My father had shared with me over the years, and I had asked him, what he did in the war- World War II. He told me of his experience as an infantryman carrying a 40 lbs radio all over Europe, fighting at the Battle of the Bulge and being wounded. But I never had any idea that he had entered a Nazi concentration camp as a liberator and bore witness to its horrors. He never mentioned that he had helped to liberate Buchenwald, and how could I have thought to ask him that question?
But now that I know I have the ability to understand him better than I ever have. He now speaks more openly of the war than I can ever remember him doing, although this takes him right back there and he becomes choked up by his thoughts.
But it is remarkable that so many years after his experiences in Europe my father has finally found his voice, 60 years after the fact. Although it is painful for him, I think it is good and may help quiet those images that still reside within him.
I am the daughter of a Vietnam Vet. I was diagnosed with secondary PTSD about 20 years ago. My parents wanted to believe that I was just a difficult child and they couldn’t claim any responsibility for who I was. My psychiatrist was ahead of the times to say the least. My parents never tried to treat me or get me further help when I was a child. Unfortunately I grew into an adult who abused drugs and was very self destructive. In my late 20′s I decided I didn’t want to live anymore and attempted suicide. I was unsuccessful, obviously, but I did end up in a psych hospital where I finally got the help I needed so badly.
I can function now, without destroying myself. I had to accept that my dad would never apologize for all of the abuse. I had to accept responsibility for my life. I have to take a few pills everyday in order to appear “normal” but that’s okay, too.
I’m grateful that people may start to pay attention to the issues that families of vets face. My dad was turned into a killer at the age of 18 and then when he tried to re-up he was discharged because of “psychiatric issues”. So he raised a family instead of fighting in Vietnam, like he wanted.
I love my dad. I’ve heard stories about him before he went to ‘Nam and he sounds like he was a very gentle man. I wish I knew him then. The dad I love is a very damaged shell of a man who flinches every time a car backfires.
Help the families. I don’t want to see other kids of vets end up suicidal and self destructive like me.
God bless all of our men and women who put their lives on the line everyday to protect our freedom. Happy Vets Day!
My father came back from WWII in 1946. He was a broken and twisted alcoholic. He was a victim of war. They called it shell shock. Today we call it PTSD. He would line up the empty beer bottles and call them dead soldiers. As the line got longer he would begin to weep. Later, he would become a dangerous and violent warrior. Everyone became his enemy. That is when I fled from the house.
The pain of war ripples through the generations. He passed his wounds on to his family. In his wounded mind, he blamed us for abandoning him. His disease drove him to push away those who loved him. I was ten years old when he left us. As a child, I felt it was somehow my fault. His abuse was shameless. As an adult I had to forgive him. He was a victim of war. Otherwise, my soul would rot.
Through my childhood, my father moved our family many times. I went to over 20 grade schools. He was always restless. He would leave for months on end. My mother carried myself and my brother and sister. At one point my mother had to move to the city and work as a live in maid. My 14 year old sister had to look after my brother and I. When my father came home, we lived in terror. It was like living in a war Zone. Only for much longer than most wars.
I didn’t see him again until I was in my late 30′s. By then I was aware of my own PTSD. The first insight into my PTSD came when I watched a documentary about Vietnam vets and found myself weeping. I could see some of my symptoms in my father when we talked. He was like someone with a loose switch in his head. For awhile he was this normal intelligent person, and then, he would change. A few months later, obviously in one of his PTSD moods, he sent me a vitriolic letter. It really hurt at the time. I wrote a collection of poems as part of my recovery. I have learned to manage my symptoms. I have never been able to find any formal therapy for long term chronic PTSD. Here is one of those poems.
My father lived on skid row for 20 years, somehow surviving. Veterans Affairs finally provided him with an apartment in his old age. I have only found stability in my life in the last 20 years. In am 62. I pray the current children of war vets do not go through what I did.
TRAGEDY of WAR
Your letter arrived today
A precious little concoction
A slow growing creation
Steeped for months
In your vitriolic tea
Fermenting anger over those
Long, long years
A seething heritage
Carefully brewed to a perfect
Moiling anger over those
Long, long years
With its conferment
You reach out to me
With your visions and illusions
Gradually, slowly incubated
Into a lonely vinegar
Unable to tremble free
Smoldering anger over those
Long, long years
Cast about to defile my essence
The unfailing resentment
Surges up in my throat
Gagging over a life of mistakes
In my eyes my tears weep
For a sweet baptism
Sweet wine of absolution
Coursing in my heart
Smoldering beatitudes over those
Long, long years
Very moving website. You should be very proud of yourself for creating this.
Your story brought tears to my eyes. Though my own father fought in another war–Vietnam–the effects that he endured were so similar. My symptoms of generational PTSD paralleled yours as well. You said it so eloquently when you state that “these wounds leave imprints in our spirits.” I can also relate to what you said about being more comfortable with distance than intimacy. It feels like a burden has been lifted just to be able to share that with someone who understands.
Just checking in and seeing how your Thanksgiving went. Mine was a quiet one and that’s just fine with me. Looking forward to Christmas and spending some time with my husband, this will be our first holiday together in 4 years since he always has to work on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Hope you have a nice holiday season.
These are amazing comments from people who have been affected by your website Leila – you should be very proud. I am.
I am a viet nam vet. I was in a intellegence gathering job. This stuff was so classified that we were forbidden to speak about at all. I was involved with the “secret war”.in Laos and cambodia. I held this in for 40 years until 1997 when some ot it was declassified. I finally realized I had a problem in 2007. I got help in the VA system and am somewhat ok now.
My daughter was 6 when I left. After I returned life was never the same again. She was scared to be around me for all her teen years into adult years. Since I realized I did in fact have a problem and began to deal with it we as close as a father and daughter could ever be. She is now being treated for the same symptoms of depression.
Long story short, we understand each other, but I will never in a life timebe able to make amends for the heart ache and fright I put her through. But I’m sure going to work on it. Her and I have lost what could have been 30 wonderful years. I am so glad that we can sit and talk things out now. She is my life… Thank heaven I got finally got myself together. I am very very lucky to finally have this time with her.
Thanks for bearing with me.. Children of vets are the real heros.
It is sad and comforting to read other peoples stories. None of my friends had vets for parents and none of my friends could comprehend my anxiety when my house could appear so “normal” when they were there. My brother and I both suffer from our fathers PTSD and my mother died for it. I take pills everyday to maintain “normalcy” and my brother struggles in his own ways. Now that we have somewhere to acknowledge the trauma that we have lived, as children of vietnam vets, where do we go? Is the VA going to help us heal the wounds on our souls?
The pain you express is all to familiar to me. My mother was also a victim to my father’s PTSD. I lost her when I was five, and myfather could never even explain what happened to her. And I have 2 brothers who also suffer.
Where do you live? This summer there will be a retreat for all family members of vets in northern Colorado and there’s one in Feb in Georgia. I want to start a support group for children here in Denver. The more we speak our pain the better a chance there will be of healing. But know you are not alone.
My father also liberated one of the concentration camps. He would not tell us any details, only that he had been there. He could NEVER bring himself to watch any of the movies made about the holocaust. He had a drinking problem when I was growing up, but I never thought of attributing it to his concentration camp experience until I read an article about Leila’s work. He also seemed somewhat emotionally distant from me and also as described by Leila after her interviews–did not have faith—he considered himself an agnostic even though our family was Jewish. Perhaps what he saw affected him on an additional level because he was a Jewish American Soldier….
I live near Buffalo. The idea of a retreat is a great one and I hope it can happen closer to my home at some point. It is so hard when the only one who understands is a sibling you are not close to because neither of you know how to be “family” to each other. To know that others understand the strain of appearing “normal” and having a big pink elephant following you around life is comforting.
I am the daughter of a Vietnam Vet. I cannot begin to express the torment, anguish, pain and emotional instability and turmoil I endured while growing up. My father and I are estranged and haven’t spoken in four years. What’s funny is that I don’t even really know why we don’t speak. My father was a very abusive, controlling, angry and deficient parent who wanted no part of wanting to get to know me or what I was about. My father was just a paycheck and my mom was the one who raised us (I have a 40 year old brother.) I can tell you my father’s PTSD has significantly affected me and my ability to relate to or maintain connections with people, and that unfortunately includes my marriage.
Growing up I always felt different and isolated from other “kids” and if truth be told, I still feel that way as an adult. It is only until recently I have found I am not alone and there are hundreds of thousands of “us” out there. I find comfort in the fact that I can express how I feel and not be judged or told, “It happened a long time ago, move on with your life.” Thank you for allowing me to tell my story. There is strength in numbers and it’s about time the “children” start telling their stories and make an attempt at beginning to heal.
I am submitting this article on behalf of my Uncle Danny Aragon Ulibarri who writes about his dad, my grandfather, Maximiliano (Max) Ulibarri. It has been just over a week that his beloved wife and my grandma Carmelita Aragon Ulibarri went to join him. She was left at home with four small children during the war awaiting his return. They are now forever united.
Leila thank you for this lovely forum.
War and Fathers Day
Daniel Aragon Ulibarri, Santa Fe New Mexican, Sunday, May 26, 2002
I remember how he was drafted with four children while working in a national defense industry. He was told that either of these two facts would exempt him from the draft. Nevertheless, he was drafted like thousands of other young men in the 1940′s. The church continued to help him and assured him it was only a matter of time.
He went through boot camp cooperating and paying attention only enough to keep out of trouble. He didn’t need war training. He only needed to wait for the call that would return him to his family.
Soon, he found himself on a ship forging its way across the Pacific Ocean towards Hawaii. He was just one of a multitude of American youth who took turns sleeping in bunks and cots, eating, exercising and showering.
He listened to others brag about what they were going to do. They were sure they would be heroes. Perhaps they would or perhaps they were just kidding themselves to hide their fear.
The trip was hell for so many—the war was being waged in their minds. Each night they relived future battles with the fear of dishonor. It was hard to discern which was the greater danger, cowardice or death.
Yet, he felt secure in the knowledge that his salvation would surely come in Hawaii. He comforted himself in the knowledge that there had been a mistake and he would return home. At the same time he felt guilty. The boys, perhaps only a year or two older than him and even those his own youthful age were innocent. Which ones would survive? Which ones would become warriors? And, which one’s would freeze like a deer caught in a headlight, or worse, run like a scared rabbit.
The ship finally lumbered into the island paradise. The men rushed to view their destination. Lush, green foliage greeted their eyes. It wasn’t just green. It was dense, thick, and it was every shade of green. Plants, flowers, vegetation everywhere, occasionally spotted by rich dark soil, brown huts, white concrete and tin buildings.
Suddenly the reality and metallic-gore of Pearl Harbor came into view. Quiet stillness took even the cockiest soldier by surprise. Men tried to hold back their emotions, their tears, and the heavy burden that perhaps it would not be as glorious as thought.
He was still, alone in himself, observing. Partly thankful and partly ashamed that he would escape this great war.
Later, he found himself in yet another training camp where GIs were prepared to do battle in the great South Pacific. But this one was real a jungle with sandy landing beaches.
It was only a week into the wet, sweaty jungle maneuvers when he realized that his savior wasn’t coming. Despite what everyone told him, he was going to war and he had better take his training seriously if wanted to survive.
He had come all the way from Las Vegas, New Mexico to spend two years of his life in bloody, combat where there was no collateral damage because you saw who was killing and who was being killed. He learned that making friends was a dangerous and painful habit.
He was a brown-skinned soldier who really fought for the American Dream—in deeds, not political rhetoric. He survived this hell called war, though it scarred his memory and his soul. He is my father and we should all take time to ponder Fathers Day, and the consequences of war for all fathers and husbands. He fought for nothing less.
I am the first son of a Korean vet. My dad always told us he was a clerk at “Headquarters” and never saw combat. After he drank himself to death, I learned that wasn’t true. My uncle told me he had been a ground pounder on the front lines. They had slept in 3 man tents, and my dad happened to be in the middle one morning… when he awoke to find his tent mates had had their throats cut during the night. My uncle said he was never the same after that.
He married my mom after the war – and I came along less than 9 months later. He couldn’t stand to hear me cry and shoveled abuse upon my mom until I was 4 months old…then he started in on me too. When I cried I got hit, spanked, and yelled at until finally, he would leave. By the time I was one, I could spell my name and count 10 pennies; because if I didn’t get it right, I’d get slapped. He was determined to make me “tough” – and “smart” – “even if it kills him”. The first thoughts I can recall from my childhood was that I wanted to die. Infractions or weakness were beaten out me then until I was 12, but I’d learned at 9 they were shorter if I didn’t cry, so I stopped. My mom left him when I was 12 too, however the consequences didn’t leave, they were a part of me.
