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Rated: GC · Fiction · Drama · #2246018
A young soldier faces a terrible problem.
Two soldiers scooped dirt with their entrenching tools and tossed it onto a mound outside their foxhole. A third soldier climbed out of his hole, sat down on his pile of dirt, and lit up a joint.
"Godddamnit, Rowsey, the entire 364th North Vietnamese Army Division is headed our way, and you're smoking reefer. Get your goat smelling ass off that mound of dirt, get in your foxhole, and dig. Do you think this is some kind of a joke? If the 364th NVA hits firebase foxtrot you'll see men with their guts hanging out. You will smell burning flesh. You might have a wounded man beg you to kill him because he can't take the pain. Put out that joint and dig," Bradley snarled.
"Do not worry about me, Bradley. When the time comes I will fight like a hero. Then I will get a pass into An Lox for my bravery, and I will bang every girl on the penicillin promenade. I will wet my dick in every whore on the strip," Rowsey answered as he tried not to tremble and struggled to keep tears from rolling down his cheek.
Bradley rolled his eyes and frowned in exasperation. Could anything be as stupid as this newbie?
"When the time comes you will cry like a baby, hide in the bottom of your foxhole, and shit your pants.That is what all the guys like you do the first time the bullets start flying. I have been in this war too long to believe what some panty waste fresh from the states says he will do the first time he sees combat. Now get down in your foxhole and dig!" Bradley ordered.
Rowsey slowly put out his joint and lowered himself into his foxhole. He picked up his entrenching tool and toss out dirt.
"I can see you're not going to pull your weight, Rowsey. Guys who do not pull their weight in this unit do not last very long," Lumpra added.
"You won't get to wet your dick, Rowsey. I bet you get your dick shot off in combat. Guess what? You will die a virgin. A guy like you would not know what to do with a dick if he had one," Johnson added to the invective being heaped on the lackadaisical soldier.
"Here comes Lieutenant Bledsoe! Everybody get in their holes!" Johnson ordered.
The Lieutenant's form became more imposing as he approached. Something was up. The soldiers respected him, but they did not like him because he made them do things they did not care to do. The lieutenant did not think it was necessary for him to be liked to do his job.
"Bradley, in ten minutes I will give an operations order in the mess tent. Be there. You and six other luck G.I.'s get to go on patrol," the lieutenant stated.
Bradley shrugged and climbed out of his foxhole.
The soldiers' uniforms were glued to their bodies with sweat. They labored in the steamy atmosphere of the rain forest, aware that their preparations now could could keep them alive later. They piled sandbags around machine gun nests. Others dug foxholes and reviewed their positions. Men placed concertina in the cleared ground around their firebase. They put claymore mines in the gaps in the wire.
"I hope 364th NVA hits firebase alpha instead of us. I know we have a lot of firepower backing us up, but a battalion against a division is not good odds," Lumpra commented as Bradley walked away.
Seven soldiers sat on a wooden bench in the mess tent. Lieutenant Bledsoe stood in front of the men giving instructions in the close, thick air.
"I'm sorry about the hurried nature of this operations order, but I got news of this just fifteen minutes ago." The officer paused to collect his thoughts. "We are going to observe the river for a few hours. Colonel Reynolds wants to know if the enemy is moving supplies into position for an attack on firebase foxtrot. We will travel fifteen clicks north, then we will approach the river from the east, where there is better cover. Mines and booby traps might be set there, so step lightly. We will have to be back by dusk.There has not been much enemy activity in the area, but we think the NVA could be trying to lure us into complacency. The entire 364th NVA division is moving through this region. They will have to go through either firebase alpha or firebase foxtrot to get to the central highlands. That is where they want to go. General McGregor expects either firebase alpha or firebase foxtrot to give them hell before they get there. Do not worry about the size of this North Vietnamese unit. We will have F-4 Phantoms ready with napalm, helicopter gunships ready with rockets, and extensive artillery ready to lay holy hell down on the enemy. Believe me, if they attack us we will hurt them far worse than they hurt us."
"What are we going to do about Lao Bhe?" Grimes asked.
There was a stirring among the soldiers.
"I know you men are pissed off about our situation with Lao Bhe. Last night their mortars got our latrine while someone was using it. Pfc Brown was a good man, and he died in a shithouse. He deserved better. Colonel Reynolds is furious. Soldiers, you must understand that men often die in inglorious situations in war. That does not cheapen their sacrifice in any way. All the same, we are keeping this soldier's circumstances when he died under wraps. The only thing that this soldier's family and the people at home need to know is that he died in action," Lieutenant Bledsoe stated.
