The Plight of the Vietnam Veteran

This letter to the editor, written in 1986 by my dad’s friend and fellow Bravo Company “Sky Trooper,” sadly still resonates today. Below are excerpts of that letter.

“Vietnam veterans and nation still recovering”

Last week this letter came to me in the mail. And, though it was addressed to me, clearly it was written to you, too – to all of us. So I wanted you to see it:

            “I have been following [this] column on the situation of the Vietnam veteran. It is encouraging to know that there are a few who still consider his plight. Continue reading

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Only the young can say

I was a teenager when my dad was no longer able to keep the PTSD at bay.  Prior to his diagnosis, he thought he was going crazy, as in batshit, so the official diagnosis provided a level of comfort in knowing that there was at least a reason behind the mental anguish and the restlessness.  Continue reading

Comfortably numb

In September 2008, I gave the doctors permission to remove my father from life support and a few hours later he passed away ending forty years of suffering. The last time I saw my father, before he drove himself to the Emergency Room, before he went into a coma, before he died, was in May when I came for a visit.  We ordered pizza, discussed our favorite topics: religion and politics, and drove to the cemetery.  He wanted to show me his completed headstone engraved with his military service, rank and 1st Cavalry badge.  He was quite proud of it.  The only thing missing was the date of death; carved a year later with the date: September 2008.  A mistake actually, because my dad was killed serving his country in Vietnam, March 1968.  It just took a really long time for him to die.

Drafted in 1966, he was 19, a small town Iowa boy who got into trouble with the law on occasion and developed a smoking habit but also sang in the church choir and loved his mom with all his heart.  I never knew what he dreamed about becoming when he grew up, I guess fate decided for him.  He kept his draft letter and I still have it.

I didn’t ask him what he was thinking when he was drafted or when he left for basic training or how he felt when he received his orders to serve in ‘Nam.  I can picture that conversation, him sitting across from me giving me that look he perfected, which said do you really need to ask a question with such an obvious answer?  He would pause, remove his hand from under his chin, and look at me like I was stupid.