I was 18 the first time I attempted suicide, and attempted many more times in the next 13 years, until I quit drinking myself and started to make amends. I had become him. In therapy, I learned that I acted out the survivor’s suicidal rage he had manifest as violence directed outward in his denial, yet he finally attained the unconscious, denied goal, of self destruction when his liver stopped working. He never allowed himself to know his demons.
I still struggle with depression at 55, and relationships are a challenge for me as I sometimes slip back into my old mindset when I’m under stress. I’m convinced I developed fibromyalgia from a lifetime of muscle tension that attacked the nerves in my myofacia, and I am further disabled from losing my right arm in my last attempt in 2004.
I’m encouraged to have found this website, and see an organized effort to help all of the wounded souls cut by wars and social misunderstanding of the consequences. Perhaps humanity will finally decide the cost of war is too great to bear any longer, and those of us with the unseen disease will stop passing on the sins of our fathers.
Hello again, Leila,
Some time ago, you referred me to Veteran’s Heart Georgia, and we corresponded a little. Sorry, I don’t think I wrote back after your last note, however, I may have some good news. Having sent a copy of my blog entry to my Senator, Jon Tester, (MT) his office has contacted me and wants ideas about how we as a society can help those who still struggle because of a parent’s war experience. Acknowledgement of the problem, referral to possible new 12 step groups, and opening up the VA system to children of vets even if they are not a vet or the parent is unable or unwilling to seek treatment are the three suggestions I have initially given them, I’m sure there are many more and better suggestions from you and others you know. Perhaps I am over reacting to this response from Sen. Tester – you may have many such experiences cataloged. Still, this may be an opportunity to help many others who till suffer.
Listening to Leila just now in a radio interview brought me to tears – again.
My dad was a WWII fighter pilot over Germany) with many many missions to his credit. Growing up with him was difficult, dark, depressing. I had absolutely no idea why our family life was so miserable until very recently when I connected just by chance with Sgt. Brandi (www.SgtBrandi.com), read his book and listened to him and other people locally in a collaborative mission to help mostly Iraq & Afghanistan vets with PTSD: http://www.HorsesForHeroes.org.
Listening to Leila was a riveting 1/2 hour for me just now.
I have had experiences in my life similar to what I read above here.
Leila: thank you so much for your work!
My father, Lieutenant Commander David Robinson, was a fighter pilot in the Pacific aboard the carrier Essex during World War II. Robbie, as he was known to his shipmates, felt it was his duty to serve his country and he was proud of his service. The men (and boys) he served with remained his lifelong friends. However, along with so many others, the death and destruction he witnessed had a profound impact on his life.
As I grew up, my father operated Robinson’s family shoe store and volunteered as an ambulance driver for the First Aid Squad. He was on the Board of Education and active in local politics and the Boy Scouts. Everyone knew and respected Dave.
In November 1973, I arrived home on a visit from college to learn that my father had been hospitalized due to depression. Visiting him the next day, I was dumbfounded to see the man who had always been there for me reduced to a confused, helpless patient. No doubt here were multiple factors that contributed to his mental breakdown, among them financial matters and the recent outbreak of violence in the Middle East. I know from personal experience that one of my father’s concerns was the posssibility that I or either of my brothers might have to experience firsthand the horrors of war as he had.
My father made a gradual recovery with ongoing professional help and the unflinching support of his wife Fredda. He went on to live a full life in her company along with their three sons and daughters-in-law and six grandchildren. My father died five years ago over Memorial Day weekend, two months shy of his 88th birthday.
I am looking forward to reading “Gated Grief” and learning from Leila’s telling of her experiences and research into the legacy of PTSD. I am sure that I will gain insight and discover ways to continue to resolve issues that stem from the complex relationship that I had with my father. And I hope that in some way I can honor my father’s memory as Leila is honoring hers.
my dad was a ww11 vet. i found him to be quiet, never saying awhole lot to me growing up. when he got upset with us he yelled as a matter of fact he was crabby alot of the time. he always seemed to be on edge .He was a functioning alcoholic i think about it now and i believe he was depressed
The story of MY life began 10 years before I was born when my then 21 year old father joined the Marine Corps in January of 1942.
My grandfather had served in WWI and was master gunsmith, so my father (and I) grew up handling weapons from an early age and he had no trouble qualifying as a scout/sniper.
From the stories I heard as a child, I know the worst fighting he saw was on the island of Tarawa, where, after the battle which lasted a total of 76 hours, he was one of three men left alive out of a company of 180 men who’d landed 3 days prior!
The records are harder and harder to track down, but, with the help of a congressman, was able to get a copy of his Military Service Records, and although
I was born in 1951, and by then, my father had already become an alcoholic. I believe that not being able to talk to anyone about what he’d been through in the Pacific caused his drinking to start right after he was discharged from the San Diego Naval Hospital. I’ve been told by my grandparents that he came home “a different person” than the boy who’d left for war and glory in the Marine Corps.When I recently asked my uncle, who’d worked daily for over a decade,side-by-side with my father after the war, what he ever said about the war, my uncle replied that he’d never said a single word about what he’d gone through.
Some of my earliest memories are of listening to my father telling me his gory war stories as he got drunk and then after more alcohol, a beating was sure to follow.I was scared to death of him every day when he got home from work and started drinking. I would stay outside until dark, hide in my closet, go next door…anything to stay out of his way. But nothing I could do was enough to prevent the constant beatings. By the time I was 6 years old, I was having nightmares of my own of being in combat! The insomnia that started at that time continues to this day and I seldom ever sleep for more than 2-3 hours a night, even with medication and smoking pot to help me to try falling asleep.
As I grew older, the beatings continued and there were numerous broken bones ( including a fractured skull ) and several hospitalizations. One “game” he liked to play was hide and seek. He would crawl around on his stomach, in his old cammies and his MC K-bar knife in his teeth. The sooner he found me, the worse the beating would be. One winter night I had the bright idea to hide outside in a brick BBQ we had in the backyard and I nearly froze to death by the time I was found
This was all back in the mid-fifties and nobody thought twice about him bringing me to the bars when he went drinking. I would sit for hours as he got drunk, tried picking up women, and getting into brawls. One afternoon I was splattered with blood when he broke a beer bottle across some poor guys face after some perceived insult against him. Of course he thought nothing of driving drunk and we were in several accidents.
Things got worse as his drinking became a daily occurance, and sort of came to a head one night after a particularlly severe beating in the basement, he was holding my hand as we climbed the stairs, which opened into the kitchen. As the basement door swung open, I heard a “click”, at which point my father froze in place and squeezed my hand so hard it broke one finger. There stood my mother and she had put the barrel of his Colt .45 seviceweapon against his temple and said “if you lay another hand on him, I will blow your brains all over this room”…and we both knew she was fully capable of doing just that. A few days later,after my father had gone to work with my uncle, my mother took his station wagon and put everything he owned in it, changed the locks, and sat in the living room with one of my grandfathers’ shotguns on her lap, waiting for him to read the note she’d put on the door telling him to hit the road. I was 9 by that time, but the damage
had been done and for the next 45 years I lived with undiagnosed Complex PTSD
I became a bitter, mean bully of an SOB,full of rage and an attitude a mile wide. I dropped out of the 8th grade and hit the streets at 15. Having grown up with guns all over the house and having years of boxing and karate lessons ( mom thought it would help “channel” my anger ) I decided that I could make a good living robbing dope dealers because, hell, they’re not going to call the cops, right? I felt that I had nothing to lose and nowhere to go but up and I LOVED the “game” of the streets, getting over on people, stealing and robbing my way up the food chain of the streets.I learned very quickly that you can never show fear, never back down, never give an inch on the streets.You had to be either a hammer or an anvil, and I made it very clear which I was.
Then one night while a few of us were drinking down by the river in the city where I lived, my life changed once more when another kid fell in the river and couldn’t swim. Like an idiot,even though I was pretty toasted myself, I jumped in and pulled him out. He and I hit it off immeadiately and two days later he took me home bacause he said his uncle wanted to thank me for fishing ” T.J.” out of the river. I almost fell over when we walked in his uncles house and I recognized him as the head of the Mafia in our city! He was one of the old “Moustach Petes” who had been born in Sicily and came over on a boat as a teenager.His name was known nationally and he was one of the members of the 10 man ruling “commision” that ran the whole country. Every FBI agent in the country had spent decades trying to put him in jail, but he was never arrested ( he was eventually murdered though ) I was soon working for TJ’s uncle doing a variety of illegal and dangerous
jobs and making more money than I could spend. I was 17 years old. I met many made members of the Mafia in my city and others up and down the East Coast.
I used some of those connections and moved to NYC to start selling pot, which I was getting from a member of one of the 5 NY families and staked out a corner for myself in Harlem to sell pot. The very first day I was there, a car pulled up, 2 black guys jumped out and threw me against the steps of a brownstone.Then a third guy gets out, walks up and sticks a 9MM in my face and says ” give me one reason I shouldn’t shoot your white ass right here and now”…and I said “I’ll give you three”, and proceeded to rattle off the names of 3 members of the Luccheses family I had been dealing with.The next thing he says is “well,who the fuck are you?” and a I explained my story well enough he decided not to kill me, at least not yet anyway. It turned out he was soon to be the biggest herion dealer in Harlem and his name was Nicky Barnes.Years later, he would wind up on the cover of Time and was one reason Nixon started the “war on drugs”! I agreed to give him all
the pot he wanted and he agreed not to kill me! While I can’t watch violent movies anymore, Nicky was portrayed in the movie “American Gangster” by Cuba Gooding Jr. ( or so I’ve been told )
After that, I was in, and I held onto my corner by force and finesse, going to “work” every day with a sawed-off pump shotgun up my coat sleeve, a 9MM Barreta tucked in my waistband, a .38 revolver in an ankle holster,a necklace with two throwing daggers hanging down the back of my neck, a switchblade and a roll of quarters in my pocket! Between 17 and 19, I was stabbed twice, suffered 2 more skull fractures,was shot once and was beat so bad one night I was left for dead. Then things went from bad to much worse, worse than even I could have imagined.
TJ and I were hanging out one hot Friday night when these two older guys we knew came by and suggested we go out to eat. On the way to eat,they said they had to make a quick stop, as we pulled up in front of a record shop in a bad part of town. We followed them in and were checking out the 45′s when the 2 black men running the store started argueing with the two guys we were with. In a blink of an eye, guns came out and the two black men were dead on the floor, one cut in half by a double-barrell shotgun blast and the other with his head half blown off. They just turned and said let’s go, as if nothing at all had happened.I could feel this pink mist of blood on my face as we walked out, got in the car,
and proceeded to go to dinner!! I was in a state of shock and had no idea of what was coming or how to cope with what I’d just witnessed.
After dinner, they dropped us back at TJ’s and I spent the night there.In the morning, I got up and as I left TJ’s apartment, I heard a car coming down the street and when I turned, I saw one of the two killers driving towards me as the other one fired 7 or 8 shots at me. I started running and as I dove behind a dumpster, I was hit behind my kneecap and the bullet hit my femor and ran up inside my leg until it came out through my inner thigh. They had decided that I couldn’t be trusted, and as the only other witness, felt they had to eliminate me.
I woke up in the hospital and the surgeon said if it had taken five more minutes to get me onto the table, I would have bled out, since my femeral artery had been “nicked”. Also there were two police detectives who told me they knew everything that had happened the night before and I could either be charged as an accessory to murder or I could testify against the two men who had committed the two murders and also tried to kill me.
Since my adopted “family” had just tried to kill me, it was a pretty easy decision as to what to do and I said I would tell them everything I knew.As soon as I could be transferred, I was turned over to the U.S. Marshals and taken to Washington,D.C., where I spent the next six months recouperating from my wounds and being prepped to testify at their Grand Jury hearing.Once I was brought back and testified, the two men pleaded guilty ( to avoid the death penalty ) and were sentanced to 25 to
life for the two murders and my attempted murder. From the courtroom, I was taken by the Marshals Service to an airport out the area, given a wallet with $500.00 and a new identity, and was told by the Marshals that ” if you know whats good for you, don’t ever come back here again” and they watched as I got on the plane. It was like they said “thanks for playing, see you around” an d I couldn’t believe how I was dumped!
