Sharing a War Tale with Strangers

copyright © 2007 Possum Tales.  Sedalia Tales

Encouraged and supported by friends and family, in the summer of 2006 I shared my Viet Nam experience with strangers.  Supported by edrie and following the example of other Kossacks today comes a sharing of the meeting experience.  These are my own perceptions and may or may not be the same as those of other attendees.  Follow me over the fold and down the yellow brick road to read the Possum’s Story of Sharing the Vietnam Tale.

The meeting was sponsored by a local peace organization and attended by about forty people of whom seven were my personal family and friends.  Three speakers were asked to offer their personal war experiences and to discuss how those times led to the peace activism of today. 

The first speaker offered recordings of Hiroshima survivors.  Many of the voices came from people well up in years, some telling their stories for the first time.  The speaker held to her appointed 30 minutes followed by a few questions and responses from the audience.

The second speaker told a brief story of her time as a sixteen year old girl in Austria under the German occupation and the American bombing.  Her story was a powerful if brief one followed by several minutes of response and questions from the audience.

I was the third speaker.  What was already a difficult and emotional time of sharing was made more difficult by the effect of following the first two speakers.  From the earliest of my words one woman in the back of the audience seemed to be quietly crying.  What she did or did not hear could not be told.  Others of the audience were nodding their heads in agreement.  All members of the audience seemed to follow the story with rapt attention.

Ending with a pair of quotes from famous people who seemed to have the words I liked best, the floor was opened to the audience at about 25 minutes.  For the following 20 minutes came intelligent and penetrating audience questions and comments.  Much of my tale had to do with the dehumanization of both ourselves and the purported enemy.  The audience seemed to follow that line and wished to understand more about today’s military members and how they are likely to be affected by their own experience.

Once the questions from the floor ended and the official meeting ended, people gathered around for more conversation.  The first speaker spoke profound words about how my story had affected her and how important such sharings are in our world today.  Some audience members shared their own stories of occupied Europe in a pair of different countries.  Overall the time spent was a very powerful reminder of just how storytelling can touch the lives of people.

None of us ever knows just who or just how our words will touch another’s soul.  We have been reminded at regular intervals in blogland that diaries failing to bring large responses may yet be a strong influence in some person’s life.  The same is true with the tales of our lives.  Each of us has a story to tell.  For those of us with war stories we should follow the example of testvet (a fellow Kossack who I truly admire), goldkeyrealty and others and share those stories.  Unless we share them the memories will die.  If we share we have an opportunity to change the future by reminding others of the mistakes of the past.  The tide of opinion against war is turning in this country.  Those of us with tales to tell can help turn that tide into a tidal wave but we are only effective when we share.