"That is some kind of action," Upchurch commented.
There were a few embarrassed laughs.
"This is not funny! Show some respect!" Lieutenant Bledsoe barked.
There was immediate silence. He waited a moment, and then continued.
"Colonel Reynolds has repeatedly told the village headman that if they don't stop dropping mortars on us we will have to light them up. The headman has always told us that the mortars will cease, but they still kept coming. Sometimes they fell on us that very night. I know you are angry about this, but do not worry about Lao Bhe on this patrol. We will deal with them later."
The lieutenant's words filled the soldiers with rage. Bradley was scared to think about what they would do if they went into Lao Bhe with the hatred they had in their hearts. A few of them were born killers.
Bradley had heard somewhere that hell was the impossibility of reason. The burning anger of these born killers was the most unreasonable thing Bradley had ever encountered. Their rage could not be placated. Bradley did not understand what made these guys so angry. It was wanton cruelty, a simple desire to destroy life. The twisted, hateful faces of these youths frightened Bradley. They embodied hell on earth. He hoped that when the time came he had the courage to stand against the destructive compulsions of these young boys carrying assault weapons.
Our young soldier knew that the memory of his own bloody deeds would torment him after he returned home. He would deal with his feelings of guilt over the lives he took when he had room enough and time enough for that kind of emotion.
............ ........... ...........

The soldiers stashed canteens filled with water in their packs before they went on their patrol. They also packed clips of ammo in their ammo pouches and backpacks. The M60 machine gunner had large belts of bullets hanging crossways from his shoulders. Five of the men carried LAW rockets. The man carrying the M79 grenade launcher placed 40mm grenades in his backpack. They were told they did not need so much ammunition on a reconnaissance patrol, but their old habits were hard to break. They wanted massive firepower, in case they ran into an enemy patrol. Official doctrine said that on recon missions a patrol was supposed to break off if they got into a firefight, but the soldiers believed that was easier to do if you had fire superiority. The young soldiers hoisted their packs and trudged into the rain forest.
The patrol moved like a single animal. They said little, but all were aware of their comrades' thoughts. They had merged into a single being that carried awesome destructive capability. These young men with very different attitudes and beliefs had a single purpose - to locate and spy on the enemy.
At 08:00 the young soldiers saw plumes of smoke rising form the village of Lao Bhe. Lieutenant Bledsoe halted his men.
"Madre de Dios! Somebody has torched Lao Bhe!" Sanchez exclaimed.
The smoke from Lao Bhe drifted in the humid air. The soldiers stopped walking and kept their M16's at the ready. Lieutenant Bledsoe was still. He waited a moment.
"I am going to check this out. Stay close while we are there," Lieutenant Bledsoe said.
The officer directed his men into the little village. There were many piles of smoldering thatch giving off thick plumes of smoke. Dead pigs lay bloating in the sun, and loose chickens pecked at the many grains of rice that lay on the ground.
"Second platoon must have done this. They were talking about doing something like this. A few of them came through here a couple of days ago," Jasper commented.
"It was the Vietcong. Only the Vietcong do that," Bradley said as he pointed at the village headman hanging by his wrists from the branch of a tree, his belly slit open from his neck to his crotch.
Jasper turned away and puked his breakfast.
"We have not seen this kind of activity from the Cong for a while. They sure as hell know how to make a statement," Sanchez commented bitterly.
"It is called 'holding terrain through the use of terror'. The Viet Cong are masters at it. We control the cities and the day; they control the countryside and the night," Bradley responded.
The soldiers expected Lieutenant Bledsoe to return from his investigation soon and give the order to move out. Then there was some movement in the undergrowth at the side of the hamlet. Landers brought his M16 up to his shoulder and aimed it at the rustling sound. A girl who could not have been more than eight years old came out of the jungle. Her eyes were wide and fearful, and she carried a baby. Landers kept his weapon pointed at her. Rodgers' mouth dropped open. He brought up his gun, but he did not aim it. He looked to Landers for a sign as to how he was to respond.
"The Cong have booby trapped this girl!" Landers stated, with his M16 aimed at the child.
The other soldiers held their breath.
"Don't you shoot that little girl! Don't you do it!" Bradley ordered the tense soldier.
Landers swung his rifle towards Bradley, and then quickly swung it back to the young child.
"She might be booby trapped! The Cong do that!" Landers growled, his hands shaking, and sweat dripping off his nose.