That over 40 years ago and it was before the Witness Protection Program was even in existence. I was then 19 years old.
This is probably a good place to stop. Another time I will write about the next 40 years I spent in hiding, having zero contact as most of my family members died off, always being on edge and hypervigilent, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Then, after I turned 50 and got very sick, the delayed-onset symptoms of my PTSD came roaring back and I nearly killed myself. That is when I was diagnosed with Complex PTSD and have now spent the past six years with a wonderful trauma therapist. Today, a month before I turn 60, I am feeling like I am finally figuring out who I am and am in touch with my”self”.
Peace and Hope,
In August 2004 I was activated from reserve to active duty, my company was sent to California to attach with CSSG-15; 1st force service support group. Shortly After I was deployed to Camp Taquadm Iraq In west Fallujah. My experience there was short, but unforgettable. On Base there was frequent incoming mortar rounds, the area around our position had been jeopardized. One Marine was fatally wounded, the other lost several limbs. I began to realize that my life was threatened and I was in serious danger.
However the experience that changed my life forever came one month after serving in West Fallujah. I was ordered to attach to 3rd battalion 5th marines. I was a field radio operator serving with a special operation company. On November 2nd during the first week of operation “Al Fajar” I conducted land navigation in the lead vehicle in multiple mission-critical resupply convoys ensuring that the battalion remained fully supplied. As I was driving through the city streets my vehicle was shot at, I encountered many dead bodies (young & old), some riddled with bullets, there were dogs eating human bodies and guarding them because the dogs were starving, so we had to put some dogs down.
My most terrifying experience on foreign soil was on November 12th, when I was critical to the defense of the Al Haidra Mosque. We were attacked by insurgents, as we were ambushed five men held off heavy machine gun fire from several insurgents. As we were holding our ground for about 15 min, three of the five of us were shot and wounded. The only men returning fire was I and the turret gunner who weren’t hit. Upon completion of majority of the hostilities, I ran outside of cover to grab my boss to assist him into the badly damaged humV. As I put the vehicle into drive with three wounded men, we were still being shot at until I drove out of the hostile zone.
Since my days in Iraq the thoughts of fire upon an unknown enemy always come back to me. Not exactly knowing if I killed a boy or man. I feel like I want to be around my family more, but I distant myself from my friends and activities that used to be important to me. My sleep is disturbed during the night; I wake up almost every night after 3-4 hours of sleep. I have had anxiety, sleep disorder, lost of interest, numbness in my relationship, and thoughts of seeing dead people since my days being home.
My husband serves in the US Navy currently and my grandfather served in the war. I heard about this site on today on CNN and I had to share my story: My husband is my soul mate I love him dearly he serve in Afghanistan less than 4 years ago and has a medal. I believe this legacy is for present and past Veterans. Being I’m a survivor of molestation & child abuse I know somewhat of what silent pain and holding trauma inside can feel like. So for me it’s easy to see something that is familiar; I see in my husband an emotion, pain and attitude though its different inward; it’s so familiar on the surface. In my opinion the pain of the trauma causes the inwardness to reflect an attitude about life and in turn affects those that they love. My husband is spiritual, loveable, fun, has a beautiful smile and is proud of his achievements & time served; yes he is currently in the military; but when there should be a “emotion” he has none! I mean none! I lost three family members no emotion, a new home no emotion but when it involves the Navy or his navy personnel/sailor HE HAS AN EMOTION. I found myself jealous of this emotion of what others were getting, now I understand!! Please understand my husband loves me unconditionally and he makes that known… I sense he has a safe/treasure within his self; yet he has thrown away the key. It breaks my heart that he’s in bondage of feeling like he has to hold this personal experience of what happen in Afghanistan less than 4 years ago with only the crew that was with him know the true story.. Some type of secret society a world of their own; which is so sad to me that they believe that can’t express this pain. HE DID NOT THINK ANYTHING WAS WRONG WITH HIM!! As his wife I feel sometimes stuck & brokenhearted because he will not let the story out to the fullness just bits of pieces as if he was ordered to not share this experience. I want to help but I’m limited to what I can do I was and I’m concerned and I would tell him, lately he’s hearing others tell him my exact words “no emotions”. I think he’s starting to see his wife is not crazy or being judgmental.
I really feel that all branches of the Armed Forces should set up programs that all Military serving now or in the past can get help and their families. This “Gated Grief” is the root of most of the problems that military families face in the 21 Century like fallen marriage, communication in relationships, divorces and suicide. What can any of us do when our spouses are holding on to a pain that we know nothing about; it has to be released somehow and somewhere. It’s very hard to communicate with a person that has no emotions or is busy within trying to deal with their pain. To every military person reading this please: understand that though your pain is hidden in silence, the true reflection of the hidden pain is not truly hidden because as your spouses or family members we are the one’s closet to you; we deal with the real you. We know when something is wrong or going on; when we ask a question it’s not because we are being nosey it’s because we love you guys; we appreciate all you have done for us and risking your life serving our country. I can only pray to God that he will touch each of you and my husband opening your hearts to receive counseling allowing your stories and personal testimony to be heard by using this site. I must share I about two weeks ago my husband stated “he was going to counseling”. Maybe now that this site is available he will share his story. Thank Mrs. Leila Levinson for obeying God in this vision; it feels so good to share this story & to know one person cares makes a lot of difference. You have truly inspired me to continue with my own personal Vision and I pray that I will have an impact in the lives of others as you have. God bless you with favor, excellent health, prosperity and that your vision is everlasting forever upon this earth!! If you every need help in anyway send me and email.
My father Reuben D. Fernandez was a with the 45th Infantry Division F Company and once mentioned to me that as a point man he had encountered a camp that he believed to be a TB Sanitarium. He was with a patrol and there orders were to keep scouting and report back to the main unit. He mentioned that the people they encountered in the camp appeared to be the “walking dead”. As a 19 year old soldier with no understanding or knowledge of the concentration camps he assumed that these were TB patients. When they attempted to hug him he raised his M! for fear of being contaminated with TB. I don’t know if this was Dachau or another major camp or if it was one of the smaller slave labor camps which dotted the German countryside. My father past away in mid 2009 so I have to no further information. I am very interested in any information that might shed some light on his experience.
In honor of the thousands of Americans still missing in Southeast Asia and the men and women of JPAC who are still out there searching, I have dedicated my first novel, “Missing in Action: A Family Saga” (ISBN: 193330071X). Although this story is fiction, I did research JPAC and it’s predecessor, Joint Task Force – Full Accounting, in writing this story. I am a third generation veteran. My grandfather was a doughboy during WWI, my father served in Operation Arc Light during Vietnam, and I served in Operation Iraqi Freedom; so military service is a legacy in my family. My book is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
I am the 60ish child of a truly forgotten minority from WWII–the U.S. intelligence community in South America. My father, Paul Chalmers, was a paymaster for the SIS who were chasing Naziis and money in Argentina and Chile during the war. I will never know what happened to him there, but my father came back from the war with my Chilean mother and a host of psychological problems that led to his death when I was 16.
He never once talked about his experiences in South America, except in reference to my mother’s family (my mother had been his secretary in Chile). My mother kept a stricter silence than he did, and even at the end of her life, when we knew she was dying, would not speak about the war. A military researcher I spoke with once told me that some in the intelligence community took their oath of silence too seriously. So it was with my parents.
My father’s world must have been a terrible one, because he was a violent, abusive alcoholic all the years I knew him. We all suffered from it, but we never talked about the causes, one of which was whatever he saw during the war, whatever he knew, whatever he took to heart. I know that he trusted no one and was incapable of living what we consider a normal life. He was, in the worst sense of the word, a shell of a man.
We were always poor because my father could never find a decent job–how can you be hired when you can’t tell anyone what you did for many years?–except during the Korean War, when the government found him a job overseeing elderly security guards in a shipyard. Ultimately his alcoholism kept him from working, and I think for some years we survived on the kindness of a few men who knew something of my father’s story and pitied us. The rest of the time we were on puble welfare.
All I have left of my father are a handful of photos, including one with the group of intelligence officers he supported; his copy, ironically enough, of Mein Kampf; and the legacy of our unhappy family, which followed me for so many years. It is safe to say that as a child I hated him. In later life I have learned to forgive and to be sad for him, because I know he suffered, though I don’t know the details. I wish I did, not just for myself but because he, too, fought the war in his own way, and he was nevered remembered or honored for his service.
As far as I know, everyone associated with that group of intelligence officers is dead now. They took their secrets with them to the grave, it seems, and that to me is a tragedy.
Thanks for listening.
Very interesting post. Sort of makes me wonder more about my own father and the impact his army intelligence work in Austria post WWII into the early 50s had on the development of the PTSD which had already germinated from his service as a paratrooper in the war.
My father was in Vietnam when I was born. By all accounts, he came back a changed man. He became a violent alcoholic and could not find his place in the world. Eventually, in 1981, when I was 11, he killed himself. I have lived with that ever since. I battle depression and many of the same demons he faced. The war in Vietnam will never be over for me. I hope to go there someday and honor my dad’s memory. I wish for peace for all so that no children on any side should have to suffer.
My father was a Ranger, 6th Ranger Battalion, CIB, Bronze Star, and very much the hero. Like most of his generation he made no claim for such being his lot. Reading his diary, on one day’s entry, it read, “Shot a Jap” and the remainder of the pages were largely blank. Never mind that later he was one who went on the Great Raid and rescued POWs. You couple this mental-emotional trauma with the early death of his mother, an alcoholic father, and what else is there to say?
Not only did I share his name but also his legacy of mental-emotional pain. My mother said he suffered from guilt over the death of the enemy soldier–very likely it was more than that. It is one thing to see the death of strangers by the score but to see your fellow war fighters dying, to see the results of the inhumane treatment by the enemy of those he liberated took their toll.
Yes, he was a man of faith, provided materially for his family, served small congregations as pastor, and did much, much more but as some of you will know, inside the walls of our home there was another life lived–a life of fear, of outbursts, of reacting instead of interacting, etc.
One expression of his pain was when I, in the USAF, deployed for Desert Storm, I flew through a city less then 40 from where he was and he would not come to see me. Little did I understand that the hero was in his own eyes, not a hero but in fact a broken soldier. Now older and more introspective, I do.
You see there were two elephants in our family that were allowed to roam freely. First was the alcoholism (he did not drink but was an ACOA). The first set the stage for the disastrous effects of the second. Number two was battle fatigue.
My commitment, as late as it is since our children are grown and gone, is that both of those elephants will not longer be allowed to roam freely in the relationships of our family. My commitment is that both be killed in my generation! Though as a previous post said, “The war…will never be over for me” my prayer and hope is that it will be for our children.
My name is Sandra and my father fought in Korea and Vietnam. I was also an army brat and lived from birth to 12 in military bases. My last one, back in the early 70′s,was at Fort Ord, now closed, in California. Though I am now 51 years old, I have been totally oblivious to the Military Brat sub culture. I really don’t know what to say. Until just recently I had no idea that there were groups and organizations out there that could help explain and relate to my same pain. I am so sorry that anyone else grew up like me, I am so sorry!!! But, now that I know that you are out there, I’m glad I have someone else to talk to, and the same for you.
My father served in Germany during WWII. He has never really wanted to talk about it but not long ago I found out some shocking news. I have 2 half brothers by 2 different mothers.
I am ashamed that my father would not take responsibility for these children. Children that would now be in their mid 60′s. I can not imagine how they felt or what they must have gone through. Not only were they denied knowing their father I was denied two brothers.
Now I don’t know if I should make any attempt to find them or if I should just let it go.
I have read all of the comments but did not see any that pertain to the children of veterans who had parents that were both affected by World War II. As a former Army brat, I find that my closest friends are the children of military fathers who fought in WWII who married our mothers in Germany, England, or Australia. Our mothers may not have been military veterans but they were young adults who hid in bomb shelters and suffered too. In my family, my father never talked about the war even though he was at Pearl Harbor and found the Japanese in the jungles of the Pacific. The memories were too painful to share.
The military receives emotional support now but there was none for the soldiers or their families after World War II. The ones who stayed in the service had to suffer in silence because their careers were at stake if they drank or showed signs of emotional stress.
After watching the movie We Were Soldiers, I was inspired to write my own personal experience with the men that have been in war. Lt. Gen. Hal Moore gave a lot of input into the movie We Were Soldiers. He said, “”Hate the War but love the American Soldier”". I believe that is something that we should do in every war. Including the one going on at the moment in Iraq.
