Friday, July 25, 2014

Breaking Point

"We are afflicted in every way but not crushed, perplexed but not despairing, persecuted but not forsaken, struck down but not destroyed." ~ St. Paul
In 2001 Stephen Ambrose' book Band of Brothers was brought to life through the vision and passion of Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. The book and its HBO miniseries offspring chronicled the experiences of "Easy" Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division from jump training through the occupation of Germany.

The story of Easy company, among other historic narratives of the time, needed to be told.

I even impressed upon my kids, when I felt they were old enough to view the graphic almost 12-hour portrayal, "You need to see this. This generation saved the world."

I added, "And don't think you can start saying some of the words you'll hear during certain episodes. You are NOT under fire."

In the seventh installment titled "Breaking Point," Easy hits bottom during the final days of the German siege of Bastogne, Belgium in the Winter of 1944. Constant shelling of the forest outside the town of Foy where the 101st was ordered to make its stand has taken its toll. It all seems to come crashing down on the men of E Company as it loses many key members - a strong leader to a nervous breakdown, two of its veteran NCOs to catastrophic injury and many more to the constant bombardment from the German artillery.

Somehow they hold it together.

As the episode nears its end the assault on Foy is depicted. As the company emerges from the forest's darkness onto a snow-encrusted kill zone hope is dashed as an inept lieutenant second guesses the command to keep moving!

There are simply too many analogies to which we, we band of brothers and sisters, we parents of addicts, can relate. There is the "move or die" command drummed into soldiers' brains beginning with boot camp, emerging from darkness to light only to be confronted by more obstacle, more danger. There is the analogy of charging into the unknown to be met with uncertainty, stagnation and the familiarity of desperation … again.

We all have experienced, will reach or are even now going through a breaking point. We have seen those around us go down, parents beaten by addiction. We have experienced a feeling of despair that nothing, no one, could ever seem to alleviate. We have tried to emerge out of our personal Ardennes Forest, we may have succeeded only to be confronted, again, by the disease of addiction in its many forms. We have suffered through the putridity of the foxholes dug by ourselves or others, into which we've jumped to avoid the constant barrage of hopelessness brought about by our sons' and daughters' addictions.

Some of us have witnessed the loss of life from the disease. We have witnessed friends and families torn apart, dismembered.

We suffer from a form of shell shock as they called it during the time of the second World War.

But, ultimately, we keep moving, we move along on our journeys.

And, ultimately, Easy Company takes the town of Foy. The negativity and lack of conviction of the inept lieutenant is replaced by someone who, during a firefight earlier in the miniseries we have learned has accepted the possible finality of his situation.
"But Blithe, the only hope you have is to accept that you're already dead. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you'll be able to function like a soldier is supposed to function."  ~ Capt. Ronald Speirs, 506th PIR 101st Airborne - "Dog" Company 
Alright, we're not dead, but unless we accept our own powerlessness and unless we keep moving, we may as well be.

The successful attack and eventual taking of the town of Foy by the men of Easy was due in large part to the leadership and inspirational example of Capt. Ronald Speirs.

There were certainly more battles to be fought, more losses, victories and setbacks, until, ultimately these men and others of the "Greatest Generation" managed to save the world from sociopathic tyrants.

When, not if, we reach our breaking points, we can certainly hunker down in our foxholes if we need to. At some point we will emerge.

We'll have to.

If we keep moving, find inspiration from those around us, accept the powerlessness of our situation and find some Higher Force to give it [all] to, we can persevere.

We might just save our worlds and even positively affect the worlds of those around us, those we love.

We can be the Capt. Ronald Speirs to ourselves and our children, to our families and communities. Only by being true to ourselves can we ever hope to affect the changes in ourselves we seek, striving, ever improving, stretching boundaries, showing by example that transformation is possible and exciting.

We are engaged in a fight we must not lose, we band of brothers and sisters.

Did I mention to keep moving?

 … keep coming back