"Landers, how will you live with yourself if you kill an unarmed little girl? How will you face your wife? How will you face your kids? Think about it, Landers," Bradley reasoned with the soldier.
Landers lowered his M16.
"Now that's what I came over here for, to be killed by a six year old girl," Landers responded. His lip quivered as he spoke.
Lieutenant Bledsoe returned from his investigation of the burnt out village. He stopped and stared incredulously at the little girl carrying the tiny baby.
"What is going on here? Have I missed something?" the lieutenant asked.
"We had a little disagreement. It is over now," Bradley said to the officer.
Lieutenant Bledsoe focused his gaze on Bradley.
Impervious to the high powered assault rifles carried by the soldiers, the child glanced furtively from face to face, and then carried the baby up to Bradley and placed it in his arms. Then she turned and faded back into the rain forest. Still dumbfounded, Rodgers looked at Bradley to see what he was supposed to do. The tiny person reached her hand towards Bradley, lost vision, and turned her eyes away.
"Put that baby down!" Lieutenant Bledsoe said as he moved to the center of the group of soldiers. His large and muscular form told the men how serious he was.
Bradley looked at his fellow soldiers. They stood mute, like solemn wraiths from the beginning of time.
"Sir, I think the baby is going into shock from hunger. Maybe we could mash up some C rations and feed the baby that," Bradley implored.
"That is a no go, soldier! No can do! We do not have time to worry about a baby! Set the infant down!" Lieutenant Bledsoe commanded.
"Sir, we can't leave it here to die," Bradley pleaded.
"Lieutenant Bledsoe yanked his .45 out of its holster. His face had turned a deep red.
"Am I going to have to pistol whip you, soldier, to get you to do what I want? Put the baby down, now! That is a direct order!" the lieutenant shouted.
Bradley slowly and painfully set the tiny infant down. The thin blanket around the baby turned brown as the muddy water soaked into the wrap covering the baby.
"That's better, Bradley. The fate of a whole infantry battalion could depend on us. I'm not going to let you jeopardize that for the sake of a single foreigner," Lieutenant Bledsoe explained.
Bradley realized that he was the only member of the patrol who understood that the Americans were the foreigners here.
"I thought he was going to try to breast feed the little brat," Corporal Smith commented as he walked past Bradley.
Bradley nearly bashed the corporal in the face with the butt of his M16.
The soldiers watched the river for several hours and saw no suspicious activity. The patrol made it back to the firebase before darkness fell in the jungle. Bradley could see Lieutenant Bledsoe earnestly reporting in the headquarters tent. The young soldier wondered if Bledsoe told the Colonel about the baby they had left behind. He wondered if she was still laying in the mud. Bradley wanted to go out and search for her, but he knew that was impossible.
The attack on firebase foxtrot was a diversion. The NVA hit them with rocket and mortar fire, and then their barrage fell silent. They hated to wish ill on the men at firebase alpha, but the men at foxtrot were glad the main attack was not on them. There were heavy casualties at firebase alpha, but F4 Phantoms screamed in with napalm, helicopter gunships swooped in with rockets and miniguns, and American artillery tore through the night, all wiping out huge swaths of enemy soldiers. The 364th NVA division suffered devastating losses. General McGregor would be proud.
The dead at firebase alpha were put in body bags and placed near the helicopter landing pad. The site had a sobering effect on the soldiers of alpha company. The day before they had smoked and joked with these men.
Enemy activity shifted away from the two firebases. Every day Lieutenant Bledsoe went to the officers' briefing in the headquarters tent. The enlisted men peered into the tent and wondered what kind of directives were coming. Every day the advisory said there was no enemy activity in their sector. The whole atmosphere at firebase foxtrot changed. Now the men fought boredom instead of the enemy. Colonel Reynolds imposed a perfunctory routine on the soldiers. If their weapons were clean and in good working order, and if the amenities of the camp were maintained, there was no concern about other matters. A lot of the men started to enjoy the potent Vietnamese weed. Others drank heavily. Bradley spent his spare time reading Earnest Hemingway.