My father and his pain will always be with me. His anger, desperation, and love will also remain deep in my heart. Growing up with a veteran of Viet Nam was never easy. Even at thirty-two I struggle with his pain. The military taught soldiers strength and told them to protect their brothers and so they did. Some died trying and some lived without really knowing if they helped their brothers. My dad protects his brothers even today. Those that were lost to the war from his squad are engraved in his flesh, to always be remember and will never be forgotten.
As a child I didn’t understand why my daddy never cried. When he lost family members, he never cried. I now believe it was the strength the military taught him that makes him so solid. The war and protecting his brothers are truly what taught him this strength. Growing up with such a rock solid man was tough. I didn’t understand why he didn’t cry. He has two sides that he shows. One side seems hard and cold. The other side shows there are deep hidden scars that no human can mend and he covers them up with his great sense of humor.
Viet Nam Veteran came home to a very cold country. One they loved. Today after being at war we welcome our soldiers home with tears of joy, new babies in the arms of their mother’s, parades, music, we tie ribbons on trees, we watch the children run to see their parent that has come home, and there are great overwhelming emotions that overflow when they return. You see it wasn’t like that in Viet Nam. The soldiers knew what they had to do but no one taught the America people how to respond when they returned. I know this because my dad came home and was out with some friends in on a date, I believe, and because he had been to Viet Nam people looked him in a way that would humiliate any person but these soldiers had to keep moving forward because America was not waiting for them. People even today shun these men.
How do you move forward when at night in the stillness you can still hear the screams of your brothers? How do you move forward knowing you were behind the gun and choose someone else’s fate? How do you move forward when Viet Nam took such a chunk of your life away and is still holding it in it’s cold hard grips? One thing the military was good at teaching was to keep going. There was no time for emotions. When bullets are coming at you, when your brothers were being killed. Keep going and show nothing and so today they keep going but the weight of that will always be with them. It won’t only stay with them but it will remain in the minds of their children and grandchildren and many generations to come.
People want to know now what went on and how it must have felt but we are a little to late, don’t you think? The damage is already there. War happens and people are screaming for peace. They hold signs of hate up but want peace. I am reminded of my dad when I see these signs. The hippies wanted peace but didn’t show to much love to the Viet Nam Soldier. At least not in my mind. They didn’t wait at the airports or bases showing love or support for anyone. So I say if you still hate Viet Nam ,that is OK, but don’t pretend it didn’t happen because then I have to pretend my dad is O.K.. It will never be OK for my dad. His thoughts are always there about what he did or didn’t do. These are his secrets and he will carry them beyond his grave.
The American people back then didn’t practice forgiveness but wanted our Viet Nam Veterans to forgive. The government covered many things up and are still trying to hide the side effects of war but the side effects will be carried on for many years. Many of these men hide their tears in bottles of whiskey or other kinds of drugs. This is their armor so they can move forward but pieces of their souls will remain open and scared in the war the war zone of Viet Nam.
My dads soul was scared there. Sometimes the wound seems to healing but then the screams in the night open them back up. The pictures that flash before them flood their mind with the hell they lived and died in. So many of these men have fallen through the cracks of America and then I’m angered at the men who want to use Viet Nam to gain a position in government. As though they were hero’s of a war that had many but were treated as scum. It’s wrong because the ones lost in this war gain no position because they are still there. I remember my dad’s fiftieth birthday. The party was great and we celebrated his life but when the party was over and the music could be heard, the celebration was over. He went back to the hell he lived in. That hell where a part of him will always be. I won’t ever forget that night. The tape in the radio played music that took you back twenty years or more. The burn barrel was lit and so was my dad. He had a piece of cane pole and be the side of the barrel yelling things in Vietnamese. My stepbrother said to me, you can go. I told him no, of course because this was my dad and I would stand in this small period of hell with him. That is a picture that will remain with me forever. An event I had no control over and it would pain me for a lifetime.
Their words will never come close to taking us to this hell they lived in or the hell they brought back home. No one , maybe not even them can describe what causes such pain. Do I feel sorry for my dad? No, never! I feel sorry for the American people who didn’t support him, who walked on him and who treated him as though he was to blame. Even though he lives in this hell he brought back, he still went forward. He brought two children into the world and he used his combat skills to raise us. People didn’t understand why a person could be so strict, but today I know he just remained in combat mode and protected us as he had protected his brothers and his country that would now treat him more like the enemy than a hero.
As a child you want to be everything to your parents and my dad made us feel like we were everything. I’m sure people thought he needed to loosen up but I’m glad he didn’t because I wouldn’t be the person I am today, had my dad been any other way. You see if my dad put down his gun in the war, he would have been killed and when he left the war that cold hard shell had to remain. It protects him, like a security blanket does a child. Without the blanket a child might go insane. Well trust me from my point that is why the soldier is covering up with his own blanket. The difference is though that these men do not get comfort from their blanket. What they would give to be a child again and gain that comfort you get from a blanket.
There are soldiers that walk around in this world that we turn our noses up at. That people pull their children in close because they are scared of them. Don’t pull your children ,have them reach out and say thank you. As a young girl, my dad became a member of a Viet Nam Veteran motorcycle club. There were many stories there, ones that no person could ever write about because the nightmares would keep you awake for the rest of your life. There are many of these stories floating around the world. Nothing makes them any different than these. They protected each other and each others secrets. These were fathers and brothers, men that never cried. They new how to reach out though and protect those they cared for. Their love and shoulders are very strong. Although their hearts are weak and brittle. I am saddened that there are so many of these men walking around our country. Then there are those men that walk around and seem to be OK. Maybe their belief in the Lord helps them. Maybe they put a block on this area of their brain. One person can’t say why or how. But I understand and that is what most soldiers are looking for. Not a bunch of what happened over there, tell me now kind of thing. Some men consider it to be a weakness to cry. Some men can’t cry. The American Soldier chooses not to cry. So when you watch a movie that describes how bad things were and you shed a tear, make that one for the American Soldier who chooses not to cry. When your paths cross with one of these great men, please say thank you and have your children smile. They fought not only for their country, not only with their brothers but they fought for you and me. Thanks Dad!!!
Your a casualty of something with great meaning
Your wives and children are casualties to because they
lost a part of you
You signed you name on the dotted line, without a second thought
Something as American’s we should all respect
You’ve seen darkness that many of us will never comprehend
We forget that you are there in the dark, protecting us from evil
Some gave their all and laid down their lives for our freedom and safety,
those we will never forget
We can buy all the yellow ribbons, stickers for our cars to show we
But listening is more of what we should do.
Even if sometimes it is listening to just your silence as you walk
a past memory that haunts you.
From the bottom of my heart I thank you for your service and I
pray for that part of you, that you gave up for me.
I’ve watched you for a hundred years,
reap the saddness of the pain you feel,
I’ve stood in the dark corners of the room,
longing to hold you and go back in time,
I was only 5, or 8, or 10 or 15,
but I saw worlds beyond this one,
all clinging to your shoulders and back,
keeping you small as though you didn’t belong,
as though you were permanently stuck
trying to make something right,
and i know, i know, i know what you saw,
left behind on orders,
when your brothers fell from the sky
and then where were they?
where was your family in the jungle?
suddenly you were naked and alone,
the blood draining from your face
as you received the news,
the only remaining member of a team,
we were a fucking team weren’t we?
where the fuck did you go? why was i spared?
and now, fourty years later,
i see you looking off past my eyes,
remembering for a moment the pain
that no one was there to help you hold,
you a fucking boy,
you demanding to be a fucking man,
and here’s your wake up call bobby,
now get cracking, this is war.
me alone on my mountain,
fighting the ghosts of my self loathing,
you, nearby, fingers curved around a rifle,
and your footsteps,
silent in the jungle…
Vietnam – 1969 SP-4 Zimmerman
It will “Always” be Saigon to me! HoChiMein City….Barf, vomit, puke. What was accomplished? More than 60,000 dead GI’s. The 58,000 is a low figure….I know better. Reality was never revealed from that theater of operation…way too embarrassing. That is why “Full Metal Jacket” ends with the actors singing The Mickey Mouse theme. We should have shot Johnson. He never pulled his head out to take a breath……..POP
It was the middle of the night. We landed in Bien Hoa at the military Air Base. They rolled up the stairway to the plane. We disembarked. The heat and humidity felt like a damp heavy blanket. I started to sweat right away. I looked around and saw flashes to the west but nowhere else…as Bien Hoa is close to the South China Sea. At first I thought it was lightning but there were NO clouds, just clear sky all around. Then, I knew. It came to me just where I was. It was artillery exploding all over the west horizon. A reason for concern, but not worry or panic….so I thought.
We were taken in buses to the Military Post for the night. Cots, no blankets. Hotter than I have ever been. I was sweating in streams. Sleep? Get real!
Next day was more intense heat with the sun…unbearable to be sure. We were led to a place to brush our teeth with fluoride. That was the last time I brushed my teeth until my departure in December 1969. This was June 1969. We were taken back to the tents which were all open except for the top…to catch any breeze that there may be. There was none.
In the AM were we taken back to the Military Air Base. There was no civilian air port except in Saigon…for the journalists….no vacationers….he he he. We were loaded upon a C-130 Cargo Plane. We sat in harness straps made to be seats….he he he. It was like riding in one of those very fast elevators that take your breath going up and coming down. We came in for a landing at Chu Lai Military Air Base. A very fast decent to touch down but you could not call it a ‘touch’ down as we hit the tarmac very hard and bounced a couple of times to the right. It was good that I did not need to pee at that time…..he he he. You see, the aircraft are most vulnerable when taking off and landing so they get up fast, and fall down to the runway…nerve rattling to be sure. We were taken to the tents right away so we could all take a leak and stop shaking from fright……he he he.
Chu Lai is the headquarters for the Americal Division. I was taken to an office and told that I was assigned to the 196th Light Infantry Brigade (LIB) of the Americal Division. The next day I was boarded upon a Chinook Helicopter and taken to Company C of the 196th LIB. The Chinook shook and wobbled as if it would come apart at any moment….he he he. There were door gunners on both sides with .50 caliber machine guns for support in case we come into enemy fire….how comforting….a rock can bring down a helicopter……gee whiz what a trip. When we landed…..well the fun was soon to start………….
There will be several chapters so keep them in a folder as this could be a nice short story you could share with my Grand Children some day…….POP
First day under fire
Arrived at Company C location late in the morning located somewhere between Chu Lai and Da Nang. I was assigned to a squad and we were told we would move out at nightfall….gee how keen that was going to be. The mosquitos are out in force once the sun goes down, and the VC love the darkness…..
So, off we went trudging through the rice paddy’s, stumbling over dikes and jungle junk. After about an hour there was hollering and guys running to the right to get away from something. Lord, it was a Water Buffalo charging the point team! They shot the beast with their M-16s, but that was like a bb gun against a grizzly bear. The M-60 machine gun crew came up and shot the buffalo down for the count. Hello, good morning Larry….welcome to life in the infantry. The VC trained the buffalo to come after the American GI.
We climbed a low hill side as the sun came up. While we were setting up a perimeter around the hill, a large explosion went off at the summit. It was a booby trap. A Medivac came within minutes and took away the poor soul that stepped on it. He survived only because the helicopter got him to an aid station within five minutes. He was in seriously bad shape. He was sent back to the USA for rehabilitation.
We left that location soon after continuing our hunt for Charley (the Viet Cong). We climbed up rivers, mountains and across open rice fields. We stopped for the night on a mountain top. The helicopters brought in hot chow for us. When a second helicopter came in to drop off supplies, it had just lifted off when there was a double explosion. It was a “Bouncing Betty” land mine. There is an initial explosion to bring the charge up to chest level and then there is a second explosion with much shrapnel. Twenty-two guys went down, one KIA. I watched a Medic hold this guy in his arms while he bled to death from a gash in his throat. Jesus, I had to walk away and get sick. The CO sent out a recon-patrol to see if there was any enemy activity around the base of the mountain. Lord God, there was another explosion! A trip wire. I saw the explosion with the smoke and fire. I saw the point man disappear in the smoke. He lost his leg and a hand but survived because the Medivac was there for him in minutes. Well, I told the Squad Leader I wanted to volunteer to be the Radio Telephone Operator (RTO). The RTO never walks point. Walking point, the first guy ahead of the company, is a death sentence. I saw that with my own eyes.
