In the spring of 1972 my brother Danny Chapman came home from two tours in Vietnam. Our family was entrenched in a cult, Jehovah’s Witnesses (by the way, I do not use this word maliciously or freely, I understand the definition and Jehovah’s Witnesses qualify as a cult). My mother talked Danny into going to the “meeting” (to church) with us… mistake!
Now let me digress, since then I have learned that Danny suffered with severe PTSD. The things he witnessed (Hmmm witnessed… interesting word) were beyond the tide and flow of the average American that has not been in the thick of blood curdling combat. We have all seen the movies that expose the carnage.
So here he is fresh from the battle. Again I must digress, Jehovah’s Witnesses forbid a person to be involved with any war for any reason and if you are, you are “disfellowshipped” from the congregation, ostracized, disbanded, shunned or dead might be a better word.
So here he is straight from Vietnam with massive PTSD, at an organized function of an organized cult that condemns what he has been doing for the last four years.
So brother Gilbert, an accepted and sanctioned “elder” of the cult stands before the entire assembly and condemns my brother. Not just his behavior, but he as a soul and an individual by publicly announcing that Danny Chapman was not to be welcomed, spoken to, and as a final addendum he forbade anyone from even acknowledging his existence. Danny quickly left the assembly hall. Gilbert went on to develop an improvised sermon based on my brother’s evil presence.
I was only 15, but I was mortified. I had noticed that Danny had changed since he came home, he was sad. There was pain in his eyes, I saw the difference and I intuitively knew that he was wounded. I followed him outside.
He was standing beside the building chain smoking. He was ranting one curse word after another, and I was agreeing all the way. I was embarrassed by the public humiliation that was cast upon my brother.
But wait, that is not all, the man that ostracized and humiliated him? Just 12 years later was convicted of child molestation and ultimately (not just ostracized) but convicted and jailed. It seems cults do not have the powers of the Catholic Church (one of the crucial parts of the definition).
Listen to this song, for some reason, this story came bubbling up from the depths of a memory over 43 years old. At first I wasn’t even aware of why I wrote this. But then as I sang and wrote, I remembered a story that Danny told me of a soldier that was standing next to his mate as his head was blown off. This poor fellow went on to become a homeless vet for years until a kind woman helped him find his footing, get clean and re-enter society.
I find it weird, and interesting how the subconscious works or is it my muse? You decide. This is one of my best works for its content and meaning and profound effect on my family.
Initially as I wrote this I held the image of my daughter, Lori and my brother, Danny in my minds eye. Since then I have modified and morphed it only slightly.
My daughter has been exposed to the repercussions of wounded people through the fostered children she cares for. Her husband is also recovering from PTSD.
Now as I post this I am thinking of those closest to me, Orlando, William, Danny, Lori (and I am sure many others) that stand in harms way and then heal… thank you for all you do and have done.
I love you all!