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Mikel L Stevenson

Awareness of greater effect of war.

Mother’s in particular
Women in general

In Vietnam

Seeing women holding their children as we searched their villages and hooches.
Seeing women holding their children and weeping as we torched their hooches.
Seeing dead Vietnamese wondering if he was someone’s son, husband, father, brother.
Of course he was! I just didn’t know the particulars. But as I placed myself in his stead, as the one killed, I could see the faces of my mother, my grandmother, my sisters. And, also, of course, of my father and brother.
 

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The public sculpture titled "Bearing" will be cast life-size in bronze.

Mikel L Stevenson

My sister told me of being with our mother when she opened the letter telling the family I had been wounded.

I often recall the Bearing Project sculpture, seeing it in my mind’s eye. It has a sobering, quieting effect which helps me consider my own experience and effect on my loved ones. Yes, a heaviness weighs on my own spirit as I remember and contemplate. A remorse? Perhaps. Certainly sorrow. Sorrow for the worry and pain Mom experienced because of my experience. Mom had struggled with cancer since I was 10 years old. She died the year after I returned from Vietnam. How much did worry and anxiety about my brother and me in Vietnam affect her health? One cannot say for sure. But there is a burden to be borne in this wonderment. I look at the Bearing Project and see my own mother. And there, I rest in a mother’s love… knowing it transcends the human limitations and failings of her son.

And as I look at the Bearing Project, I see the faces of mothers in Vietnam. It is said that a soldier ought not look into the eyes of their enemy for it is liable to affect their thinking. Indeed, seeing her face and looking into her eyes did have affect. Labels dropped away. This is a mother, just like my own mother. A person, caught up in the contingencies of war. A woman, subject to the violence so often unnecessary. A person, often dismissed as collateral damage, or as the cost of war. Terms so easy to use on the “other.” Now I reject those dismissive, rationalizing terms when I hear them. I want to ask the speaker if that were his mother, or wife, or sister, would he use such language?

We need the Bearing Project to help bring us to our senses, to expand the narrative about war, to grasp the greater reality that is more than our personal beliefs and perceptions. We do not have the right to remain willfully ignorant.

I, as a combat veteran, have great appreciation for what the Bearing Project offers to me. It can initiate needed healing in certain issues and for particular experiences. I can engage it, or I can avoid it. Each veteran has that choice.

Society, government, nation state asked veterans to experience war in which they were both the victim and the perpetrator. We cannot undo the consequence of participating in war. But perhaps we have the moral obligation to offer everything we can to help in their healing.