While we were trying to get our **** together, the Squad Leader grabs the telephone hand set from me (I was given the radio right away. It was heavy and the guy with the antenna was a target. Oh, well…) He called into the Company Commander to report enemy activity down in the valley, in the tree line. I looked, but did not see anything at first. As I focused on the tree line, I could see VC walking in the trees. They did not know we spotted them as we were pretty busy at the time. The CO called in Fire Cracker Artillery Rounds ASAP. Wow, what a sight! The sky filled up with explosions over the valley and the tree line. The artillery rounds explode in the air and shower the ground with all kinds of shrapnel. No escape. We were not attacked that night. I had grabbed my ankles and was ready to kiss myself good bye, but apparently we scared the **** out of the remaining VC and they vamoosed quick time. Because we lost so many GI’s from the company, we were ordered to return to base, LZ (landing zone) Hawk.
The Bronze Star
We returned to LZ Hawk for a three day stand down. Free beer and soft drinks, and all the food we could eat, 24-hrs a day. We had a band from the Philippines play current music for us all three days. I went swimming in the South China Sea. All of my bug bites, cuts and sores stinging like fire coming into contact with the sea salt water. It felt really good knowing I would not get infected by all of my minor injuries.
Off we go again, hunting Charley after our three days. We did not climb any mountains with this sector of our responsibility. We came to a village. The CO ordered a line assault. All 200 of us lined up in a vertical line of Green Guys and walked toward the village. I was not really keen with this as we were in the open, no cover, just open rice fields to the village. The VC could be behind the houses and trees ahead of us and blow us away… (Our former CO had finished his tour and returned home. We had picked up a new CO. He looked like John Wayne: tall, loaded with hard muscle, no smile, extreme hard core. He had a mean scar from his forehead, down the left side of his face that ended at his chin. Whoa, one mean-looking motor scooter….he he he.) Well, we did not receive any fire from the village. I believe the VC had seen the new boss and took off, not wanting any part of Captain J.Wayne……he he he.
We stopped on a high level section of land that had a shallow valley ahead of us. We had seen some locals, women, walk across our location. When they were across the valley, mortar rounds started falling in on our site. No cover anywhere. We just picked up and left. Nobody was hit, no injuries. It was like the CO just went, “Oh, hmm. Whatever.”….he he he. He knew there was little danger. I was just glad we were moving out to the tree line across the valley.
We came to a chest high river that was about 100 feet across. Everyone was across except the squad I was with (7 guys to a squad) when the VC opened up fire on both us, and the rest of the company on the other side of the river. The squad leader called in artillery and air support on my squad’s location. Gee whiz, I did not feel really comfortable with that decision, but I called it in. The CO then ordered us to cross the river while the other 193 guys of the company opened up on the VC placements. There were bullets flying past us as we crossed the river, making water jump-up all around us. We went in single file rather than just make a mad dash for safety. Golly Molly, can you imagine us trying the cross the chest high river water with our weapons held above our heads….not able to fire back?
You will find this impossible to believe, but true, The Lord as my witness……None of us was hit with enemy fire. The river was shot up rather badly along with the opposite bank of the river. Please understand that the majority of the VC are young boys less than five feet tall. They were scared and exceptionally nervous. They tended not to take careful aim. They would just point their AK-47 on full automatic fire and jerk the trigger, spraying everywhere, and not all that often hitting anything, as all Americans looked to be seven feet tall……he he he. Also, they knew that once they fired on Americans, they only have maybe 10 to 15 minutes before all hell would be dropped on their heads.
When we were all across the river, the CO ordered all of us to fall back as quickly as possible and to get down as flat as a cow paddy. We heard the Phantom Jets coming in. Three of them dropping 500 pound bombs on my old location, just a little over 100 feet away, on the other side of the river. I could feel and hear shrapnel flying over my prone body…..gee whiz, holy cow! One of the GI’s stood up and started taking pictures of the jets and the impacts….fool, idiot, knuckle head. He was hit with part of a bomb and went down hard. He survived, but the CO told the Medics to leave him. He was just a little ticked. Next were the Phantoms with the Napalm bombs. Wow! Three of those jets also, each with two bombs each. Now that is a sight to see! They looked like two small cars dropped, tumbling end over end just before impact, then red, yellow, and black horror all across the other side of the river.
Can you believe….the CO ordered my squad to go back and check for bodies and/or whatever! Holy Molly, we went back over looking all over for something but everything was toast. The point man fired at a lone VC running like a deer about a 1/4 mile ahead of us. He was hit only once that I could tell. He jerked his head back but kept going. Never so scared in his life to be sure…and probably dropped dead before going 50 feet. We chose not to stick around and left the way we came. That was the time that I was given a Bronze Star, as was all of us in our squad. My goodness gracious this was getting really scary by now. Those silly kids in black pajamas and conical were getting a little too close in my opinion!
In The Middle
We took time for a cold meal then moved out for the mountains again. When we were close to the summit, we took a short break. As we searched the area and the valley for movement, well, how about this, there was a VC way down in the valley watching us. He looked like a small, tiny ant down there. We radioed the CO to let him know we had a target in the valley. We brought up our sharp shooter who used an M-14 but no scope, just a long distance peep sight. Charley did not see us taking aim on him as he stayed still, not moving. Our guy laid down and secured his rifle. He took a breath and let it out then steadied himself and squeezed the trigger very slowly. He fired. We stood there and waited. We almost thought he missed as it seemed a long time, but we jumped for joy when the little VC went down….he he he. The Sharp Shooter was given a three day stand down in Da Nang: hotel room with a cute girl and free meals….he he he.
When we reached the summit we found an encampment. It appeared that they left in a hurry, probably scared them off with the target shooting….he he he. We went back down to the valley on the other side. We humped the valley for a couple of days with no contact. We came up to some more mountains. I saw some jungle move to our right flank and told the squad leader then called in to the CO to hold up the company while we checked it out. We came to a halt. Charley knew the jig was up for him. Things did not go as planned for the VC. We started to advance on the area where I had seen the movement. Charley knew he better go or stand his ground. He started firing his machine gun. We pulled back. The lead guys jumped over the nearest rice paddy dike. It was so close that one of our guys felt a round graze his butt. The guy beside him looked for any blood or damage….he he he. All he found was a hole in the back flap of our guy’s pants. I know his left cheek must have tingled for a while…….
A couple guys low crawled up the trail to Charley and threw their hand grenades but missed. They asked for more fraggs. I passed my two up and one of them found its way into the hole with Charley. That was the end of Charley. We retrieved the machine gun but left Charley to fertilize the jungle. We did not know it at the time but this guy was supposed to wait for us as we came back to his location……gee whiz
We proceeded up the mountain in front of us and got about half way up when the VC opened up on us in an ambush. There were GI’s in front of me and on both flanks. No way to fire back, and the jungle was so thick you could only see the hand in front of your face…Heavy Drama to be sure. One of our guys came running down the trail from the front. He yelled “Chi Com’s!” which meant Chinese Communist hand grenades. Charley was throwing grenades into our position. This just was not in anyway cool for us….he he he. Anyway, as this guy brought up his right foot in his run down the trail, a grenade went off where he had stepped. Wow! He went flying head over heals into the jungle. The jungle apparently suppressed the shrapnel as our guy was not injured….another extremely close call. Whoa, we needed to get the “Hell Out of Dodge” he he he. I looked over at the guy next to me…we smiled at each other and I said, “Shit, let’s boogie!” So, we started the low crawl down the trail passing guys who were so scared they could not move. They would have stayed there to their death had we not come by and told them to follow us. Lord! Pull your head out and take a breath…..he he he. We got back to the valley floor. Well, the VC we took out earlier with the machine gun was supposed to blow our **** away as we pulled back from the ambush, NO survivors…Ha Ha Ha, Nah Nah! We were just lucky ducks for sure! When all of us were off the Mountain and moving across the valley floor, the CO called in Helicopter Gun Ships to cover our retreat. Jesus, that must be awfully scary to see those helicopter coming at you with machine guns blazing and rockets impacting all around Charley Boy, especially when they knew that was not even the end of it. Next came the Phantoms with their 500 pound iron bombs, then when they dropped their load of bombs, here came the artillery rounds screaming in. At least they could see the helicopters and jets, but the artillery is invisible….can only hear it screaming and whistling in on top of your head. I am sure Charley was knocking down all the jungle in front of them like a bull elephant to get away……he he he.
We spent the night on the valley floor and went back the next day. Whoa! Lord have mercy! The mountain was denuded of jungle and only tree stumps, large holes in the ground, and a fine layer of smoke remained. We climbed the mountain. No body seemed to mind this time…..he he he.
We had lost the point team. The middle and both flank guys were shot to ****. I knew at that point that I was going to be an RTO for the rest of my tour.
From the soul…
I just wanted to tell you, my little girl…..I appreciate your interest in my experience in 1969. No one else on the face of this earth as shown any interest at all, even your mother did not ask about what I went through. I thank you from the bottom of my soul for caring to know about your Father when he faced death in the face…and lived to tell that story to his little girl, Stacy. I mailed a letter to you in 1969 telling you that I loved you and that I may not see you again but I would always love my little girl. Your mother returned that letter to me. She should have saved it for you to read perhaps now in 2011. I threw it away, not in anger but I was hurt and living a life of nothing but disgrace and shame.
Grateful Green Guy …. POP
The Valley of Death – Fear No Evil……
We were headed back to LZ Hawk for another three day stand down when the CO received a call from HQ (head quarters) and was ordered to turn back and head for another area of operations. This was a sector that was championed by the US Marine Corps…….what is up, Irene?
Just before we loaded up in helicopters we are told we are to relieve a company of Marines that were almost wiped out by the VC in The Valley of Death. (There is a Vietnamese name for this valley, but I have lost my memory of that name) The Marines had gotten their *** wiped by the boys in black, so they send in the boys in Green to clean up the mess.
We all filed in single line into the Marine encampment. As we walked in I saw several KIA Marines, probably over 100 laying on the ground. The Medic Choppers had yet to come pick up the dead. Well, now all of us Green Guys could see first hand what we were going to face when the sun went down. As we filed around the perimeter, I spotted our 16 year old Vietnamese interpreter filing out with what was left of the Marines. This was not a good sign. He perhaps knew more than we did at that point.
I spotted a place that looked pretty good for me, but this punk 18 year old Green Boy said that he already picked this place. He was a private. I was a SP-4 and 23 years old at that time…well, let the snot have his way……he he he. As it turns out, that was not such a good spot after all. I parked it a couple of hundred feet down the line and set up for the night.
I must explain about the difference between the Marine approach to warfare and us Army Ground Pounders. All of the Marines had a strict code: charge the hill, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead, up the hill and over the top, no matter what the cost. The Marines did not call in for Helicopter Gun Ships, Phantom Jets, or Artillery. They carried mortars and felt that it was all they needed because, By God, They Were Marines…ate nails for breakfast and feared nobody. Hummm, I will let you decide how bright of a code that was…..he he he. Now us Green Guys, when we came under fire, even a lone Charley Chink, we stopped, pulled back and used all the force we had…behind the danger line. If we came up short, we called in all of the above, and we would achieve the goal at a low cost to our Guys. In reality, the VC and NVA all respected us Green Guys. They would unload at us and then run like hell to get away from the hell that would follow. Whereas, the Marines…Charley would come for them, no mercy, overwhelm the John Wayne action figures and win the day. Oh well, we just let them have it their way.
Anyway, when night fell, we all looked like deer in headlights…..he he he. Heavy jungle, could not see spit. Then, boom, an RPG round was fired into our line by Charley. The 18 year old Green Boy was blown away and his fox hole buddy torn up bad. This was the place where I had wanted to set up…..gee whiz, Mabel, thanks for the heads up…..he he he. Then, a few minutes later Charley tried to charge into our line and was cut down by an M-60 Machine gun. He started to get ripe so someone laid a rain poncho over him and threw some jungle junk over him. Nothing smells worse than a dead Charley after 12:00 midnight….he he he. In the mean time, the CO called in for Snoopy to cover us for the rest of the night. Snoopy is a cargo plane with mini guns. He showered the outer perimeter with machine gun fire. We could not see the plane as it had no lights and it was dark as hell, no moon, but we could see a steady stream of red tracers coming down all around us. Lord, I could hear and see jungle jumping all around in front of me. Snoopy got a little too close and hit a Green Guy in the leg. He moved his line of fire a few more feet. How comforting. When Snoopy One run out of ammo, another one came in behind and would set up his gadgets for a safe line of fire. Well, this took some time so, the CO ordered all of us to “Free Fire” until Snoopy Two came on board. Boy, did we shoot the **** out of the jungle in front of us….he he he. We made it through the night, rather long and tedious to be certain. Free Fire is when everyone fires their respective weapon in front of them until told to stop. No target, just to keep Charley’s head down and discourage him from advancing, giving him every opportunity to get the **** out of our face!
