I was loaned a special and treasured book by a close friend and former Vietnam combat veteran during our recent visit back home in Leavenworth, Washington. The book referenced in the above link was considered the “PTSD Bible” for Vietnam combat veterans of that era. The instructional guide, published by the Disabled American Veterans in 1980, edited by Tom Williams, helps to understand the symptoms of PTSD when the subject was just beginning to get attention following the end of the Vietnam War. The dots connect in a powerful way to this day. All the most recent research rings a bell loudly in this book, describing the affects of war on soldiers, loved ones, and families. The difference then is best stated by quoting the following from a young Vietnam veteran in the beginning of the book.
I was that which others did not want to be,
I went where others feared to go, and what others failed to do,
I asked nothing from those who gave nothing, and reluctantly accepted the thought of eternal loneliness…should I fail.
I have seen the face of terror; felt the stinging cold of fear; and enjoyed the sweet taste of a moments love.
I have cried, pained and hoped…but most of all, I have lived times when others would say were best forgotten.
At least someday I will be able to say I was proud of what I was…a soldier.
…George L. Skypeck
If Mr. Skypeck had the opportunity on this day would he say, “I was proud to be a soldier?”
When the book was published it was dedicated to 700,000 wartime disabled veterans. These are the men and women of my generation and from previous wars who served. As a US Navy veteran from the Vietnam era, I feel guilty and ashamed that my brothers in arms were treated poorly for a long time, and for some, their entire life following the war. It is close to me in my family with the death of my dear cousin Mike who was wounded and disabled in Vietnam. Mike was mostly forgotten and lived a challenging life, estranged from his family. I think of Mike when we played together as kids in San Bernardino, California. He was a sweet kid and fun along with his entire family. Some of the best times from my childhood were spent with Mike, his brothers and sisters, including Aunt Jewell and Uncle Wally. Mike is gone and forgotten, but should be remembered and honored. I hope we have an opportunity to do so sometime in the future. I know his family is planning a memorial service at some point. I want to remember my cousin Mike and honor his honorable service and sacrifice for our country.
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story