This story is about Harvey. I met Harvey while taking a tour of the Falkland War battle fields a few weeks ago. In one sense it was the usual bus tour except that we spent most of it outside in the freezing, windy cold. It turned out that there was another tour in private cars following along with us that had been organized by a retired British veteran of the Falkland War. He had arranged for other veterans to revisit the places where their demons were born, and maybe drive them away. There were about twenty of them. We tried to give them space and respect when they gathered around monuments, but it didn’t take long to get mixed together. And so I met Harvey.
Harvey is a probation officer in England. In 1982 he was a Scots Guard aboard a ship anchored in a cove on the west side of the islands when it was attacked by Argentine planes. Many of his fellow guardsmen where killed. Those who survived clambered onto the beach in the midst of winter rain and wind without enough gear. Ill equipped, they managed to begin their planned movements across the flat, treeless terrain under fire from surrounding heights. They succeeded. Harvey thought he would never see this place again, nor did he want to, but the demons of war had haunted him all these years, and he knew his only choice was to come back and confront them head on. He had been here not much longer than we had, so we talked about the fearful, healing pain and relief that he was feeling. We also talked, or rather Harvey talked, about his probation clients who are increasingly veterans of the interminable conflicts in the Middle East. They face their own demons, have difficulty living as civilians, have a hard time holding jobs, and find crime one way to survive. At least one man he is working with does not want probation but prison because he will be safe in prison behind the fortified walls that protect him from the dangers of the civilian world. Harvey wants to get him, and others who are not quite as bad off, into treatment, but he despairs at the lack of resources available. In any case, this trip was a way for him to confront and banish his own demons so that he can be a better help for the probationers under his care. May God bless Harvey. May his demons be cast into the sea. And may he become a healer for others.
We did talk a little about differences between his war in 1982 and theirs. He and his mates had a purpose: recapture British territory from the invaders, secure it, and go home. Today’s soldiers can see no purpose, no end, and no worthwhile thing to be achieved. We dehumanize the other in order to kill them with a better conscience while they are doing the same, but no one knows why, and what the politicians say cannot be trusted.
Harvey and I said goodbye at a battle field memorial before we boarded our bus and he went on by car.