In the morning we moved out but had to hold up about 30 minutes later. Damned if there wasn’t a VC taking pop shots at us from a tunnel. Well, the Marines would charge the ****er and kill him for sure. One against 200. Well, they would win that one…..he he he. Now, on the other hand, us Green Guys, we called in gun ships and jets and blew hell out of Charley’s position. No one hurt, no harm done to us. You can bet the Marines would have lost at least two people charging that Gook. I will not speak of the Marines any longer, they lost more people than any other military force in Vietnam, but they were able to come up with a larger body count of dead Viet Cong. How nice for them. We were unable to find enough left of Charley to count so, we lose that point. I will let you reach your own conclusion on this one also. Say, was Glenn Harris a Marine by the way?
Call to duty
Johnson (idiot) activated the Kansas National Guard. All of us were sent to Fort Carson Colorado. Some of us were re-assigned to the SE Asia area of operations, a death sentence for most of us. How they decided on me is a total unknown. I was the only NG in the company of men of which I was assigned. Its so very different now as the National Guard is the major source of manpower and the units are sent over as a group. Let’s see what was it that we accomplished in SE Asia? I am afraid I have forgotten?
Hey sweetie, thanks for sharing my story with others. You are the first person that has heard my story. I feel better for doing this. You can be proud and that is super important to any Father for his child. Oh, by the way I am watching a three part series of Viet Nam 64 to 75 on the History Channel. It came to me as I watched my fellow Green Guys in the middle of the ****…….the name of the Valley of Death…… “Ah Shau Valley”. If you ever meet another Green Guy sometime he will know of the Ah Shau for certain. The Marines never took that valley. The Viets were not going to let that valley be taken, no way…..POP the green man
The Purple Heart-Wounded in Action
We are back in the Central High Lands of South Viet Nam. Our squad was on the North side of the mountain. There is a very deep valley below but only a few miles wide. The other mountain across from us was very much the same size and shape. Everyone but me dug in for the night. Well, it is like this Sally Mae, after humping all day with approx. 70 pounds on my back and going up a step mountain trail…no way in hell I was digging a hole in the ground. So, I did not, of course. I never did dig a fox hole even when it was level terrine……he he he .
The CO always had a Recoil-less 90 MM Cannon Team with us. The 90 MM was similar to the bazooka of WWII fame. Only this baby was 8 inches in diameter and the rounds were carried by one guy. They went past the width of his shoulders.
Anyway, as it got dark there was this pop and swoosh over my head and an impact behind me and very close to couple guys in the squad. We were being mortared by Charley across the valley on the same side of the mountain beside of us. Another pop and an impact to the left of my position, just sitting on the ground, hummmm. Then another pop and a swoosh, and then………..an impact right in front of me….E-Yowl! I had my legs pulled up to my body and my arms around my knees with my head between my knees…..oh well….what was the worse that could happen? It seemed to me as though 100 guys threw dirt clods at me all at the same time……
The 90MM Team was taking up position just before the last motor round went off. They had zero’ed in on the muzzle flash of the motor tube. As I sat there and the mortor impacted, the 90MM went off. Boom! and then, a few seconds later, another Boom! on Charley’s position. They fired off another round for good measure, and just then we could hear at least six artillery rounds screaming in for Charley to turn him into chopped liver……he he he. A very beautiful sound…those support Artie rounds coming in as a free gift to Mr Gook.
Well, I lifted up my left arm to look and see if it was still there or not as I felt blood running off my elbow. It was there and I wiggled my fingers so, not so bad. I felt blood dripping off my chin and thought, better see if I can see out of my left eye as that was were I was hit. I closed my right eye and, yes, June Bug, I could see okay! A medic showed up and shown his flash light on me and pulled out the shrapnel from my left arm and my left cheek. He pronounced me ‘OK’ and cleaned off the blood and put on bandages. The fellows behind me and to the left of me had to be taken in on an airlift to the aid station. They all survived and returned after a few days. By George, I believe that Charley had every intention of taking me out, and would have, if not for the 90MM Team. A reasonable GI would conclude that I should start digging fox holes every day……Nah. I figured….hey, the guys with fox holes fared far worse than me so why dick with a good thing? he he he
Well, Gracie, anytime a GI bleeds, he gets a Purple Heart. I, of course, felt silly being awarded for a couple of scratches or holes when there were guys who lost legs and arms…..and the strange thing about this whole episode…..I did not wet my pants or unload any waste matter. I was not shaking with fear. I did not cry, weep, or whimper…it was like the other times I faced death in the face……nothing. No emotion other than concern with what had just happened. I cannot explain my lack of emotion. I thought…Wow! Betty Marie….that was so cool.
I stepped off the distance between where I was and the impact…..25 feet. Charley had me zeroed by that time and would have dropped in on my head….no doubt. This was life in a War Zone….close encounters of the most extreme.
We went on just as before as if nothing had happened the night before. Face forward and do not even think about looking back. Keep on truckin’ Sweet Sueann.
No honey pie, just small fragments, healed up just fine, hydrogen peroxide did the trick….he he he. I can understand how you feel, even though I did not say any prayers….somebody was helping me to come back to my little girl……
POP J. Wayne….he he he
On the map –
Stacy, if you want to find where I was over there and have a map……I was between Chu Lai and Da Nang at LZ Hawk which will not show up on the map but I was close to the town of “Tam Ky”, fairly close to the DMZ, or the northern part of South Vietnam.
That was our area of operations. Try to find a map that depicts the 65 – 75 timeframe.
I stood outside and stared at that sucker with no coat, no jacket for a long time….I was still hot from the jungle weather and liked the freezing cold right then. I was home finally, same Moon but in a different place. December 1969
Valley of Slime
Another valley to explore….well Mildred….no shots fired, no booby traps, no trip wires, no VC, no NVA…..this valley was taken over by an enemy that crawls on the ground and swims the water of the land. This enemy was an enemy of all….no one could conquer this enemy … could not be defeated by the meanest VC or baddest NVA, nor the best of the US Military…..Wow! What a horrible creature……this creature was crawling all over the ground and swimming the stream in the middle of the valley in heavy numbers. Very scary and horrifying.
As we moved in the surrounding jungle…..I could see strange movement on the ground coming toward me in a hurry…..we were being attacked……no weapons we used against us. As we looked closer…..we could see the damned things crawling over our boots and up our pants……this is totally sick Isabelle, LEECHES by the thousands….probably millions in this valley. They win the war in this valley….everyone was stomping to shake them off our boots and brushing them off our pants….triple YUCK!. We moved out Di Di Mau……(very fast)
We ran low on water as we were unable to get resupply in this valley, so we went up to the top and got what we needed. We clearly established that the enemy below could keep what they had … we nor the Viet’s were the least bit interested in this particular real estate.
As we moved forward we came across bomb craters that were made by 2,000 pound bombs……incredible … a person could drive a half dozen automobiles down into these craters….amazing to see.
One of the policies of the military was to dig up graves as we came across them. The reason was that often the enemy would bury weapons and ammo and make it look like a grave site. So, we did just that but for the time I was there with the unit….we never found any weapons….only Crispy Critters, those who befell to the Napalm Bombs…..burned to toast. Of course, I did not have to participate as I was an RTO……he he he.
I have covered the worse and the most fun events of my tour in the Republic of South Vietnam…..although I inserted humor into my narrative….well, Thelma, you can call this Black Humor as the City Police do in most urban areas…..humor is what kept us sane …. I heard and used profanity that would embarrass any Sailor….he he he. This is my story and it is all true from my eyes. Been there done that……I have a positive attitude about being there….for the experience….something to tell my Grand Children about….and my little girl Stacy.
We had no business going there to begin with….after the second world war…the US Government…..Eisenhower and his administration supported the French going back to reclaim their “COLONY”…they felt that the Viet’s were too dumb to govern themselves…..well Lady Ga Ga, the Viet’s handed the French their *** and ran them out of the county forever…..the US should have never gotten involved…..Vietnam could have had then what it has now and no American deaths, and no Viet’s in our country, only in their own country.
I will admit….I have a great deal of respect for the VC and NVA Soldiers……they had testicles bigger than a football. They would engage all 200 of us all by themselves or in very small units and keep their ground until they were killed ..all.
The Viet Soldier took on all of the US Military awesome power and Kicked our Ass Big Time. No matter what anyone may tell you, we lost that war to a Dink with an AK and bag of rice, we ran like scared dogs. I was there I know……
SP-4 L.P. Zimmerman
196th Light Infantry Brigade
Americal Division – Chu Lai
Republic of South Viet Nam
I, too, have travelled your road, WWII child. It actually made me a stronger person from the pain dad went through. He was in the pacific. We, their children, should tell of our pain, because this is our legacy. People forget the families and their pain . Yes, they were heroes but I think we are too, in our own way.
I am a child of a Vietnam Vet, and finding this site was like someone throwing me a life jacket. Ive been suffering in silence for years while growing up in my own personal hell. My siblings and I were subjected to verbal, emotional, and physical abuse almost on a daily basis.
I got out of that house, went to college, and never looked back. I didn’t speak to my parents for years. I thought if I just lived my life independently of my parents, I’d be okay. But the older I got, the lasting emotional trauma seemed to grow. I seemed to have more anxiety and more depression.
Things seem to get worse for me (if that’s even possible), when got married and had kids. I find that I am sensitive to loud noises; I can’t stand to have the television too loud and I jump and start to shake if my babies drop anything that makes a loud sound. I’m always about 5 seconds from crying, I have trouble falling asleep, and when I do, I always have terrifying dreams.
My relationship with my father is on the mend, although some days its hard to hear his voice without wanting to run and hide. He was the one who mentioned that I may have Secondary PTSD. Its comforting to know I’m not as alone as I thought I was and there are some people who can relate. So, if anyone knows of any resources that I may learn more about Secondary PTSD or where I can receive help, it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for letting me share my story.
From as far back as I can recall, inside our home was chaotic and unrelentingly noisy and terrifying. It felt like being in an asylum, such as the ones we saw on television in the 1950′s. There was no sense or hope of escape from the violence, abuse, and disconnected behavior from my dad and the pins and needles environment in which we kids tip-toed around. At age 8, I overheard my dad telling his brother about the horror of WWII. Though tears streamed down my dad’s face, he didn’t seem to notice…never wiping them away. He was wide-eyed and entranced. Much like he was when he was sometimes awakened during the night by one of my crying, infant siblings. My dad would bolt upright, figure out where the sound was coming from and beat his fists in that direction. Those were newborns. I ended up taking care of the youngest two siblings to protect them from my dad. It was hard to get up for school after being awake most of the night with feedings, diaper changes and such. Sometimes, as a child, I simply “went away” in my mind to get a temporary escape. I was thankful that he spent almost every minute in bed when he wasn’t at work. He had no friends and didn’t want us to bring people to the house. We could never walk up behind or beside my dad because he was easily startled and would knock the daylight out of anyone who approached him that way. Around age 4, I seemed to really need my dad to cuddle me one night. I just couldn’t stop the pain in my heart and I couldn’t stop crying. But, instead of scooping me up and holding me in his arms, my dad rushed into the room and began to beat me over and over until I couldn’t cry anymore. He never said a word. His eyes were dark and glassy. I knew after that night that my dad had no feelings of love to offer me or anyone. I accepted that reality. It protected me. I feared him so much until when I saw him drive into our driveway, my entire body would tremble. It was just awful. Recently, my dad had a stroke. He came out on the other side as a man much more like what I wish my father could have been all along. Sometimes now, he laughs, jokes and gives compliments. It’s the new “him” with dementia. It’s a “him” that could have been if not for the combat experience. I feel that my dad and all of us kids were literally robbed of a normal, productive, loving existence.
I am reading “Gated Grief”. Thanks to Leila Levinson for this book.
My father passed away this year at the age of 91. He was an American Jew, a combat engineer and officer, a Timberwolf and a liberator of Nordhausen. He was also a father, a husband, a neighbor, a wonderful dancer, a photographer, a lover of language and words… and he was not able to tell the story of the war.
Our family legacy also contains dad’s box of Nordhausen photographs, his frayed combat jacket, his loss of faith, his rage, his compassion, his years of silence, his abrupt moments of sharing. He stood at the abyss, and only part of him returned.
