The LIVING MEMORIAL
THOSE WHO RETURNED

The memorial with it's list of those FACs KIA marks only a part of the story. Those who returned are another part of the story. We came back with all kinds of stories many of which have never been told. Some of us are relatively "normal" while others suffer the scars of their tours. There is no graceful way to introduce this part of the war and if you don't like to hear hard tales use the back button now.

As is said often on the FACNET - Hand salute to those who served. And remember that PTSD and the effects of combat aren't limited only to those who served in Viet Nam. I have friend who served on a Navy submarine. Part of his job was to resecure the bridge from an armed sailor who had taken over. He did this without a weapon by charging the individual and subduing him. To this day Vince still suffers from nightmares and other problems related to the trauma. How much suffering do you think all those who lived for a year or more in and around combat endured?

The following list came from a book ("Nam Vet" by Chuck Dean) that I have yet to find a source for. The list is good and if I can find the book I'll post a link to where it can be obtained. For the moment if this list touches your life then you probably need to consider that you have symptoms of PTSD. If you check off enough symptoms or if they are interfering with your life, then go get some help.

PTSD SYMPTOMS

Survivor guilt

Depression

Cynicism and distrust of government and authority

Sleep disturbances

Alienation

Tendency to act under stress with survival tactics
Concern with humanistic values overlaid by hedonism

Psychic or emotional numbing

Negative self-image

Emotional constriction

Hyper-sensitivity to justice

Loss of interest in work and activities

Problems with intimate relationships

Survivor guilt

Difficulty with authority figures

Hyper-alertness

Avoidance of activities that arouse memories of traumas in war zone

Emotional distance from wife, children and others

Suicidal feeling and thoughts

Flashbacks to Vietnam

Fantasies of relation and destruction Self-deceiving and self-punishing patterns of behavior, such as inability to talk about war experiences, fear of losing others, and a tendency to fits of rage

And as pointed out by a former FAC who checked off more then a few items above - DENIAL

And just because a person seems able to function in everyday life don't think for a minute that our SEA tours were without effect. We have all been effected by earning our membership in the "Brotherhood of Warriors." What follows are individual parts of the story.

Subject: Re: Understanding PTSD

This came to me along another Net and so I pass it on to those pilots and others who have questioned how I'm so sure what I have is PTSD and how I'm so sure of where it came from. For you see, I wasn't on an Air Base where I could sleep in a barracks on sheets every night. I wasn't always at a Division Headquarters where I had a hootch with a bunk that I could throw a mattress and sleeping bag on. Sometimes, many more than I want to remember, I slept in an old French building of some kind that the MAC-V Teams let the AF use. On the floor, in a sleeping bag, damp, always smelling green no matter how many times we got to air it out. OR, further out in the trenches, or even the NDP's (isn't that what they called the Night Defensive Positions) or foxholes we got to dig. Not too often, just when the Army needed someone to go along for liaison and so some scared LT and an A1C got to go out and act like a grunt. Just took a couple of days so it never got into the official records, neither did some of those gut-wrenching helicopter rides out and back to help T.I.C. But without further ado, here is the note from Mr. PTSD;

If you really don't know or understand what PTSD is, and what it does to Veterans and many other trauma victims...you need to read this message. It just might help you to understand the demons that PTSD victims live with, 24/7/365 and for as long as you shall live. Remember this from the get-go, PTSD survivors are not really nuts or crazy, they have been mentally injured by some horrific trauma. Anyone can get PTSD, me, even you. PTSD symptoms may not be felt right away & the affects of PTSD may take many years before you know you even have it. Many times these symptoms do not even show up for as long as thirty to forty years after the traumatic event. PTSD just hangs on to its victim for a slow and painful death, mentally & physically. Therapy & medications can & will help the victim to cope and live a somewhat better life. The only real escape from PTSD is when the curtains are closed for the final time.

Dear Veterans & Trauma Survivors

I've come to visit once again.

