted to do something good with a sometimes-challenging experience, and to create something of value.

My pledge to myself was only that I would be completely honest: I would not demonize or heroize war and soldiers. I would neither gloss over or glorify war, nor diminish the challenges. I would not be melodramatic, or overly sentimental, or parochial. I would not succumb to patriotism that has a hidden agenda of hatred in disguise.

I would just talk about things as they came up, and share those thoughts with others, and in some vague undefined way, to encourage peace.

It came as a complete shock, therefore, to be called on the carpet by not one but two women who also have loved ones in HMH-463, who believe this blog could endanger the lives of the people of our squadron.

This post is about the process of working through a difference of opinion with respect. I am writing about this conversation because it directly relates to the experience of creating peace. I AM NOT asking anyone to take a side. I do not want that to happen AT ALL, so please do not be tempted to do so! Keep reading!

This experience of being suggested/told what I should write about and what I shouldn’t has ranged from feeling definitely uncomfortable… to being emotionally painful . To feel accused, even in polite language, of doing something that would be damaging or even dangerous to their loved ones and my own son was hurtful. To be told that I was/had been reported to the USMC for censure was shocking to me.

I am passionate about my writing work. I write carefully, I think deeply about my words, and I sometimes work very, very carefully in working through an idea.

I do not believe that the things I have been asked to remove from this blog are in any way damaging, or could create danger, for the missions of HMH-463.

But they do. So here is where the rubber hits the road, as the saying goes. I’ve been writing this and thinking about the folks over there – the Taliban – and praying for peace in their hearts. But here is conflict, right at my doorstep, and with people on the same ‘team’.


These women are giving me an opportunity to live my words. I have in this circumstance a chance to take my own advice about handling differences of opinion and belief to create peace instead of conflict.

I could take the distress I feel about the challenge and criticism of my words and get upset, even angry. Most big fights start over pretty small differences. But let’s think:

First: They are not trying to hurt me.

Second: They are trying to protect their loved ones.

Third: We have the same goals.

So how do we handle a emotionally serious difference of opinion?



I really, deeply respect the concerns of the women who contacted me. If you’re reading this, please hear the love and respect in my words.

I promised them that I would go through this blog today, and look through the entries for things that would be potentially dangerous.

I will do that.

But I will do it, not as a knee-jerk reaction – erase everything! Shut it all down! It is okay that we have different opinions. Respect for someone else’s feelings and opinion does not mean abdicating your own feelings and opinion.

So I will examine my viewpoint and my work as you have requested. And I will do it as people in deployment are expected to do things under pressure:

Calmly. Logically. With respect and intelligence.

A decision made for emotional reasons may feel right, but is almost always bad in implementation.

I have another saying.

Fear is the root of all evil. And evil cannot thrive without the presence of fear
So, logically, and with research and documentation to support it… what’s safe to write about, and what isn’t?

Well, here’s an example from CBS news. (I deeply respect Lara Logan’s work!)

This worldwide news coverage clearly states the soldier’s names, their company, and their mission, as well as the emotional challenges they face and the success they feel in overcoming them (skip the ad):

In this print piece for CBS, and in another one I didn’t link, the future strategy, albeit without details, is also clearly discussed as well by the reporter.

For the record, I don’t discuss strategy. I wouldn’t, and even if I were so stupid, I can’t. My son does not divulge anything of that nature to us.

He also told me that because of me getting reported, he has already been called in by a superior officer to discuss this writing of mine, and that basically the rule is: once it’s happened, it’s okay to write about anything. Just nothing in advance.

He does not tell us any details about flights. Despite that, I did remove some wording regarding that mentions flight frequency - even though, realistically, I'm sure the folks they fly over know the schedule.

It seems that the item of most concern is the letter I reprinted from the CO. I genuinely do not understand how it could endanger the men in any way...but it concerns them deeply. So, out of respect for the women who need their feelings to be honored, I will be removing that letter and just quoting generic parts from it.

I went through and removed numbers where I could find them, about the size of the squadron, the flight crews, hours of days, etc. Although this information can be found elsewhere, I feel good in caring about their feelings to remove it from here.

Lastly, I did a check, googling combinations that would cause this blog to come up. And I couldn’t get it to come up in Google. But I did come across several written by Afghans, who write in danger, and which express so much that I wanted to learn. It was good to read that they value the help we are giving their country. The first one I read was shut down in 2007, after writing extensively against the Taliban.

I hope he is all right.

This blog was set up from the beginning to not be translated into Arabic languages. I thought carefully about that, and while I believe that cultural exchange is a powerful tool for peace, in the end, decided against it for OPSEC reasons.

I hope, my friends, that you will know that your concerns have been genuinely heard and addressed. The changes should be finished by the end of the day. Please let me know if you have continuing concerns, and what the specifics are.

And I hope that I have lived my beliefs. It is one thing to have beliefs. It is quite another to put them into action.

World peace starts in my heart. I hope that I have been respectful, both of the concerns of others and of my own beliefs. If more is needed, please let me know.

Because in the end, often it is not as much about the result we achieve, as the process we follow to get there.

A good process which includes respect, honesty, intelligence and compassion will always end in a good result… even if it’s not the result we originally planned.

It may be even better.

With our combined prayers for the safety, health and well-being of all the people of HMH-463,
thanks so much for checking in.


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