Odysseus as war veteran

At MB’s all-school Meeting for Worship in December, students guided us with the query: Odysseus460_1702374cWhat are the gifts within us that we can share with others? What are the non-material gifts we give to each other every day? Several students shared reflections, including this one:

by Alex F. ’14

This fall the AP English classes had the pleasure of receiving two veterans, Victor Nunez Ortiz and Joe Ames, who came to speak about their experiences during the Iraq and Vietnam wars. This presentation served as the culmination of a unit that had primarily focused on portraying the main character of The Odyssey, Odysseus, as a hero and war veteran. Over the course of my English career here at Moses Brown, I have never been a part of a more interesting and engaging unit.

During Joe and Victor’s speeches there were two moments that really stood out to me:

The first: Before settling in to the formal presentation, still enjoying lunch, I overheard the two veterans talking. Their conversation was warm, heart felt, and reminiscing.  Though they did not fight in the same war, their connection was real nonetheless. Their conversation seemed to have the same vibe as a couple of football players talking about a game from the previous night. The eye contact and the sincerity was all there.  This sense of brotherhood that radiated from both Victor and Joe spoke to me, showing how important friendship is, especially when recovering from traumatic experiences. Both of these veterans expressed to us how hard it would be for them to describe their stories without the support and help of each other and the program they belong to.

And the second: During the question and answer period, both veterans were asked this question: Would you do it all over again? Joe, the colorful and witty Vietnam veteran was adamant with his answer: yes. Victor agreed. This readiness to return to the toils of war that had scarred these men was strange to me. Though this resolve to relive the traumas of war is not true with all veterans, I wondered what could have made the difference to these former soldiers. I believe that the friendships Victor and Joe made through their experiences impacted them greatly in this decision. They were only able to endure the horrors they experienced and witnessed through the human relationships they formed and these relationships have defined them ever since.

Simple gifts are the intersections of common interests, shared experiences, or like ideas. Something so simple as human interaction is a gift in itself because it unlocks so many of these commonalities between us and constructs the foundation of what friendship is built on. Joe and Victor did not fight in the same war, in fact they were some 30 years apart, but even so they are still able to connect, become friends and heal each other because of these experiences. War may be a terrible place, but what I have learned is that there is nothing more important than your friends and those who stand with you. For those who served our country overseas, they are all heroes to me. In short, never take for granted what you may have in common with your neighbor, and surely never forget what it means to have friends and people who support you.

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