What follows is an inspiring (and to some, controversial) email written five years ago by Calixto Alfredo Cabrera to Diane Ford Wood. Back in The Day, Diane witnessed Alfredo's powerful rage over the war in Vietnam and the effects it had on America, the world, and his personal life. Although his actions as a VVAW member remained peaceful, his presence made Diane fearful; his eyes were continually dark with rage and grief. She always wondered what would become of him.
CALIXTO CABRERA, a veteran of Vietnam and the USMC, is a former member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War. His photo is posted on the VetSpeak.com home page. An edited version of this email is included in Camouflage & Lace: My Journey with a Windbender.
Subject: WHAT'S IT BEEN? 28 YEARS? (Full-Text)
From: Calixto Alfredo Cabrera
To: Diane Ford Wood
Wow, you're a voice from my distant past. Yes it has been 28+ years. I am 51 now and Sage was not conceived when we met. I will try and update you on the metamorphosis that I have undergone in this period of time.
The revolution as I understood it to be for me is dead and gone. It died a timely death. My awareness of social injustice and man's cruelty toward everything is still acutely high. I no longer see the system or some people as my enemies. As a matter of fact, I am trying in my heart to see no enemies at all, only people in pain. That is a big change from the person who wanted to join the SLA (Symbionese Liberation Army) that kidnapped Patricia Hearst so many years ago. I look upon those days as my days of rage.
You are right in your assessment that I was the angriest person that you or I have ever met. There is a long story behind all of this that I will not trouble you with, but it had a lot to do with the countless murders and destruction that I heaved on Viet Nam and of my spiritual path. I look upon Viet Nam and the post years as "The best of times and the worst of times." I do not mean this in a literary sense, but in a spiritual sense. Toward the end of my political activism, I became a big time (it took some time to build to this) drug dealer. Finally got sick and tired of doing that, too. I ended up feeling as head and heart sick about dealing dope as I did being in the Marine Corps. I knew that I had to get out of it and I did.
My heart sickness from what I had done in Viet Nam was still with me, still driving my anger which seemed to have an insatiable appetite for growing. I had a chip on my shoulder the size of Canada and the weight was getting very burdensome. I started dickering with metaphysics and it proved to be the way out of a quagmire that had become the long nightmare.
It took me 24 and 1/2 years to heal from the war. I am both happy and proud to tell you that I have done so. To date, I am the only Viet Nam veteran that I know of (I have heard of others, very few) that can say, "I have healed from the War." I believe that you, of all people, may appreciate that statement coming from me, as you knew me when my madness was deepening. I have two children now Sage, 25 (you know him), and Amber, 17 (thinks she's 25). I love them both deeply and thank God for them.
I still have healing to do on many levels about a great number of things. My life now is my spiritual path and the seemingly long path to Christ consciousness (presumptuous of me isn't it?) I am striving to find a way to love all people in my heart as I already do all children. It is a daunting task for I find it very easy to judge and to think ill of others even to this day. It's easy to speak courteously to another, it's quite another thing to see the divine spirit in them. My heroes are no longer Che, Mao or Lenin, but Jesus, Buddha, Allah, Mother Theresa and Gandhi.
My Love to you and your family. Please keep in touch.
Camo & Lace