There are a lot of veterans in my family. I was raised by one. My Dad was drafted into the Army during the Vietnam War. I remember him telling me that he knew his number was going to get called even when he was 10th grade. He could see the writing on the wall. He hardly went on a date because he didn’t want to add leaving a girl behind to what he had to face.
My Dad spent most of his time in the jungle. The Army lost them in the jungle for 5 days. Yesterday he called to tell me he had “the dream of being lost again”.
My Dad’s main “base” was a Michelin Rubber plantation. He is not a fan of this company and one of the strange rules in our household is that we never buy Michelin tires. Protecting your own country is one thing. Going to war can be understandable but guarding a foreign companies assets made him question things.
The TET Offensive happened during my Dad’s time in Vietnam. That was pretty much hell on earth.
My Dad does have a few stories with some humor to them in even if it is dark. There was the time when him and his platoon were coming in from a particularly hard battle. They were in a terrible state.
Dan Rather and his news crew were there to film them coming in. As they walked by him and every single guy flipped up their middle fingers. This ruined the entire segment. The last thing they all wanted was some guy sticking a camera at them to film and air in the USA where there mother’s and other loved ones could see them like that.
Then there was the monkey that liked to harass the commanding officers and dropped a rock on one of their heads when they were giving a speech. That monkey caused a lot of trouble. My Dad said that all the guys kept a straight face while they watched this monkey aim precisely and then just drop the rock.
Vietnam was the first war that was broadcast widely on the main news channels. People could tune in and hear the body count and see the terrible videos.
I read my father’s letters from that time back home and they were very basic.
My grandpa Leonard was in the 3rd Armored Division “Spearhead”. He got injured in Belgium. A shell hit near his tank and buried them to the point that they had to dig to get out. Back then they didn’t really understand head injuries. He got rattled a bit and spent some time in the hospital. When he got home he drank more, got angry more easily, and did a few other things. At the same time, he had a decent sized farm and worked full time at the Champion Paper Mill from 1952-1978. I’m my 30s I found a form that stated he was getting a small check for nervousness which was kind of the catchall term for someone that had been rattled around. It is good that we have better treatment options and an understanding of these types of injuries now.
I am supposed to be a lot like this man and he has always fascinated me. I figured out more about him by discussing some oddities with my husband and delving into old family documents. I have a few of the letters he sent my grandmother who was at home with a child. They are beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. They are far more detailed and long than those of my father.
Leonard’s brother, T.V. was in WWII as well but he spent his time in the Pacific, in the New Guinea area, where he got Malaria He never married once he returned but did have a few kids.
Veteran’s Day is a hard time for my father and for me as well. I have not had a day that I can remember that I did not at least think of Vietnam in passing. I am reminded of it every day because basically every health issue my Dad has can be attributed to his time in Vietnam. He has diabetes, has had numerous surgeries for cataracts, has lost a lot of his eyesight, had a toe amputated, has food sensitivities and digestive problems, severe PTSD, and still has shrapnel buried in his leg. A lot of this happened when he was over 60. Agent Orange poisoning can cause various problems over the years.
My Dad worked hard over the years to raise me as a single father. He spent long hours in sawmills and running log loaders in the yards at the sawmills. He tried to raise me as best he could. I know it wasn’t easy being a single father with so many people judging him for that and then the fact that there is a certain stigma and stereotype attached to Vietnam vets.
I wrote about a lot of the lessons my dad taught me over the years in my post “Lessons Of A Father: Survival and Life Lessons From A Single Vietnam Veteran Raising A Daughter”.
The above statements are just some things I wanted to say and share as we remember the sacrifices of soldiers over the years.
War is a terrible thing. I wish that mankind did not run towards it as much as they do. The effects are so more far-reaching and last so long. Vietnam doesn’t feel like 50 years ago in our family. It had too much of an effect and those effects will never go away. If you have a family member or friend with PTSD or have it yourself then you know what I am talking about.
I talked about my father’s experience with PTSD and how those effects are passed down through the generations in my article “Preventing and Treating PTSD: Advice For Life and SHTF Situations”. Perhaps this post can help out a few folks.
I have learned so much from veterans and continue to do so every day. Even if I go to an event like Prepper Camp where there are 1,200 people wandering around and nearly a 1,000 camping, it seems like I always find myself around the fire with a bunch of vets talking about life, guns, knives, and the government.
So on Veterans Day, I think it is important to think about these fine folks, their sacrifice, and what we have learned from them over the years.
Sorry, this took so long to write and get up on the site. It was a really hard one for me and didn’t come together without a few tears.