As I struggle to heal the wounds that the war left deep inside of my father and my family, I want to thank Leila Levinson for a book that speaks about the unspoken, and gives me a foothold on this steep path.
Leila, thanks for your book and the forum.
And thanks to all of you who took the time to post your stories.
My 93 year old father still suffers from trauma suffered in WWII. He came back home emotionally shut down and of course didn’t talk about what happened – for decades. In the past few years, I’ve managed to pry that open a bit but will never really know what happened to him. Too much pain, too many tears.
Prayers and compassion – that’s what works best right now.
I am the daughter of a Vietnam Vet. My Father does not talk about the war with me. When I asked him what he got his Bronze Star and Purple Heart for he said “For doing something that was considered brave at the time, but seems really dumb now.” That is the most I got out of that attempt to know more.
He has been diagnosed with PTSD, not until the mid to late 90′s though. My sisters and I have had only him since I was 9 and my mom died of cancer. Growing up was difficult. Walking on egg shells, waiting up until the wee hours of the morning to make sure he made it home from the bars in one piece, even though I had school the next day. I didn’t want to be an orphan.
We had a few good years as adults with him, until the Aunt we lived with from the time I was 13 (his older sister) died of cancer a few years ago. I now feel like I lost my Father again.
He isn’t drinking again, that I know of, still goes to his VA appointments and meetings, but he is floundering.
He has always been a man of few words. Doesn’t really open up to anyone. I feel like I don’t know him very well. It is sad to me. He is my only parent.
I worry about him. When I talk to him on the phone now, I try to always be up beat, hoping that I can make him smile, or laugh and maybe get back a glimmer of the Dad I had for 15 or so adult years of my 38 years of life. It was nice to have that Father/Daughter relationship with him, however fleeting it was. I miss him.
I didn’t know my dad before he went to Vietnam. What he was like or what his dreams were before the war. He was 18 when he enlisted. I have a 19 year old son and I can’t image my son in any of the situations my dad went through. I consider myself lucky because my dad never abused me or anyone in my family, but I clearly remember all the flashbacks and dad being in and out of the psyhic ward at the VA hospital. I remember going to visit dad on the weekend and spending time with him amongst all the men who were lost in their own minds and hellish memories. All of the other kids who were there visiting had the same expression of confusion just like me. My mother and dad were always very honest and open with me and my sister about the war and always tried to explain things in a way that we could understand. I’ve always asked my dad if he could do it all over again would he have enlisted. He always answers “Yes” without hesitation. He was exposed to Agent Orange while he was a dog handler in the Air Force. His physical condition dwindles each day. He recently called me last night and said he would be leaving town because his PTSD was really bad and he was afraid of himself and what he might do. He broke down and starting talking to me about how no one will ever understand what he did for his country(my dad is vague, but he did some Black Ops missions). He talked about a reoccurring flashback about a seriuosly wounded friend that he held in his arms for three days during a fire fight. When help finally came they had to pull my dad off of this man only to find out he had been cradling the body of a deceased man for two days. How do you respond to that. I love my dad and greatly respect the sacrifices he made, but I walk around with this anger inside that the government considers them expendable. I see it happening now the soliders coming home from the war. Families send them off to war and are left to sort through the mess when they return. You try to get help for them through the government and they only want to drown you in red tape.
I am the daughter of a WWII German vet who was born in America but raised in Germany. Dad wanted to return to the US in the late 1930s but was held back by family members; he was then drafted into the German army and became a tank gunner. In 1944 Dad was captured and became a British prisoner of war as a result of the battle in the Falaise Pocket, part of the Battle of Normandy. Growing up in America we always heard of D-Day. Little did I know that Dad was there too, just on the wrong side.
Dad survived the war and made it back to the US in 1947 with my Mom coming six months later. Thankfully my sister and I did not have a violent father but he was distant, hugely irresponsible and a very depressed man. Dad would sit for hours in the dark living room, just sitting in his chair, his head in his hands. Mom knew that Dad needed psychiatric help but we simply couldn’t afford it. He could never hold a steady job, money was always short, so Mom had to work; she was the bread winner. Dad was filled with get-rich schemes, ran up huge debts that were never paid, forged Mom’s signature on documents to make his schemes work, lied on everything just to get money for the next scheme. We almost lost our family possessions several times, I witnessed numerous struggles at the front door with creditors trying to serve Mom papers (Chapter 7 and 13 bankruptcy didn’t exist then), I had to be in court several times; the train wreck of his life just goes on and on. Mom and Dad divorced when I was 17 (I am now 58). I only saw my father three times in my adult life.
When Dad died (leaving numerous nursing home bills unpaid, of course), I came into possession of his papers: personal journals, family documents, letters to the US consulate reinstating his family’s US citizenship, war reports, death notices, forged Russian passport, POW card. By slowly piecing together the disparate items I came to realize only recently that perhaps Dad was a casualty of war. It’s impact on us? My sister who is older never married though late in life she has a significant other. I have a deep need for financial security and as such work a lot, have been financially successful but at a personal cost.
My dad was a WWI vet. A young farm boy and recent engineering graduate, he was in the Pacific building an airline strip. His depression was so great upon his return he required electric shock. I never learned about this until I was in my 30s. My dad never talked about the war, never flew a flag or flaunted his patriotism. He was distant, an angry workaholic with few relationships. My dad died a year ago this month, and I’m left with a legacy of depression and anxiety.
My Dad, did four tours in Vietnam as a Green Beret, he terrorized three wives, so that by the time I was 8 my two younger sisters and I were left to survive on our own in the war zone that was his house. We spent our childhoods in and out of foster care. Sometimes he could work, sometimes he was too drunk. Sometimes we had foodstamps, sometimes we lived on ramen for months. By the time I was 5 I knew what the “dying cockroach was” and I have a broken collar bone, both arms, and a leg to prove it all. Sigh…flash forward. I married my husband right out of college, he was my high school sweetheart, we spent the first handful of years in the Army war free…then 9/11 came. Now 5 deployments later, I feel as if I am living in this Twilight Zone existence of Deja Vu. I feel as if I survived my own war, only to find myself in another one. I was putting a drunk to bed at 10 years old, now I was putting a drunk to bed at 39 years old. Almost 18 years of marriage, and I don’t know this person….I had to fight to get him help, just like I had to fight to get my Dad into the VA finally, more than 30 years after his war. He is not violent yet, but I find myself…terrified all the same…like an IED is set in my living room…will today be the day it goes off…. This monster, this diagnosis, has consumed my entire life now…as a child, and now as a wife….I just want him to retire from the Army…I just want two more years to come and go…and then I want to be a Quaker.
My grandfather is a Marine, and was in Charlie company in Viet Nam in 1967. He is proud of his service, and his duty to his country, and his brothers and sisters in arms; his political views, however, are differ exponentially. My other side of the family, great grandfather was in the Army in WWII, and though I never got to know him, through his self written book I feel I understand what he has been trying to say for years, because of my other grandfather. Neither of them have been abusive or violent in years that I can remember, or their children, and reading other’s stories I realize that I have been very fortunate. My Marine grandpa received help two years before I was born, and has since relapsed into the man he was before the war, and I know him only for his sharp wit, hearty laugh, and gentle sternness, although he was never always like this before, certainly. Two failed marriages, alcoholism, and self abuse are among them, and his Catholic religion was the only thing that saved him.
Both grandfathers are the lucky ones: loving husbands and fathers and grandfathers. But when I read stories like those above, or hear stories of their friends who never truly returned to the world, I fear for my peers and classmates who have enlisted and toured and bled and died for the current world: the bravery of those who serve, and their families, will never be expressible in words using every language on the planet.
My Marine grandfather still copes, he has medication for the worse, and a dedicated psychiatrist and counselor for everything in between, and my grandmother at home. I hope, when his story is finally down on paper, others can take courage that a fellow serviceman has seen and done everything they have and they are thanked and loved for the sacrifice of their entire being, and others who have not experienced what they have done, or their families have had to cope with in the backlash, will realize that there are far more conducive ways of conducting the world that does not result in damaged children returning from war before they’re old enough to drink, and families ripped apart because no one sees the pain. My heart goes out to each and every one of you who have posted, and those who have not.
Hello. My dad was a WWII vet; he drove a truck in Patton’s army. He grew up in an orthodox Jewish family; Yiddish was the first language of his parents and his siblings. He left for Europe in 1942, participated in campaigns from North Africa to Persia and into Europe. As the war was ending in 1945 his unit began to assist in liberating the concentration camps. Since he spoke Yiddish, he was assigned to interview camp survivors as a method of triage to assist the professionally trained interpreters. This is the sum total of information I managed to wrest from him, despite years of questioning, nagging, begging him to tell me what he did in the war. He could not bring himself to talk about what he saw, heard, smelled, or felt during that time. He left books around with titles like “I survived Hitler’ ovens” or “I cannot forgive” he also worked 16 hours every day, smoked 3 packs of Camel straights and internalized every bit of stressful responsibility that ever crossed his path. He died in 2002 at age 83; today, April 13th is his birthday.
My own anger, shame and confusion that I have undoubtedly inherited have recently been exacerbated. My wife is a professor at a local college, and the director of the honors program at the school. She developed a plan to take students to Germany, in part to tour a few concentration camps. She asked me if I would accompany the group. My reaction was instantaneous and way over the top; I became enraged, screaming, and totally irrational. I told her I would never set foot in that country, and that the squishing sound her shoes would make was from the blood of my dead ancestors. I remained angry at her for months-please know that we have been married for almost 34 years, and we are as close as I imagine happy people to be, but I was on the verge of leaving, at least for a while, all before realizing that I have a bad case of second hand PTSD. I’m starting to work on it, and I hope my wife will forgive me and our marriage will survive. I just found this blog site, and I thank you for being here and helping me heal.
My Father is a Vietnam Vet. I know he has PTSD, but he denies it. He always says “there is nothing wrong with me”. He has found a way to “medicate” himself with out a doctor’s prescription. I wrote a poem about him and it describes him perfectly. I will not be silent anymore.
My Daddy is a Vietnam Vet
But he hasn’t come home
From the War yet
He lives it night and day
With out knowing it
He hears the thunder, the rain
He thinks it is a bomb coming,
To take him away.
For so long
He has been fighting,
Surviving, re-living, beyond forgiving.
He tries to move on
But people won’t let him.
You may laugh and stare
But he believes the trees, bushes,
And grass are out to get him
So he cuts them down to see if someone is there
Ready to strike that fatal blow, because you never know.
I am his daughter, the one who wants him
But as you can see, he hasn’t come home from the War yet.
Thank you, Wendy. Some of my dad never came home either.
My father is a Vietnam Veteran (70-71). He as a gunner on a Huey. I was born while he was in country.
I don’t know for sure if he suffers from PTSD, but I do know that growing up being raised by him caused me some psychological damage. I have been battling depression and suicidal thoughts since I was a teen. I don’t know if his “cruelty” was a result of his war experience or just who he was. I can’t talk to my brother about this as he was murdered 21 years ago.
I love my dad very much and we have been working toward a much closer relationship since my brother passed. But
I have made it my goal to teach others more about the war than the schools do. I remember maybe one or two paragraphs in our history books about Vietnam and of course all the teachers were quick to point out that we lost and that our soldiers were murderer’s and baby killers. I teach my students differently and always make sure that they understand that whether you agree with a war or not, always support our troops.
I remember growing up and always having to keep silent about our father being a Marine. For some reason we knew that we should never tell anyone that he served in Vietnam. It was odd that as kids we could feel that it was something to keep silent about.
There is so much I want to discuss with other children who’s parent served in this war but have yet to find any. IF anyone would like to talk, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Welcome home to all Vietnam Vets and thank you for your service.
I am Author Michelle Brown I wrote the famous book memoir called(This girls life:Being the child of a war veteran) I lived with my father from war who was in vietnam he came home from war he was listed as having ptsd bipolar homicidal suicidal it was so hard to live with him I was beaten toutured my dad never got over what happen to him in the war and he took it out on me my dad tied me to a bed post naked at age 11 and beat me I couldnt take it no more so I tried to kill myself at age 11i tried taking my dads pills but whe I was unsuccessful I never tried again I just put up with the beatings but now that my dad has killed himself I go to vfw’s and battered woman shelter talking about domestic violence I am a survivior.
My name is Thuy. I was born February 14, 1967 at Bien Hoa.
