1978 was the year my eyes gazed at the saddest person I had ever seen. War-torn, the eyes of this man held years of pain and loss. No amount of tequila could wipe away the depression and his emotional scars were worn like an old coat.
Fast forward to 2021, when we celebrated 43 years since we’d eloped and vowed to be there for each other, through thick and thin, for better or worse in health and sickness, for all eternity.
Corrie ten Boom, a survivor of the Hitlers “Ravensbruck concentration camp, shared: “There is no pit so deep, God’s love is not deeper still!” I have found this to be true. Little did I know that the path to understanding often involves suffering and pain.
Will you believe me, when I say, as his best friend and wife, mother to his children, I learned a thing or two? In a very personal way, I am asking you to allow yourself to entertain the truth, that if this man who literally would not answer a phone or a door for years after we met could find hope and a reason to live, there is hope for you.
Our journey lasted through so very many fiery trials, victories, and even times when it seemed like heaven had touched the earth. What allowed me to stay on the course? It would take hours to tell, but my prayer for every person who is reading is that you and those who love you may make it through your journey.
I found out what unconditional love means, and after many years discovered that it was I who had benefited the most from loving this amazing man. Perception is everything, and most of us learn from what we experience. Compassion is the magnet for supernatural interventions, for heaven and earth to move. So why would we be surprised that we are allowed to learn by fiery trials?
One of my memories includes a revelation about the power of loving as we are loved by the one who made us, the manufacturer if you will. One of my favorite teachers, Myles Munroe once shared that just like when a car or an appliance breaks, the first place we go is to the manufacturer, to understand how to repair it.
PFC George J. Pignatore, a medic with Company “B”, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division, is wounded during Operation Masher near Bong Son. 25 January 1966. Source.
Seems incredibly simple right? On paper, it sounds great, but the night I was on my knees, begging God to bring my husband home safely, I was ready for a bail-out, not a challenge. The message I received that night was simple. When on the front lines with a broken wounded warrior? Accusation and condemnation escalate and plays into the drama trauma of the moment and rarely ends well. I was challenged by the maker of heaven and earth to give UNCONDITIONAL LOVE, to be heaven’s hands extended, and to stop trying to control, help, and fix what was way beyond my control.
What was needed was understanding and compassion. I was given the promise that “Love never fails.” Walking out of this was easier said than done, but in less than 6 months, a change happened that I could not accomplish in our first six years together. Later my husband shared this with me: “When you stopped fighting with me, telling me off, and being combative, I could not believe it. When you loved me no matter what state I was in, I could not ignore it.”
You see someone who already is beating themselves up, carries survivors’ guilt, and then acts out after self-soothing with alcohol, or whatever is used, to have someone escalate the drama is no help. What happened when I refused to be moved, refused to argue, and prayed to see my broken wounded warrior through God’s eyes? My whole perspective changed. I saw through the eyes of compassion, not judgment. I became a best friend, a safe place, and our lives were far better for it.
The older I get, the more convinced I am that our trials are gifts to teach us the greater truths about life and equips us to know that often the answers we seek, and the help we need, must be pursued to be realized. I am sorry it took so many years for me to learn and relearn the same lesson that ultimately, brought me complete peace. It delivered me, from being judge and jury, and before my husband left this earth, we had three years of incredible friendship and closeness.
So for those of you, in these struggles, I invite you to get out your rose-colored glasses of love and see how powerful unconditional love can be.
For 43 years, Dennis and Diana Nickell, shared their lives, passion, and hearts. Dennis, a Vietnam Combat Veteran who dealt daily with the aftermath of his 14 months in-country, spent his later years reaching out to Veterans, their loved ones, and tried to help share why you should never give up. Sept, 12th, 2021 Dennis joined his brothers in arms in heaven, who never had the chance to have the life he fought for daily, and his wife Diana still carries on the mission of educating, enlightening, and encouraging those who have paid such a heavy price for freedom.
Dedicated to ALL, first responders, and heroes, Diana has found peace in the wealth of her family and her faith. YouTube series Surviving Vietnam can be accessed freely at https://www.survivevietnam.com/ “Quiet Place” first appeared in Breaking Chains, written by Dennis Nickell.All rights are reserved, for created content shared about their amazing journey, including original poetry by Diana. Feel free to contact Diana at email@example.com with any questions or concerns.
As the Voice of the Veteran Community, The Havok Journal seeks to publish a variety of perspectives on a number of sensitive subjects. Unless specifically noted otherwise, nothing we publish is an official point of view of The Havok Journal or any part of the U.S. government.