I just love to see you suffer mentally, physically, socially and spiritually. I want to make you restless so you can never relax. Yes, I want you jumpy and nervous and anxious. I want to make you agitated and irritable so everything and everybody makes you uncomfortable. I want you to be confused and depressed so that you can't think clearly & positively.

I want to make you hate everything & everybody, especially yourself. I want you to feel guilty and remorseful for the things you have done in the past, those things that you will never be able to let go of. I want to make you angry & hateful toward the world for the way it is & the way you are. I want you to feel sorry for yourself & blame everything but me for the way things are. I want you to be deceitful & untrustworthy and to manipulate and con as many people as possible. I want to make you fearful and paranoid and guilty for no reason at all.

I want you to wake up during all hours of the night screaming for me. You know you can't sleep without me or with me. I'm in your dreams and I live within you.

I remember the countless good jobs you have sacrificed for me.

All the fine friends that you deeply cared for and you gave up for me. What's more, the ones you turned against yourself because of your inexcusable actions? I'm even more grateful, because your loved ones, your family [the most important people in the world to you] you even threw them away for me or hurt them really bad because of me.

I'm glad you passed me on to your wife & kids, so I can live within them too. I cannot express in words the gratitude I have for the loyalty you have for me. You sacrificed all these beautiful things in life just to devote yourself completely to me. Do not despair, my friend, for on me you can always depend. For after you have lost all these things, you can still depend on me to take even more. You can depend on me to keep you in a living hell within yourself, and to keep your mind, your body & your soul, for I will not be satisfied until you are dead, my friend.

Forever yours,
PTSD


From: "Charlie Johnson" - pakrat67-68@charter.net

Subject: Re: Re: Understanding PTSD

I'm going to say some stuff here that may piss off some of you career types, I do this in concern for those who didn't make a career of the service so you lifers are just gonna have to take the lumps and live with it.

When I came back from Nam I was sent to Patrick and spent 2 1/2 years there trying to understand what I had just gone thru'. Officers and especially pilots, were part of a brotherhood who reveled in their exploits and constantly stayed somewhere near the flying field where they could talk off the sheer terror that they felt when the plane started taking rounds or the fuel was supposed to be gone or whatever else happened to you. In every "O" club there was usually a fighters corner, either formally or informally, and most of you congregated there to share your tales of flight.

The Airman's and NCO's Clubs did not have these enclaves to the brave, we might have had a den of liars because no one wanted to admit how close war was to us. I spent most of my time at Patrick, downtown(?) at the bars and clubs drinking and chasing women, trying to forget what I had been thru'. 45 days before I came back to the World I had a 7 or 8 year old kid try to kill me with a hand grenade just after I passed thru the main gate to the MAC-V Compound at Bao Loc. A "Yard Guard saved me by shooting the kid before it got close enough to do me damage. So you can see why I drank almost a Fifth of Southern Comfort, Vodka, Rebel Yell, Canadian Club or some other poison of the night, EVERY NIGHT!! And I was still able to perform my duties during the duty day and get 8's & 9's on my APR's. No One wanted to talk about Nam because it was still going on and there was a good chance we'd get sent back over there. Radio Operators didn't have as good a percentage of second tour returnees as other career fields either.

And then it was time to get out of the AF and as usual there were the re-up offers and I turned them down because one of my friends hadn't been found yet, almost 3 years later. That's another thing that affects me, even to this day, I drank that memory into oblivion for 32 years, but it finally found its way to the surface of my mind. Now, after 3 years I've almost gotten over the guilt of swapping pilots that morning and am progressing past the other relevant points that keep popping up.

But, I feel there is a subtle difference in those who reveled in and continued the life of pilots and those who were thrown into the life of the Grunt and then wrenched out of it and slapped back onto the city streets.