Sometimes Bradley felt like his home was centuries away. A person could not see the things Bradley had and not be changed by them. How could anyone at home understand how it felt to have a wounded man beg you to kill him because he could not take the pain? The only feeling worse than seeing the wounded soldier in the ghastly pain was being the wounded soldier. Bradley could not forget Grandstaff screaming "Kill me! kill me!" while white phosphorous burnt a hole through his body. His screams cut through Bradley like a chainsaw through plywood, unnerving him to his soul. Bradley had dug into Grandstaff's scorched flesh with his bayonet trying to get that small, shockingly hot burning substance out of his friend's body. Water would not put out that diabolical fragment of white phosphorus. The only alternative was to kill Grandstaff. Bradley understood that he could have ended Grandstaff's pain by killing him, and he could not have kept him alive by digging out the small bit of the horrible stuff with his knife. The horrible stuff burned completely through to Grandstaff's heart, giving this poor soldier one last massive dose of pain and horror before he died. How could any person witness such a thing and still be the same person they were before they saw it?
Bradley was firm in his decision not to drink or do drugs while he was fighting in Vietnam. He understood that the psychological and spiritual wounds of war took longer to heal if a person buried them with mind numbing substances. He did not want to lose his soul in the middle of all this craziness. Bradley had watched his father suppress his emotions with alcohol, and Bradley saw that no good could come from that. At first the other soldiers teased Bradley about his temperance, but then the decided that everyone had to cope with this crazy situation in their own way. If Bradley wanted to read, they would let him.
Lieutenant Bledsoe started to get passes into An Loc for his men. The popularity of this junior officer skyrocketed.
Bradley could not forget the baby they had let die at Lao Bhe. Sometimes late at night he had to restrain himself from going out into the jungle and searching for her. He asked to see Lieutenant Bledsoe.
Bradly waited twenty minutes outside the lieutenant's tent when he went to see his platoon leader. The officer was pensive, yet determined. Bradley watched the officer writing reports, and he wondered how much of a monster the man was.
"You may report to your commanding officer," Lieutenant Bledsoe finally said to Bradley.
Bradley entered the lieutenant's tent. He marched up to the lieutenant's desk and saluted him.
"At ease, soldier. Why have you come to see me?" Lieutenant Bledsoe responded.
"Sir, I have tried to put it out of my mind, but I cannot stop thinking about that little baby we put down at Lao Bhe. I feel terrible," Bradley told his platoon leader.
Lieutenant paused for a moment, like he was collecting his thoughts. Then he spoke.
"War is a tough business, Bradley. You are an infantry soldier. That means you carry a weapon and you kill people. Different rules apply to us. What do you do when saving one life jeopardizes the lives of several others? You save the lives of the others, especially when you cannot save the one life no matter what you do.That baby was going to die no matter what we did," Lieutenant Bledsoe told Bradley.
"I think we could have saved that baby without jeopardizing the other men in our squad. We could have radioed back to the firebase and have them send out another patrol to take the baby back to firebase foxtrot," Bradley responded.
"Soldier, I was thinking about making you a corporal and putting you in charge of an infantry squad. You do not shrink from hardship. You follow orders well, for the most part. You've got brains, and you've got guts. The men would look up to you. Who knows where you could go from their. You might even get a battlefield commission. But I cannot take that first step for you. I cannot make you a corporal if you are acting stupid about every baby you see. There was no way we could have saved that baby, and I was not going to put the added pressure on my men of carrying such a burden. It was the best decision I could have made as a commissioned officer of the United States Army," the lieutenant stated.
"Sir, leaving it in the mud is such a hard thing to do," Bradley pleaded.
"We could not have any men running around carrying a baby. They were needed at the firebase. We are not here to walk on water, soldier. We are here to fight a war. That is your job, soldier. To fight a war. Just do your job."
"I thought we were supposed to be helping these people.
Lieutenant Bledsoe fixed a direct gaze on Bradley. Then he spoke.
"Why are you so worried about other people's babies? Just worry about the people and the babies beholden unto you. You cannot ask a man to worry about other people's babies. It's not his nature to care for other peoples' offspring. Men like us are made to fight the enemies of our country. Do you think one baby matters? Babies die by the thousands in places like this even when there isn't a war. When there is a war their chances go down. I know it is hard, but you cannot deal in specifics in situations like this. You must deal in generalities. If you deal in specifics you lose your perspective on the bigger issues."
Bradley stiffened, and almost said something. The lieutenant continued, still staring at Bradley.
"There are so many forsaken children over here that we quit counting them years ago. What you need to do, soldier, is concentrate on coming home alive and making babies of your own. That is where you deal in specifics. Do not try to take care of other people's babies. Take care of your own. Only worry about the people beholden to you. The quicker you learn that the happier you will be. You are now dismissed from my company."
Bradley came to attention and saluted the officer. Then he left, unsatisfied.