I am a daughter of Vietnam Vet. I am looking for my biological father name Dick…
He was a Officer’s Mess Hall Cook 118th AVN Co Mess Hall at Bien Hoa 1965.
Please can anyone help find my father. Thank you so much.
DAUGHTER LEFT BEHIND
(Because Of The Vietnam War)
My father was drafted against his wishes as an Army Vietnam Vet. Prior to his draft he was a peaceful, somewhat withdrawn, young musician. Because of Nixon he returned earlier from Nam than was expected. Unfortunately he returned hate filled, loathing the Government, wanting nothing to do with me or my mother. During my childhood I remember my father refused to work, I remember his drug use, the stench of pot, his hippy inspired Avant garde love of music. I remember he was a monster and nearly killed me once and shortly afterwards my mother left him for roughly a year before he returned to our lives once more. I will never forget the daily abuse at nine years old being mocked, made fun of to the point that I broke down in tears, leading to being beaten in the head and tossed against wall. Being told I was worthless, spoiled, fat, and not worthy of breathing. He later confessed he saw how spoiled American children were opposed to the children he came in contact with in Nam. He also claimed he didn’t want me to become spoiled, but has never apologized, only stated that when he came back home he didn’t want to be a part of anything. A few years ago, at a time when he was becoming delusional, he agreed to be treated for PTSD and is now heavily medicated to the point that he is currently unable to play an instrument. He recently asked me if I could forgive him, and I lied to him because I did not have the heart to tell him otherwise. I don’t know if I can ever forgive him if he cannot at least admit that what he did to me was wrong and that he feels badly for the sixteen years of my life that he brutally and physiologically abused me. All threw my school years he criticized teaching of any kind, he hated the idea of me attending College because College students were cookie cutter members of society and did not have to serve the draft. When I became ill with anorexia I dropped out of School and had no motivation from either parent. I nearly died but when I left home with my boyfriend, shortly afterwards I became pregnant, and dropped out of work to be a homemaker. I have become withdrawn from society to the point that I dislike anyone who reminds me of my father. I would like to know why my father can walk into a VA center and receive the assistance, as well as group therapy (if he wishes), but there are no group therapy PTSD related meetings for Children of Vietnam Vet’s especially the children who have parents who were traumatized by the “draft.” I cannot begin to express how difficult it is to want to be validated by someone who knows first hand what the pain feels like and I have NEVER been properly addressed by physiologist and I think I am being misdiagnosed as having bi-polar when I am actually suffering from symptoms of PTSD. I have read of many of the above comments and I wish I could connect with some of the commenters, because I understand their voice, a voice that a councilor could not begin to understand unless they too were a trauma survivor.
I have just read the new book on J. D. Salinger which puts forth the idea that his reclusive behavior for sixty years was based on his WW 11 PTSD. Salinger went in at Utah Beac on D-Day then fought on through France,Belguim, and The Battle of the Bulge. He then witnessed the concentration camps.
My father, Frank, had the same war, landed on the same beach, fought the same battles and went to the same camps. He also had PTSD. He was hospitalised three times
In 15 years after the war. He committed suicide in 1970. He left behind a widow and three sons.
He was a wonderful father, but I can never forget those times when had that thousand mile stare even around the family. I hope the more recent treatments are helping veterans now.
The Vietnam War terrorized and destroyed my world. I was 7 when my father was sent to Vietnam and I was 10 when part of him returned. My father was a Hospital Corpsman attached to the Marines. He was on the USS Kittyhawk and in Danang from 1967 to 1979. He spent two Christmases there. He was there during the Tet a Offensive when the Vietnamese broke the holiday (Tet) cease fire and attacked the Danang Naval Station Activity. Part of the hospital with patients wounded in there beds was bombed. The bunkers were destroyed. My father survived my crawling into a ditch.
He came home physically, but mentality he was someone different. He became someone I looked up to and was terrorized of at the same time. My father and his other medic friends would drink, drink and drink some more. To say he was full of rage and violence is a monumental understatement. My sister, my Autistic brother and I were emotionally and physically abused. I am 53 now and still wear the scares from that war.
I have been diagnosed with PTSD, major recurrant depression, anxiety disorder with anxiety attacks. I become suicidal at times and have been hospitalized twice for psychiatric care.
My father spent nearly 3 years up to his knees in blood with wounded all around him. He did triage, assisted doctors with surgery, treated patients, stitched up wounds, and was sometimes the Last Face seen by these dying young soldiers (kids) 18 or 19 years old. He removed them from the helos and took them into the quansen hut for triage. He said he can still smell the metallic smell of blood. It never leaves you. All of the men he served with are dead now. Most died from cancer associated with agent orange. The corpsman stripped the uniforms off the wounded when they came into triage and had extensive exposure to agent orange from handeling all those contaminated uniforms.
All I knew was that as a child of 10, my father, my protector, became my worst fear, my nightmare. I began sleep walking by age 11, had nightmares, couldn’t sleep, had anxiety attacks, and was deemed “quiet”. I tried to become invisible so not to trigger any outbreaks of rage. My father’s rages were horrifying. I was publicly humiliated, called all sorts of derogatory names, been drug around by my hair. Beaten with any object that was within his grasp when he was in a rage. My father would break furniture, and throw things at me. My sister and brother were right in there with me. My sister’s response was to argue and fight with him. She also became my abuser. When my parents weren’t home, the abuse from her started. She was physically abusive. I still have hearing loss she caused.
I had a breakdown at age 45 and have been struggling with the “demon” ever since. I went through years of therapy, hospitalization etc. I was angry at my father for this latent affect on my life and at my mother for not protecting us from the monster.
I finally began to research actually what my father went through in order to understand him. We have a very close loving relationship, because we can talk about our PTSD. He knows I don’t blame him, no one knew what PTSD was in the 70s after the war. He knows I understand and he will confide in me when he is having problems. I can see it on his face when he is going thru something again. He has to keep busy to keep ahead of the demons. Sometimes they catch him, just like me, and drag us down the rabbit hole.
My mother said a few years ago, that if my father had been diagnosed and put on medication when he returned from Nam, that none of the rest of us would be on medication. I, my mother, sister, brother, niece, nephew, and my son all take medication. THANK YOU Vietnam!!!
Daughter Left Behind
In time civil war was stared in Saigon, Long Binh and Bien Hoa 1965 my father Dick was in AF Bien Hoa assigment as a Officer 118th AVN Co Mess Hall. He meet my mother at Laundry attendant, with a year later I was born in 2/14/1967. When I was a toddler my father told to my mother that he will come back for us, but he didn’t. Couple years later she was very sad and very ill and she passed away? I was adopted since. How can I find my father? I do not have his last name or his birthday. Very sad and hopeless for me. My pray for each day, but no luck yet. Please can anyone help me find my father. Thank you so very much. God Bless!
A Poem To MY Father
I Miss You, Dad!
Where are you now?
What make you left me?
Why we fold a part?
When you left me
I was a child
My mom was gone!
I was adopted.
Others take care of me
I am carrying your blood and walking with your mix eyes.
Where are you, Dad?
I was daddy little girl
Now I am still a part of your world
All these years
I am wondering if you’d look for me?
Hope see you soon, dad!
Love, your daughterDiemmy214bienhoavn.
In joy and praise
I am reaching this poem
To tell a story that never end.
It’s the story
Of a truly remarkable
An amerasion girl from Vietnam
Who lost her hopes and loves,
The birthday candles light burning low
Was hurt her with the delight
That leaves her like a needle.
To instruct herself over and over
Her tears pickle down
To look and to listen,
As she reach this poem
The tears of joy
Steaming down to her face
A sense of peace
She touch the piece of information
Placing it in her heart.
To tell a story
My father, Allen Leroy Christ fought with the 83rd Division in France and Belgium. He landed on Omaha Beach some time in June of 1944. He fought for seven months in various locations and small towns. He received the Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, Purple Heart, and various other medals mostly after he passed away. He fought in the battle of the Hurtguen Forest along the border between Belgium and Germany. He was wounded some time in January in the Hertguen Forest. He carried a bible in his top pocket during the “push”. When he finally got to the hospital the nurses undressed him and told him that “he may want to keep the bible that he carried in his pocket.” When he opened the bible he found that the bible had stopped at piece of scrapple that surely would have pierced his heart. I still have that bible with that piece of steel. I know for sure that without the bible I wouldn’t have existed. So in essence the bible was as precious to me as it was to him. I am looking for anyone that may have fought with him or may remember him. He was from a small farm town of Leesport, north of Reading, PA. He was one of five brothers. One brother had died very young. I would love to talk to anyone that may have been there with him. I am very proud of what my father and his generation did for the world. They truly are the greatest generation. Their sacrifice is unmatched in our country. My father’s life was one of constant sacrifice. Before the war that farm boy was a very talented musician so much so that he applied and was accepted at the Julliard School of music. He saved every penny he made so he could go to Julliard and maybe could have been a great composer or musician. Instead, he gave his money to his younger brother so he could get a college education while he went off to Europe to fight. As I said before, his life was a life of constant sacrifice. I never realized what he had done until I was in my early twenties. At that time I realized what they had all done and the life that they all gave me. I understood that I should be grateful ever day of my life. From my early twenties to about five years ago I would call him religiously on the morning of June 6 thanking him for what he had done. I knew that as each year passed there would come a time when I could no longer thank him for what he had done. Today he is gone and I no longer have the ability to hear his voice when I thank him. The funny thing is that he never considered himself a hero. He used to say to me that the real heroes are buried on the hill above Omaha. Such a humble man he was. In conclusion, I would love to hear from someone that remembers him or may have fought along side of him. Todd Christ at email@example.com. Posted 08 Dec 13
I am 44 years old and my father was 15/16 years old when he joined the Army to fight for his country in WW2. He was in the Yorkshire and Lancaster Regiment and fought in Burma and other places.
I believe I am one of the youngest WW2 veteran’s children in England. I would be interested in hearing if there are any other children of WW2 veterans of a similar age to me. Unfortunately my father passed in 1992 aged just 67. He did not speak much about the War but and he was obviously traumatised.
Any replies would be appreciated.
I was born into trauma and I’ve been holding my breath ever since. My father was in the Air Force in WW2, but he never said a single word about the war, and almost never said a word about anything. His brother, my uncle, an infantry soldier in the South Pacific, told me, at my dad’s funeral, that my father was a genuine hero of WW2. He also told me how they shared an apartment in Manhattan after the war, and my father would wake up screaming, soaked in sweat, from nightmares. I remember a bunch of medals in his closet when I was a kid, but they disappeared just before my father died. Though he never knew it, my father had severe OCD, PTSD, depression. He didn’t drink, or do drugs, or rage–he held it all inside, and worked obsessivley around the house, in the yard. He could never feel his emotions, and could not express an emotion even if Disney wrote the script. And my mother was a little girl in London when Hitler was raining his blitz down. And when I needed some mothering in 1972, in Winter Park, Fl, my mother was still hiding in the London underground. “The finest hour/I’ve ever known/was finding a pound/in the underground.” So, like my father before me, I developed OCD, and PTSD, and lived my life trapped in the smoky ruins of my mind and emotions. I was the youngest of a big clan of kids, Irish Catholic to the tilt. It’s been a wasted and painful life, but I did the best I could with what I was handed.
Reading these posts I see myself, and my family. Growing up it was hard for me to differentiate between the WWII hero and the drunken, mean, abusive father. I grew up in terror. I grew up being taught that I was worthless, good for nothing, and a waste of space. I could never figure out why my parents even had me. It was obvious that they didn’t want me.
My parents had 9 children after WWII. Apparently not much thought was given to family planning. My father was a misogynist. Lovely. God blessed him with one son and eight girls. He had his favorites. I was not one of them. We were not Catholic. I believe that my father deliberately impregnated my mother as a way of controlling her. He controlled her in every single aspect of her life.
So weird. On one hand you have a war hero (101st Airborne Screaming Eagles) and on the other hand you have a verbally, emotionally, and physically abusive tyrant who the outside world does not see.
My intention is not to bash my Dad. In some sick way I know he loved me and I loved him. But man did he screw me up. And here I am at the age of 58 and I still don’t know how to fix me.
Oh yeah…and I have a degree in Psych/Soc which I deliberately took to try and help myself. It helped, but it has not *fixed* my broken pieces.
This is a moderated forum. Your comment will appear when it has been approved by the Admin.
E-mail (will not be published) (required)
Subscribe via Rss
Subscribe via Email
© 2014 Leila Levinson. All rights reserved.
فروشگاه اینترنتی -
خرید ساعت -