Charlie Johnson

Sometimes your rough edges are the only thing your friends can hang onto. CSJ

"We sleep safely in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm." George Orwell.

http://airrequest.net/packrat/


From: "fred craven" - fcraven@bcpl.net
Subject: Re: Re: Understanding PTSD

Charlie:

I was a Navigator in a "fighter pilot's" world. In addition, when I DEROSed home, I separated at the port; I wanted to try and restore my family. Thus, I had no "O Club fighter's corner" in which to seek solace. No. I had only neighbors who had never been closer to combat than a John Wayne movie.

In one regard I was lucky: I never saw a little kid try to kill me with a hand grenade. The 23- and 37-mm AAA was quite enough, thank you. My then neighbors seemed supportive, but they couldn't understand why I reacted so violently when a car backfired, or a Maryland Air Guard 0-2 flew over my neighborhood in Columbia, MD (a noted hotbed of liberals - often anti-war liberals).

They just didn't understand what it was like to have someone deliberately try to kill you. After my first wife left (deserted) me, in February 1971 (three months after I came home) I found myself utterly alone. No one around me had any inkling about what I was feeling or enduring. I sought solace, sometimes down the neck of a bottle. I don't know how much or how often. It couldn't have been very, as I was on unemployment; my former employer refused to hire me back, as I had been on active duty 5 years, 1 month, and 5 days. Violation of federal law, I know, but I didn't back then. Screw me. Otherwise, I sought simple forgetfulness. Helped for a short time, but I still remembered. Long blanks, but somehow I remembered.

What helped me recover was a visit, a visit by a dead friend: Michael McGerty, a Prairie Fire FAC shot down near team SUGAR LOAF during August 1970. I was at a social event of a group to which I belonged: Solo Parents, an offshoot of Parents Without Partners. Anyhow, one evening, I was having a rough time. While I needed the company of friends, for a short time, I needed to withdraw. I walked out onto a porch/balcony. I was alone, everybody else being inside. As I stood there (Yes, I was sober; I had nothing to drink, just Diet Coke.) something began to appear. In retrospect, it was an apparition. It was Mike, in his flight suit. Why he chose to appear in phosphor green, I don't know. But he did. When he was sure I recognized him, he communicated with me. However he did it, he reassured me that things would work out, in God's time. Somehow, this did make me feel less bad, and I went back to the social event.

Two years later, I met Sandy - who later became my second wife, the great love of my life. We had 26 years, five months, and 20 days together, before God called her home on December 2, 2002.

I give credit to Michael McGerty who started me on the road back, and then to Sandy who - by the Grace of God - brought me home. I just got lucky.

However, in my own way, I've been there, done that, got the GD T-shirt.

You're not alone, brother. You got lots of company.

Keep those rough edges. We need something to hang onto.

God's love.

Fred Craven


From: "Edward J Kalkbrenner - e.kalkbrenner@worldnet.att.net
Subject: Re: Understanding PTSD

--- In FACNET@yahoogroups.com, "fred craven" wrote: Thus, I had no "O Club fighter's corner" in which to seek solace. ...I found myself utterly alone...
-------------------------------------------------------

Fred,

The more I read from you guys, the more I feel blessed regarding my post-VN experiences. I used to hit the floor when I heard "incoming" from thunderstorms, but not much more than that. Perhaps one reason was that I went to work for IBM's Federal Systems Division in Owego, NY. I was designing control/display systems for the B-1, the F-14, and the Space Shuttle. The fellow workers at that defense plant looked at things very sterile, but they also were very curious about my VN experience. In retrospect, I think I had a chance to reflect on the war in a detached, objective way. My fellow workers considered me more of a hero or a curiosity than a villain, so I had some support that I didn't realize at the time I needed.

Life works in odd ways. My prayers are with those who still have the PTSD and other problems. Fred, I'm happy you were able to work it out. One of my neighbors was a tunnel rat, exposed to lots of Agent Orange. What a mess he is physically and emotionally. I wish I could do something for him, but I don't know what that would be. He does see the VA for treatment of the AO. But for the grace of God ...

Ed K.