Forgiveness in the Vietnam War

The below story about forgiveness was told by Jack Kornfield in his talk, Natchiketa & the Lord of Death, starting at 38 minutes, 33 seconds.


If you go to the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial, there are letters people leave. There was a letter and a picture that said:

“Dear Sir, for 22 years I’ve carried your picture in my wallet. I was only 18 years old that day we faced one another on the trail in Chu Lai, Vietnam. Why you didn’t kill me, I don’t know. You stared at me so long, holding your AK-47 and yet you would not fire. Forgive me for taking your life. I was just reacting as a soldier. So many times over the years I’ve stared at this picture of you and your daughter. And each time my heart and guts burn with the pain of guilt for I have two daughters now myself, and I realize you were a brave soldier defending your homeland. And above all else, I can respect the importance that life held for you. I suppose that is why you did not fire and I am still alive. And yet now, 22 years later, it is time for me to continue my life process and release my pain and guilt. I only ask one thing: forgive me. Please forgive me.”

The man who wrote that note, Richard Luttrell, later took a trip to Hanoi. He brought the picture, found the village where the soldier’s regiment was from, went to the village, and found the son and daughter of this man that he had killed. He brought the picture back to them. He asked their forgiveness, explained what had happened, showed them pictures of his own children, and they said:

“It’s as if [our] father’s spirit was somehow reborn in this man, Richard, who came back to [us], and [we] can feel the blessing of [our] father in his return.”

It’s such a powerful thing, to be able to forgive.