Up hills and down dales we walked and talked, veteran hikers. My friend, Jack Sanders, has been inviting friends to join him in the beautiful fields and woods north of Wilmington, not only to get exercise but also to ease the mind. This was my first outing with him. Like me, Jack has passed the age of 70, and after 70 the knees and hips complain a bit, but Jack pays no mind, pulling hill after hill like a trooper.
The other two guys on this hike, Bob and Bill, served in the armed services too, but they hadn’t served in the ‘Nam, and they wanted to hear some war stories, I think, but didn’t ask me straight away. Instead, one asked, “Have you been a hiker very long?” “Yes, I was an Eagle Scout,” I said. “I’ve always enjoyed hiking, except when I got back from Vietnam. In my highschool years I lived out in Faulkland woods, and loved to walk through land just like this. But when I got back from Vietnam walking in the woods scared me. My imagination would start to take me back to a bad day in the boonies, so I had to turn around and head home. I refused to give up my woods, though. The next time out I’d go a little further in before turning around. Each outing I’d get a little further in, until finally my woods were rid of trap doors to a different time and place.
I’ve been studying a lot recently about ways that the Interfaith Veterans’ Workgroup might help veterans returning from war. I experienced just light combat against poorly armed Viet Cong. The war baggage I brought home was light, so with the help of some other veterans walking beside me I found my way home. I’m confident that veterans in IVW can do the same for recent veterans. If you know of one who needs hiking buddies, please send him or her our way.