(Orange Flames Part Three)

The dedication of the Women's Memorial, the Circle of Sisters ceremony at the Wall, and the Special Service's Reunion all took place in Washington, D.C. in the space of three days, after 9 long years of hard work and planning, so it was no wonder I was in for major let-down when I returned home.

I had expected to be content, tired, and relieved to finally have everything over with. I was not prepared for the depression, the uneasiness, the inexplicable, irrational, anger I continued to feel following the events at the Wall. Instead of "letting off steam", relaxing, and feeling proud of our accomplishments, I felt weepy, used, totally drained.

That emotional state generated even more anger, although I wasn't sure who I was angry with, or why. I've always believed that depression is unexpressed anger, redirected at one's self, so how could I be both depressed and acting out in anger? It didn't make sense. I decided I needed some help to sort out my feelings and dispel the gloom.

I called a local Vet Center even though I am not entitled to their services, because I wanted to talk to someone who could relate to the Wall and was familiar with veterans' issues. I didn't understand what was going on with my feelings, but I suspected it had something to do with those orange flames. Luckily for me, the counselor I spoke to said to come in as soon as possible, and if she could not help me officially, she would recommend someone outside the Vet Center system who could. It was through her referral that I met "BB", a unique and sensitive young woman, experienced in treating veterans, who didn't think I was as crazy as I was beginning to feel.

At this point, I had no idea that my "mystery" story of orange flames and strange events was soon to become (as one of Lewis Carroll's childish characters was fond of saying) "Curiouser and Curiouser!"

I had only one counselling session with "BB" because it was all I needed, but it was quite an extraordinary event in itself. Upon meeting BB, she asked me to sit and tell her a little about myself in general, and specifically what it was that had brought me to her. I explained the circumstances at the Wall and what lead up to them. I also told her about my weepy, emotional, behavior since then, and that I just needed to talk about it and see what made sense. BB asked me if I was a spiritual person, and if I would mind if she used a rather unconventional method of getting to the root of my feelings. I asked what she had in mind, and BB said very matter of factly, "channelling". I got goosebumps and chills at the thought of being the subject of such new age and controversial methods, but after thinking it over, I consented. After all, it couldn't hurt me, could it?. What did I have to lose but my depression? Oh, why not! If nothing else I might get a good laugh out of it.

BB started by asking me to meditate with her a few minutes and then she would begin. We sat quietly with our eyes closed for several minutes, and just concentrated on breathing...inhale one, two, three...exhale one, two, three, four. Again, one, two, three...exhale one, two, three, four, and so on. Then BB said, "Open your eyes and I will ask you a few question. Relax, you're safe, and remember we can quit at anytime if you become uncomfortable, OK?"

"OK" I replied.

"What is it you want to know?"

"I want to know what happened to me at the Wall. Where did the Orange Flames come from? Why am I so angry? What's going on? I don't understand these feelings I'm having."

"They are not your feelings."

"What do you mean?"

"Who is Jack?"

"Jack who?"

"He says you knew him as Jack a long time ago."

"Jack Guerrero ?!"

"Who is Jack Guerrero ?!"

"Jack is, was, a friend of mine. I recently tried to find him to tell him about the dedication ceremonies in D.C. and learned he was dead."

"You were shocked by this news."

"Yes, of course, especially since I was told he committed suicide after returning from his second tour in Vietnam. I met Jack in Tay Ninh during his first tour. He was a Sgt. with the First CAV. He came home before me. I had no idea he went back for a second tour! I can't believe he would go back...he hated it there...he wanted me to come home with him when he left...he said it was not a safe place, and he would not be there to look after me. He insisted I quit my job and come home with him...of course, I didn't."

"Why not?"

"I couldn't, my tour wasn't up. Besides, I didn't want to leave. He did, that's all he talked about...getting back to the world, back to his young son and daughter. Jack was older...27, divorced, a sweet, gentle, very protective guy. All he wanted was to go home, to look after his children, and watch them grow. I can't believe, of all people, he would go back for a second tour. I can't believe he killed himself! But what does Jack have to do with this?"

"He says he's sorry, it's his anger you're feeling."

"His anger? At me?"

"No, he's not angry with you. He was angry at the men who tried to stop you at the Wall. He was protecting you. He's sorry you were, and still are frightened by that experience."

"How do you know it's Jack? Can you see him?"

"Yes, he's very tall and slender, and he's smiling at you. He says you haven't changed. You're going to do what you want to do no matter what."

"I can't believe this...where is he? Why is he, is he alright? Why did he kill himself?"

"He's been lost for a long time. Unable to find his way. He wants to know that he was loved. He took his life because he felt unlovable."

"BB I'm scared. I don't know if we should continue this."

"Relax, take my hands, you're safe. Just breathe.

We are going to pray for Jack now, and ask a higher power to guide him to the light."

BB prayed, asked that Jack accept God's love, and know the love his family and friends have for him. She said that he no longer had to feel responsible for any of us. His duty was done. He should claim the love, look to the light, and follow in its path.

Whether BB actually did channel and communicate with Jack is very difficult for me to believe. I know that I never mentioned his name or my search for him to BB or to the counselor who referred me, yet she asked me "Who is Jack?" I consider myself a spiritual person, and I believe in an afterlife. But I don't know if the presentlife and afterlife can ever be bridged like that. So, for obvious reasons, this entire episode with BB left me feeling very shaky, gullible, and uneasy. Even now I'm uneasy talking about it...wondering what others will think. BB said her methods were definitely not VA--approved, but she assured me Jack's presence and angry influence in my life were gone. Since I could make no sense of this series of crazy and unusual events, I chose to believe her. And you know what? I did feel better!


Cathleen Cordova
Vietnam 1968-1969
Army Special Services