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The Buckhorn

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‘Out of the blue’ moments really impact life

By Donald K. Sanders
Every so often, conditions are just right for something to happen unexpectedly like finding a $20 bill lying on the ground. You might think to yourself, “Wow that wouldn’t happen again in a hundred years.” This is an example of what I call “out of the blue” moments. I know we all have them from time to time.
Most “out of the blue” moments are not important and they merely make things interesting. “Out of the blue” moments, like everything else, can be good or bad depending on what they concern. You never see them coming so all you can do is react to them in the best way possible. Some “out of the blue” moments are life-altering, often on a grand scale.
I can give you a good example of an “out of the blue” moment that happened when I was in 8th grade. I was just sitting there at my desk when — out of the blue — someone burst into the room screaming something about John F. Kennedy being shot just moments before. When something like that happens you’ll remember every moment of what occurs.
Not too long after that, there was another “out of the blue” moment when Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated. I have a vivid memory of that day and the days leading up to it. I remember how elegant he was and how I was affected by his “I have a dream” speech. That’s the way it seems to go. Just when you discover how great a person is, he is taken away from you, never to return.
During my short lifetime, there have been many such “out of the blue” moments. Moments like reaching a crossroad and finding your way, meeting someone for the first time and falling in love with them, or the sudden death of a loved one are all “out of the blue” moments.
Two “out of the blue” moments that had a profound effect on me will demonstrate how suddenly things can happen to change everything you thought was good and decent into just the opposite. In the middle of my Vietnam War experience, I think I was a typical U.S. soldier. You know, gung-ho and all that crap. I thought it was the right thing for me to do when I joined the Army. I believed in our war effort. I thought it was the right thing to do.
I was given a 30-day leave between my first tour of duty in Vietnam and my second. It was nice to be home for a while. I sat having coffee with my mother at the kitchen table while we watched the news on TV. There on the screen, in living color, a jet was dropping napalm on a Vietnamese forest. It was beautiful the way it exploded upon contact with the ground and spread across the top of the trees. I remember how beautiful I thought it was.
At that very moment, “out of the blue,” a young Vietnamese girl ran out of the flames with her skin on fire. With that, I was no longer a part of the war and was pretty much a zombie until my time in Vietnam was over. Shortly after that, “out of the blue,” a young lady was shot to death by National Guard troops at Kent State. These two “out of the blue” moments derailed my train of thought and I lost it and never got it back.
Just like that, “out of the blue,” I found myself incapable of loving or caring, and I had lost all hope of living a productive life. Life was no longer livable for me unless I was high or drunk. I stayed that way for many, many years and when I came out of it I found I had wasted most of the late ’70s, the ’80s, and the ’90s.
There were other “out of the blue” moments that contributed to my condition but I won’t go into that, so just trust me. What still troubles me is the fact that 20-22 veterans will commit suicide every single day and no one seems to care. I feel like I have been raped of my belief system. How could the country that we love so much just dump us by the wayside like pieces of garbage?
Well just recently, “out of the blue,” it struck me that maybe I should concentrate not on the terrible past but on working to change the future. I have to do it in my own way, just as you have to do it in your way. You can see me doing it my way every day as I spend my time doing what I think is important. As I work changing things for the better, I’m happier than I have been in many years. The more I work at it, the happier I am. All I have left to say is that you can either help those that want to change or get out of their way.
You can sit and complain about what others are doing or you can get off of your butt and get at it, right “out of the blue.”