As a Vietnam veteran I remember the way we were treated upon returning stateside, the main reason I did multiple tours in country was to avoid stateside. All veterans bring back emotional scars of war, every generation. The closer to the heart the greater the scars.
Unlike WWll and the Iraq/ Afghanistan vets (especially the gulf war vets) who had welcome back parades, “thank you’s” or at least smiles, we had nothing. Even we were spit on with garbage thrown on our uniforms. We were verbally abused and some of my friends had anything from spit to dogshit hurled at them.
Anytime a Nam vet was in the paper or on the news for anything it would be told “John Smith, a Vietnam veteran was arrested today”, … making everyone think “no wonder, all those guys are crazy!”
When you get older and life slows down, we notice memories we have long buried or forgotten, or perhaps didn’t even know we had, suddenly coming back in living color and vivid detail. We were called baby killers and other labels. It was a danger to even wear the uniform that we earned and were proud to wear, in public.
I know that many nights I will encounter the worse days of my life and there is not a damn thing I can do about it or be able to stop it! Know it will come back because it visits whenever it wants to! I know these images are coming periodically and I know how terrifying it will be because I have experienced them so many times before. Thank GOD for my companion rottweiler who senses when I am in distress and wakes me, comforts me and gives a focal point to re anchor my life.
Family and friends who have not experienced the emotional triggers of war time are unable to comprehend or change the course we have endured for 50 years. In fact, we remain silent so as to not upset them.
The VA will give you a runaround and increase the stress, then put you on anti-depressants, anti-anxiety and anti-nightmare drugs. All they do is kill your soul and make you dead inside. That’s why I advocate PLANT BASED, natural, non-pharmaceutical alternative medicine solutions for our health problems (Cancer, PTSD, Agent orange issues, Diabetes, High blood pressure, and many more) I believe they can be better successfully treated than the solutions offered by the pharmaceutical companies and at a much lower cost. We now even have to fear red flag laws that when we seek treatment, we have our firearms and other constitutional rights jeopardized by the VA and government.
They put us there, now we pay the price.
Some guys crawl into a bottle, some turn to drugs (street type) and then some of our brothers just cant take it anymore, not one more day, not one more night of seeing their friend with body parts strewn all over as they cry for you to do something, or seeing a best friend die in your arms while his blood soaks into your uniform, as you cradle them and watch their eyes cloud over as he looks at you, and there is nothing you can do. So, they put a pistol to their head or in their mouth to end the pain. However, the pain is transferred to their friends and family because now they feel loss and arrive not understanding why!
I know that pain and I have been in those places, too many times! As I said my canine companions and family ties an responsibilities are the only reasons I have survived. That and by the grace of God. God not only watched over me, protected me and saved my life but has given it back to me. Now I survive day by day.
I didn’t want our young veterans to go through this. Things are better now, people (strangers) often say thank you for your service. My reply; “It was an honor to serve the people of this great nation.” But the way the country is going this could all change and revert back to a hatred and disrespect of our veterans and active duty members of the armed forces.
Our present-day vets are experiencing pain of their own, some the same and some unique to the war they fight in. too many are taking their lives as a solution to the pain and memories that haunt their days and nights. We need to be there with a shoulder to lean on and help find individual solutions to fight their nightmares. Brother to brother, sister to sister under uniform veterans helping veterans.
The best thing to say to a veteran is a simple ‘thank you for your service”, believe me it truly means the world and helps with healing, by taking away some of the pain, and being respected for a hard job done well.
The bottom line in peacetime sons bury their fathers, in war time fathers bury their sons.
“Only the dead have seen the end of war” -Plato