This book deals with my own awakening to the reality of war and the moral questions that war raises. Fighting in war is a messy and bloody business. We face a moral dilemma with our first kill.
We are all taught that hurting people and certainly killing people is wrong. When we are put into a position where killing is "necessary", our moral compass goes haywire and we have to deal with it, not only in that moment, but for the rest of our lives.
Mushroom Montoya circumnavigated the globe aboard the USS Trippe DE1075 after killing soldiers, woman and children in Viet Nam. Now, as a shaman, he heals the planet one person at a time. Mushroom Montoya has an active shamanic healing practice in Long Beach, California and he teaches at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Cal State Univ. Long Beach.
I climbed down into
the WWII landing craft that would transport me to Grande Island. I hadn't
noticed Norman and Krack sitting with their backs against the rear bulkhead
until I looked for a place to sit.
“Hey, Krack, I
thought you were flying back to the states for your grandmother's funeral?”
“I can't get a
flight out until the day after tomorrow. It looks like I'm stuck with you two.”
“Are you guys
spending the night?” I asked.
“Ya betcha,” Norman
said. “I need to sleep on solid ground without to sleep on solid ground without
rocking and rolling and the constant hum of the ship's engines. How about you?”
“I intend to have
the sun wake me up,” I said. Smiling widely I sat on the bare deck next to him.
“Riding in this landing craft feels like were floating in a shoe box.”
“We are!” Krack
When we landed, we
walked into the little restaurant that protruded from the hotel. I asked the
old wrinkled faced lady who worked there for an ice cream cone.
“You sit,” she
commanded, with a frown on her face.
Norman smiled at me
and turned his palms up as he tilted his head. “Can you make that two?” he
asked the grumpy lady.
She scowled at him
and pointed to the table. We obeyed.
“I was hoping to get
pistachio ice cream,” I said to Norman.
“Fat chance,” Krack
said, “They probably only have one flavor, otherwise she would've asked you
what you wanted.”
She had disappeared
into the kitchen as the three of us waited for what seemed like a very long
time. We chatted excitedly about joining the two other ships on an around the
When she came out,
she said, “Fifteen cent.”
We dug into our
pockets. I pulled out a dollar and handed it to her.
She looked up at me
and said, “No change. Fifteen cent.” while holding out her hand.
Norman and Krack
both only had dollars. I handed the dollar back to her and told her it was for
all three and that she could keep the change. Maintaining her scowl, she took
the dollar and gave us our chocolate ice cream cones.
“I'll be glad when
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War wears us down and diminishes our wits. If I ever meet Dawson again, I'll ask to see his hand. I'm sure he'll laugh at my request, as he remembers this incident:
Later that evening, I stripped down to my Jockey briefs and pulled myself up into my rack, thankful that we had one more person who could stand watch. That meant more opportunities to get at least a full five hours of sleep between battle station watches. Dawson was already in his rack. He rolled over on his stomach with one of his feet sticking out beyond his blanket. I was amazed at how quickly he fell asleep. I rolled over on my back, put my head on my pillow and wondered if his feet would get cold, hanging over the end of his rack.
Before I knew it, the Dream Weaver came to visit me in my sleep. Bam! What was that? Oh shit! We’re under attack! We’ve been hit! Water poured into our berthing compartment.
“Get out! Get out!” someone yelled.
I jumped down from my rack and flew up the ladder. I didn’t have time to put any clothes on. I was still in my underwear. As I raced along the exterior passageway, something hit the top of my head. I must have been knocked out because I came to lying on the sand. The night obscured my vision. I heard voices. They were Vietnamese. They grew louder as they approached. I didn't know what they were saying. I couldn't see them, only hear them. One of them poked me in the ribs and mumbled something. When one of them ran his hand across my forehead to my mouth, I lunged forward, biting down hard. Feeling the bones and hearing him scream. Victory was mine.
“Ow, shit! What the hell! Let go!”
What? That's English. Whose voice is that?
The cobwebs of slumber withered away and I realized that I was still on the ship. If my teeth hadn’t chomped the fingers of a Viet Cong, who did they bite? I wondered if they were the fingers of the guy who had the current sounding and security watch and if he had been trying to scare me. Then my voice recognition kicked in. Oh my god, it was Dawson’s hand that crossed over my face!
Laughing that I had been tricked by the Dream Weaver, and embarrassed, I whispered, “I am so sorry, Dawson.”
“Why did you bite me?” he asked.
“I didn't realize that it was you,” I said. “I had a nightmare. When you dragged your fingers across my face, I thought you were the enemy out to kill me. If you're lucky, my teeth marks will be the only war wounds you'll get.”