«Learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow» (Isaiah 1: 1 7).
Richard Luttrell was eighteen years old and had just graduated from Us military when he headed off Vietnam. It was 1967 when he fought his first battle and had the first encounter with enemy soldier. They simply pointed to each other in threatening manner and Richard was the first one to pull the trigger, killing him instantly. The bloody body laid at his feet, and next to it was a small photo the size of stamp. The picture was of a soldier with a small girl, most probably the Vietnamese’s daughter. Other battles and encounters followed after that until Richard became wounded and was send home. The return filled him with terrifying episodes, but none as tumultuous as the one which reminded him of the small photo. Once he tried to get rid of it by leaving it beside and obituary on memorial dedicated to the former combats of Vietnam in Washington D. C (USA). He wrote a few lines asking the soldier for forgiveness for having taken his life; he also asked the little girl for forgiveness for taking her father way. But some one found the littler and published in the newspaper. He finally located Richard to give him back the photo. Hence, he could not get rid of it or his guilty memories! It was then that he decided to look for the unknown girl to personally ask her for forgiveness. Various coincidences happened until he finally met her. It had been thirty-three years since that event in Vietnam before Richard Luttrell and Lan Trong Ngoan finally met.
«I would have preferred to have died myself in that battle»—he told her, with grieving and weeping—.»I’m really sorry. I hope you forgive me.» This is how Richard found his peace.
Sometimes, we believe that feeling sorry is enough, that it is sufficient to change the course of action. We have been sincere when confessing our faults to God and we expect to close the chapter and turn the page smoothly. However, today’s Bible verse indicated the duty of the repentant soul. He must repair the damage caused as much as it is within its possibilities. Richard Luttrell did everything that was in his power to morally pay back the family of the aggrieved man.
«The victim’s request for forgiveness requires recognition of the damage caused, repentance, compassion for the victim and a request for sympathy, as well as some kind of reparation. This is the only way to eliminate emotional distress,» claims Enrique Echeburúa, professor of clinical psychology at the University of the Basque Country (Spain).
May God help us to ask for forgiveness and to repair, as far as possible, the damage we have caused.