As Remembrance Day approaches and we find ourselves drawn into conflict once again, I would like to share with you Foster's story.
"My mother and father were Presbyterian missionaries in Puebla, Mexico where I was born in 1925. From my parents I learned English and acquired much of my attitude.
By the time I was sixteen and a student in Puebla, WWII had been ongoing for a few years and Uncle Sam was looking for lads from the United States to come and take part. Although I was too young and small for my age, I enlisted in spite of my parents' objections. I ran away from home and went up to Loreto, Texas to join the Marine Corps.
The Marines flew me to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. After sixteen weeks of training they considered us ready to go to war. I was a private. They'd shown us at least eight ways of killing a person. I excelled at rifle shooting because I'd hunted rabbits as a little kid. I quickly learned to fire a machine gun. Because I was such a short and small guy the other Marines teased me with comments such as, 'What are you going to do? Step on their toes and then shoot them?' By that time I was supposed to hate somebody but I couldn't figure out whom. I didn't want to kill anybody I didn't hate.
Then the Marines transferred us to the war zone in the Far East, on the Pacific island of Kwajalein where we joined the Fourth Marine Division. We came in as replacements for several casualties. There was a charge and every shot I fired clipped an enemy soldier. Another three weeks passed before we saw any more action. Then we became involved in a fire fight where the enemy ran away; we assumed it was a victory. I made the rank of sergeant. Risking my life for my country seemed the right thing to do. Now in my eighties, when I look back on it I think Foster, you were stupid. I fought in that war for two and a half years.
After the war, the Marines sent me to Yale University. I was the shortest man in my class. They wanted me to obtain a full education in International Relations so that I could become an officer. I went into the reserves and in 1950 I was called up for the Korean War as a Platoon Commander. Too many of the captains had been killed, so I received a little training over a couple of weekends resulting in promotion as a captain. I decided that I would be the best possible officer that I could.
Now that I had charge of all those lives, I suddenly realized that I hadn't been a responsible person in the past. If my troops got hurt I had thought, Well, tough. If they got killed I had felt very, very sorry but figured they must have made a mistake. The responsibility for the lives of my men changed my attitude and I realized that, on the other side, the enemy must have the same kinds of feelings. Am I supposed to shoot them or am I not supposed to shoot them?
I considered the commandment Thou shalt not kill. I felt guilty in pressuring people to kill quickly. I had been killing young men my age. I wondered how many would have made good teachers or become successful in whatever career they chose if I had just not bothered to go to war. I saw a counsellor who counselled many Marines. I stopped blabbing about being an ex-Marine.
I had slowly changed my thinking about killing. By the time I returned home, I had decided that I wanted to do the opposite, to enhance life in people. Religion was the answer as it had been for my parents. I was ordained a Presbyterian Reverend. I liked the work. Most of all I enjoyed visiting people. I listened to them if they had troubles, were sick or in jail and tried not to tell them what to do.
After I married, my wife and I lived in Mexico City. We read in the newspapers about the CIA forming the Contras in Nicaragua. I traveled down to Nicaragua to volunteer as a translator in brokering mini accords between the Contras and the Sandinistas. I went from a man who fought in wars to one involved finding peace through mediation.
In my early fifties, I joined the Veterans for Peace. The organization burgeoned because many other veterans thought that war is evil and that it is wrong to kill people no matter who they are. Each year, on Veterans Day, I proudly don my medals and join them. My heart still remains with the Marines. I feel sorry for them. I feel connected to them. If it weren't for my age, my duty would be to go and teach them what not to do.
The best way to teach love is to show love. Rather than moving apart in fear and hatred, it is better to move together in love and reconciliation. I've had a change of heart."
Foster's complete story is in Heartbeats, True Stories of Love. There are fifty stories in Heartbeats, True Personal Stories of Love which will soon be published as an ebook and paperback available on Amazon and Smashwords.
In Heartbeats people share deeply personal stories that uplift and inspire. For me, love is the most important thing. It has been my privilege to gather these stories to share with you.
If you have any questions about Heartbeats please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.