OUR TWO LEFT FEET
My husband and I have taken ballroom dance lessons for 14 years and currently study with a ballroom dance teacher who calls his dance school Two Left Feet. We were both in our 50s when we started dancing and have never looked back. We regularly dance socially, compete in regional events, and perform in dance showcases. Dancing has become our favorite recreational interest and has changed our lives.
Unfortunately, we’ve had some “bumps” along the dance floor. I broke my right foot and couldn’t dance for several months. My husband needed surgery for an ankle fracture so will be off his right foot for several weeks.
But thank goodness, our “two left feet” have stayed safe and healthy.
OUR TWO WORDS
“Two” was also a lucky number for us 45 years ago. We fell in love and married because of two words that changed our lives. But a few years into our marriage, our luck ran out. Here is our story of finding it again. We share it because we know other couples share a similar story and think it may help them. Maybe that’s you; if so, let us know. Contact us here.
In college I participated in Chi Alpha, a faith-based student group. When I started dating a young man of a different faith, he enjoyed coming to the gatherings with me and my friends liked him. We were fond of each other, but his feelings grew stronger and more serious than mine.
To be fair, I ended the relationship. We parted amicably but he left our group; it was awkward for both of us. Although the breakup was best of us both, I grieved the loss of our friendship.
One evening several of us were talking when a new member of our group joined us. We knew little about him other than he had recently left the Army and started attending the university.
He looked at me and said, “Where is John tonight?” (not his real name) No one spoke as everyone looked from me to him and back to me. Apparently he was the only one who didn’t know we had broken up.
Finally, one of the girls softly explained, “They aren’t dating anymore.”
Everyone remained silent, I suppose assuming I was upset . I wasn’t upset but I realized everyone else was uncomfortable. I didn’t want our new friend to feel bad about the mistake, so I tried to make light of it. I blurted out the first thing that popped into my head.
“That’s right,” I said smiling. “I’m available.”
With that, everyone, including me, laughed. Thinking back now, I wonder why I said that. It was out of character for me, a confirmed introvert, and besides, I did not need or want another romantic relationship. I was planning to attend medical school, and romance did not fit into that plan.
However, the young man took me seriously, calling me a few days later to ask for a date. And despite my reluctance to become involved, I said yes.
“What harm could it do?” I thought. “Why sit in the dorm alone on Friday night?”
That night I learned about Raymond’s past. He had served for three years in the Army . He had already earned a bachelor’s degree and was attending graduate school with his veteran’s benefits. I casually asked if he had been stationed overseas. He said yes- he had served in Germany and in Vietnam. I did not realize those words also would change my life.
This was 1972 and the American war in Vietnam was raging. The United States government needed soldiers to carry out the engagement, and was drafting them, which they and their families dreaded. The war was unpopular and divided our country. We watched the course of the conflict nightly on television news (no Internet or social media then).
Raymond was the first person I knew personally who had served in Vietnam. Service members and veterans of that war were portrayed in the media as fighting an unnecessary, unjustified war at best and as baby killers at worst.
Today military service members and veterans are honored and considered heroes. Today’s veterans feel proud of what they do; far too often those who served in Vietnam did not.
Over dates at football games, church, social events and study times our feelings for each other grew from friendship to love. He asked me to marry him a few weeks later. We married about 2 years later, as he completed his master’s degree.
Soon after our wedding I started medical school, graduated and started practicing. He pursued a career in the Information Technology industry. We raised two sons, traveled, attended church.
But our “happily ever after” did not match reality. Our marriage was often tense, unsatisfying, and distant and we did not understand why. We could not communicate well. He felt I was demanding and controlling. I felt he was insensitive and selfish. We had to look to the past to find the reason for the pain in our present.
Words that changed our lives- post-traumatic stress disorder
Military medicine now recognizes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a common result of service in combat; 40 years ago it was unrecognized and untreated. There were no support groups, counselling or rehabilitative services available.
My husband didn’t talk about his military service, so for years we both suffered the effects of unrecognized PTSD. By the mid-1980s veterans’ groups pushed to recognize and honor Vietnam veterans’ service and encouraged discussion about the psychic trauma many of them dealt with; and with that came opportunities for treatment and healing.
Through counselling and a support group my husband faced the past and started to move forward. After reading a book , A Missing Peace, written by another Vietnam veteran, he considered taking a trip back to Vietnam and after much thought and prayer, signed up, although we were both apprehensive.