One day Bradley heard a couple of soldiers throwing a bayonet at a couple of sandbags outside his hooch. They had written the word "*****" on a scrap of white paper and pasted it on their dummy. They talked about Bradley.
"A four day pass would be wasted on Bradley. All he does is read. What is he going to do in An Loc that he can't do here?" one soldier asked the other.
The next day Bradley got a five day pass from Lieutenant Bledsoe. There was more for him to do in An Loc than the other soldiers thought. He could buy books at the PX. He could rent an air conditioned room at the base motel, and get a blessed hot shower there. For five days he would be refreshingly clean. He could buy hamburgers at the snack bar. He could buy soap and shampoo so he could take a better shower at the firebase, after he waited his turn among eight hundred men. There was no hot water at the God forsaken place.
Bradley also wanted to go to a monastery north of the city. He hoped that somehow somebody could tell him something that made sense about the baby they had let die in the mud.
Most of the soldiers who went into Lao Bhe had plenty of money because there was nothing to spend it on in the field. In An Loc they spent their money mostly on booze, drugs, and prostitutes. The common practice was to rent a prostitute for a few days. There was a row of bars with names like, "The Baby Doll Lounge", "The Red Hot Lady", and "The Sweet China Thing". The men called it "the penicillin promenade".
The monastery was twelve kilometers north of An Loc. Colonel Reynolds said the holy place had been there for centuries. Bradley started walking early in the morning. A long line of Vietnamese people carried their produce and other goods from their rice paddies into the An Loc market. Some walked on foot. Some pushed bicycles laden with baskets. Motorcycles darted in and out of the people on foot. Bradley noticed a very old woman carrying a slat across her shoulders with baskets of fresh fish hanging on both ends. She moved in a steady, careful trot so the fish would not slide out of the baskets. Bradley estimated that she was carrying over forty pounds. She had miles to go. She had come miles already. Bradley realized, like he had many times before, that life was hard for these people. A few of the people stared at Bradley with open hostility. Others seemed to welcome his presence.
The monastery wore its age well. It stood away from the road, with a modest dirt lane leading to its gate. The limbs of the rain forest trees arched over the lane, giving the impression of being in a short tunnel. The ancient buildings remained resolutely away from the purveyors of trade on the road, not in haughty pride, but in a manner of contemplation. There was peace within. A carved, wooden image of The Virgin Mary, painted in white, brown, and red, gazed with serenity and benevolence from the front door of the walled compound. It was the only adornment on the building. There was a slot below the image that could be opened so that the monks inside the monastery could talk to the people who wanted to come in. Bradley knocked on the door with the knocker. The slot opened, and an inquisitive monk peered out.
"Why do you wish to enter the Monastery of the Blessed Virgin?" the middle aged monk asked.
"I wish to speak to an elder," Bradley answered.
"Do you wish to confess?"
"Yes. I do. I want absolution."
The monk shut the slot and opened the door. Bradley entered the sacred place. In the courtyard a monk threw rice to hungry chickens. Another monk led a grunting pig to its sty. There was a big pen filled with manure and straw to use as mulch for a little patch of cultivated ground. The courtyard had the familiar sights and smells of a farm, but there was a feeling of piety hanging over it that was not present in the farmyard. The monks took small notice of Bradley.
It looked to Bradley like the monks were frozen in time. There was nothing in the monastery that could not have been there many years before. The monks had placidly raised their animals and cultivated their gardens through the slowly passing rhythms of simple, contemplative lives. They had lived in the same daily activities of prayer, worship, and work for what must have been centuries.
An affable monk met Bradley. He was a small man who had big shoulders, like he had done heavy work. He shook Bradley's hand vigorously. A hearty smile was one of his defining features.
"Hello. I am Brother Tham. You must make a donation to The Blessed Virgin monastery, so that we can continue our vital work," Brother Tham told Bradley.
Bradley put one hundred dollars in the donation box.
"Come this way. I will take you to see Father Tung. He is the most blessed and the most holy of all the monks who live here," Brother Tham said as he ushered Bradley into the ancient building.
Father Tung was kneeling before a painting of a large crucifix hanging on the wall of the chapel. The father's head was bowed in prayer. The monk was old, but he still possessed the vigor of a much younger man. He was a serious, yet unimposing person. Bradley sat down and remained silent.
The elder finished praying. He stood up and looked at Bradley.
"Have you come here to confess, my son?" he asked
"Yes, I have, Father. There is something I can only share with a person of great moral insight," Bradley answered.
