Cutting your teeth in battle – then getting them kicked out at home.
Not to long ago, my son asked me a question. It got me thinking about every conversation I ever had with a Viet Nam Veteran over the years, in as much detail as I could remember. He wanted to know why so many of the Viet Nam era vets were so angry and frustrated, so son, I am dedicating this post to you.
My first experience with a Nam vet was my former brother-in-law, and the father of my nieces. He never spoke of any of his experiences, but I instinctively knew they were difficult, as his emotional lockdown in life truly bore the evidence. He mostly talked about his bitter hatred for Jane Fonda and the way the government had ignored the needs of the vets, after they returned home again.
Then at nineteen, when I married my first husband and my first neighbor turned out to be a drafted, Army vet, who spoke some, but only about the better aspects, such as his friendships with others who shared the experience. Dave was a wonderful friend, but over the years I saw him descend into drug and alcohol abuse, the symptoms of what has happened to so many who were never given the help dealing with the mindset and memories of an ugly war.
Dave was a good man, he did his “duty”, did not shirk from it, and he returned to a society that was not only ungrateful, but totally unprecedented in its expression of hatred and loathing for those who served. I have heard many a veteran talk about returning home to strangers and even people they knew well, and being spit on at airports and being called “baby killers”.
Our government many times left the “wounded vets”, who were physically and mentally scarred, to their own devices to recover on their own. The numbers of vets returning that were allowed to “self destruct” is a statistic we will never know exactly and mostly because of all the ways and means that the destruction of their lives occurred. But I know of two cases where one vet died running his motorcycle into an embankment and it was called an accident, and another who broke his wife’s neck while sleeping (he had a nightmare / flashback) and ended up dying in a prison/ mental hospital, probably from a broken heart and spirit. Those are the casualties of war that are never reported as such.
One thing I do know is that many of these vets were left alone to deal with the post-traumatic stress disorder, the severe depression, and the ordeal of constantly living with the physical pain from their wounds, without any rehabilitative aide available for their minds and bodies. We were the “mental health and therapy for awareness” generation, and yet, we could not see that these vets were struggling, just to get back into being able to live and work normally? I think their struggles were infinitely more important than someone coming to grips with their “inner child, dysfunctional upbringing or sexuality”.
And thus, the “Me and I Generation” marched on over the bleeding souls of our vets, in my humble opinion.
While spending time with many of these vets, during my time with the PGR, I came to understand that many have found their own healing in making sure our military today knows that they are supported and honored here at home. The largest amount of support organizations for troops today have come from and been inspired by, our very same socially shamed, Viet Nam Veterans, as well as the family members of those currently serving and families of fallen troops in the War on Terror. The mantra I hear and see acted upon by my honored Nam Vet friends is “Never Again”.
Overall, there has been a great healing brought on by these hero’s of old by seeing to it that no returning vet today will feel what they felt or be treated the way they were treated, just because they answered their country’s call to duty and served selflessly and with honor. To these troops of the past, I salute you and vow to honor you and your service to my dying breath. Thank you all and Welcome Home to every soldier, sailor, marine and airman who ever served this country!
In the coming months, you will probably see a swing in my blog posts. It is all well and fine to debate politics, but for the most part, there are plenty of good reads on the web, done by people who know their facts and present them intelligently, and in some cases, on the extreme level. This is not where my heart is leading me.
One of my dear blog friends, GM Roper has served, is from a military family, and has also been involved with psychiatry and counselling for most of his adult life. He has brought to my attention a service organization that is trying to fill in the gaps in mental health care for returning vets, by lining up professional volunteers to help, by donating one hour a month to veterans returning today, and I want to get involved.
The Wounded Warriors Project, as well as, other troop support organizations, have long been near and dear to my heart. The only “Real Change” comes from work and dedication, not from arguing, insulting, and whining about things you are not empowered to alter. I will continue to honor my Savior here as well, since all I do and all that I’m capable of accomplishing in this life, I owe to Him, who gives me the resolve to get it done.
Coming from an environment where service to your country is honored and if one disagrees with a war, the blame is firmly placed where it belongs, with our leaders, not our troops, I’m sure my son had a hard time understanding this part of our history. I hope this post answers that question for him and many who were born after all this happened.