He chose to travel with Vets with a Mission , VWAM, a faith-based non-profit organization whose mission is “reconciliation” between former enemies in the Vietnam war, and also within the veterans’ themselves.
By touring the country and meeting Vietnamese people in peacetime, Raymond began moving past the painful memories and creating a new history. He found a country still suffering from the after effects of many years of war, and found a new purpose for his life- to help the very country that had caused us so much pain.
That trip led to another, and another, and another- thirteen trips serving on volunteer teams to Vietnam with VWAM. He served by teaching the computer technology he spent years learning and mentored Vietnamese professionals as they developed skills like his.
I accompanied him on many of these trips, serving as physician on medical teams, treating poor Vietnamese citizens in free clinics. We made friends with other veterans and their families, and with Vietnamese people, who often respected American Vietnam veterans more than Americans do.
Raymond found “reconciliation” for himself and we experienced it in our marriage. It was a process and still is.
“All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”
2 Corinthians 5: 18 , VWAM’S MOTTO
As a pre-teen I read a book about an American doctor who treated poor people in a foreign country. This and other books sparked an interest in health care and I decided to become a doctor. I dreamed of someday traveling overseas and treating people like he and other doctors did.
I didn’t remember anything about him except his name. I did an Internet search and found his story- Dr. Tom Dooley. Now deceased, he served as a physician in the United States Navy and in the 1950s was assigned to direct the care of refugees- in Vietnam. (After his military service, he founded a humanitarian organization and tragically died young of melanoma.)
When I watched the war in Vietnam on TV news, I didn’t realize the doctor I had read about had worked there. I never imagined that I would ever go there. And I never imagined that war would help me meet my husband, and create a family that brings me joy every day.
When I said, “I’m available” I had no idea how true that would be.
WORDS TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE
Raymond researched and wrote about a little known battle of the Vietnam war. His is an eyewitness account of the events and aftermath of the Battle for Tra Bong. It is available as an eBook for Amazon Kindle or for free Kindle Reading apps for any device.
The following is an excerpt.
Fire Support Base (FSB)/Landing Zone (LZ) Cindy was established in 1968 by being relocated from Tam Ky, Vietnam. By 1970, the FSB was considered a “model” for other FSBs in South Vietnam.
The base operated on the high ground of the Happy Valley with an Observation Post (OP) Searchlight (SLT) unit that provided illumination at night for the entire valley. Next to the FSB was an Armed Forces Vietnam (ARVN) unit of 100 men. Besides the helicopter landing zone, we had the shortest airstrip in Vietnam managed by a Military Air Command Vietnam (MACV) unit. The Tra Bong village was between MACV and FSB/LZ Cindy.
The firebase had tremendous firepower with automatic weapons, 50-caliber and 60-caliber machine guns to include a Quad 50, Dusters, 8 inch and 175 howitzers, mortars, grenades, claymores, flares, etc. In the year 1970, FSB Cindy had zero Wounded in Action (WIA) or Killed in Action (KIA) men by enemy forces. Also, the North Vietnamese (NVA) did not penetrate our perimeter because our unit operated as a team.
A Battery remained at FSB/LZ Cindy (BS342882) providing general support to both US and ARVN units. On 16 September 1971, A Battery was moved to Chu Lai to begin stand down activities.
During Christmas of 1971, the ARVN camp was overrun by NVA/VC and wiped out.
The firebase did have a major battle in September 1970. That battle and how it impacted the war in general and one soldier’s life specifically is the subject of this book.
We who served on LZ Cindy in 1969 and after when the unit left in 1971 did a job that had to be done to save more lives than were taken by the enemy. All of us were there because we were asked or drafted to serve this country and help the people of Vietnam survive.
Those of us who did the job on LZ Cindy did the best we could to survive and help those who served with us. It is unfortunate that some of those did not survive, but in war people die, and there is nothing we can do about it.
We also recommend Robert Seiple’s book-
by Robert Seiple and Gregg Lewis
“The gripping account of the author’s experiences with “a war without closure” as a Marine aviator and as head of a relief agency ministering in that country. Through his own search for personal and national reconciliation, he shows us the only way to find real closure and genuine healing.”
(Amazon review)(This is an affiliate link.)