Father Tung nodded his head. His body was stiff, like he was repelled by Bradley and he wanted to keep his distance from our young soldier.
"Very well then. We must go to the confessional," the monk said.
They entered the small enclosure at the side of the sanctuary.
"Bless me, father, for I have sinned," Bradley began.
"What is bothering you, my son?" the aged monk asked.
"Something happened while I was on a patrol that has seared my soul."
Father Tung seemed to soften against Bradley, like he was willing to hear his confession without judging him.
"What is this thing that hurts your conscience so badly? What is it that burns so deeply within you?"
Bradley took a large breath, and then began. He stammered at first.
"We were going on a reconnaissance patrol when we saw smoke rising from the village of Lao Bhe. Our lieutenant decided to see what had happened there. Mortars from that village hit us a few times a week. One of them finally hit the latrine when someone was using it. It killed him," Bradley murmured.
"So the soldiers in your unit were already angry at the people of that village?" Father Tung questioned.
"Yes. We all were mad, but some of the guys wanted revenge," Bradley answered.
"Did you want revenge?" the monk asked.
"No. I'd seen enough of this war to understand what war does to the heads of young soldiers, and I guarded myself against it. I did not want the knowledge that I had killed an innocent person on purpose. I do not think I could live with that," Bradley answered.
"So what happened that troubles you so much?" the Father asked.
"We came into the village, and burned down huts were everywhere. There were dead pigs laying on the ground, and rice was scattered in the mud. At first we thought an American unit had done this, but then we saw the village head man hanging by his wrists from a tree. He was cut open from his neck to his crotch. When we saw that we knew the Viet Cong had burned down the village, because only the Cong do that," Bradley continued.
"So what did you do that bothers your conscience so terribly?"
"We were waiting for Lieutenant Bledsoe to come and give us the order to move out when a little girl came out of the jungle. She carried a tiny baby in her arms. A guy in our unit almost shot her because he believed the was booby trapped.
"But you prevented this?" the Father asked.
"Yes. But that was when the lieutenant arrived. I wanted to help the baby, but Lieutenant Bledsoe was emphatic that we leave the baby there. I tried to convince him, but he drew his pistol and gave me a direct order to put the baby down. So I laid the baby down," Bradley continued.
"So you did this under orders?" the Father asked.
"Yes. It was because I had received a direct order," Bradley answered.
"And that is what bothers you?" Father Tung asked.
"Yes. I remember the muddy water soaking into her swaddling clothes after I set her down. I was her last hope, and I failed her," Bradley responded.
"And you think it was your personal duty to save this baby?" Father Tung asked.
"Yes. You see, in this crazy world and in this crazy place it is too easy to throw up your hands and say, 'I was just following orders', but that will not keep babies alive. Everyone has a right to life, and we denied that baby her right to live," Bradley answered.
"You talked to the lieutenant who gave you this order?" the Father questioned, his brow furrowed.
"Yes, I did," Bradley answered.
"Did you talk to the lieutenant about this?"
"What did he say?"
"He said I should concentrate on coming home alive and having babies of my own. He said I must protect only the people beholden to me."
There was a heavy silence, and then the Father spoke.
"What the world must know, what people must understand to have peace, is that all people are beholden to each other. Every adult is behold to every child. Every child is beholden to every other child. We cannot say a life is not good enough. We must treat every life like it is as good as our own. There is so much that can harm a baby, even without a war. We should put the energy we put into war into caring for the children of the world. All of us are precious in God's eyes. We all have the responsibility to care for each other. What you must do, my son, is lead a great life. You must do great things, and say great things, to make up for the tiny life you let perish in the mud. You have a debt to our holy father you must repay. You can do this by making the world understand the responsibility it bears for this baby. You must tell the world about children who are dying. You must get others to see that you can stop this. You must write about what you have seen here so people at your home know what people in this part of the world have to endure. You must lift up those who are struggling, and you must get those who have more to give to those who have less. That is what you must do, my son. If you do these things you will be absolved, and you will find peace."
As Bradley left the slow rhythms of the monks' lives made perfect sense to him. Who would not want to commit his life to simple work and the betterment of humanity? He watched a monk casting out grain to the chickens. What a great way to live. Bradley thought about the books he could write. He thought about the speeches he could give. He must spread the happiness this priest had given him. All people were beholden to each other. All lives were precious. Bradley knew what the priest was saying was right. He must do and say great things because of the tiny life he had let perish at Lao Bhe.
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