How the Vietnam War Affected Me
This is my story of how the Vietnam War affected me personally. I have to add that intermeshed into it is the story of my multiple losses - they are somehow irrevocably woven together in my mind and it seems impossible for me to separate the one from the other.
My first real awareness of the war came in the Spring of 1966 - when my brother Mike, was drafted into the Army. We - meaning my mother, father, his wife and my other brother Tom, who was also in the Army and had been stationed in Germany, but was sent home when my father suffered his first heart attack in the summer of 1965, were worried about him - about where he might be sent as the war was now beginning to escalate and it was on the news on a regular basis.
I was fourteen years old and that spring my mother had a seizure which was later diagnosed as brain tumors - secondary cancer - meaning that the tumors themselves were cancerous, but the brain was not. She had surgery to remove the tumors. I remember going into intensive care, as if it were yesterday - nothing had prepared me for the sight I would see. You see, I thought that brain surgery was like what they showed on television and in the movies - I thought her head would be bandaged up. I cannot describe the shock and horror that I felt seeing my mothers head having been drilled with several plug holes - if only someone had said something to me, I would have been okay. But I wasn't - I not only had to look at my beloved mother like that to know that her pain was great, but I had to stifle back the emotions of my horror - I didn't want to upset her or my family. I felt as if I were two people in that room - the one who was screaming and crying for my mother - and the one who stood there as a zombie. If only someone had told me that her head was not bandaged and to at least explain - I was only fourteen and very naive.
My brother went to boot camp at Fort Ord - and we were all worried. It seemed nightly that the war was on the television - and I began to suddenly realize that this was no John Wayne movie - this was real life - a slow dawning of real life. My father apparently worked himself in a tizzy and managed to have another heart attack - and that summer of 1966, both my mother and father were in the hospital - although different ones in different cities. Since my father owned his own business and already one son was in the service, Mike, who worked in our family business, was given a family hardship discharge. Were we ever elated! Honestly, the war for me faded into the background - isn't it the way it always is? I mean, if you are not personally affected, a person doesn't think about it - at least a fourteen-year-old doesn't.
A few months later, it was obvious that the tumors had returned and were causing more seizures in my mother and emergency brain surgery was performed. This was in the Fall of 1966 - and again she pulled through. This time, as I visited her in intensive care, I was not traumatized - I already knew that her head would not be bandaged and I was able to deal with it. The tumors and surgery affected my mother's speech and to hold a conversation for her was difficult, although not impossible. She was still my beloved mother and I loved her so very much that it didn't matter to me. The cancer went into remission and she looked better than she had in a couple of years - hope seemed to be very good.
But it wasn't to be - a year later, my mother died. The pain toward the last six weeks of her life was unbearable for us to witness - she was in the hospital then sent to a convalescent facility. They cut the nerves in her spine to stop the pain - and yet, she still suffered from it. Morphine was then administered. It was certain that she was terminal and I couldn't bear to see her in such pain. She only took one pain pill at home during that entire 19 month ordeal, for she hated the "foggy" way she would feel. She could tolerate the pain - and she did to remain "clear-headed." I never once heard her complain and she was a true study in what constitutes bravery and courage. But the final six weeks of her life, the pain was unbearable - and I began to pray that God take her - I understood that she was terminal and so I prayed that He would make her end quicker and less painful.
The reason I prayed like that was because two years previously - my maternal grandmother died. I was very close to her as well. She also died slowly - she had a horrible case of arthritis and her hands and feet were deformed beyond belief. I have no idea of what she actually died from - can a person die from arthritis? Anyway, she was 71 and I was 13 - so I just never got the details. My grandparents had lived with us the last year of her life and I knew them very well even before they moved in with us. I used to pray for God to give the doctors a cure for arthritis so that she could be cured. I even prayed that God would prolong her life until a cure was found. During her final days - as I was still praying this very childish prayer, my grandmother spoke to me. We were alone in her hospital room - and she told me that I must not keep her from leaving. I didn't realize what she was saying until she told me that she knew that I was praying for her to live - and I had to wake up - she was dying, and what she wanted from me was to pray that God's will be done. She explained to me how wrong it was to try to keep her there as she was suffering so much, and she was very much looking forward to going home. I didn't understand what home she meant - I truly thought she meant homes with us - it dawned on me later that she meant home with God. A hard lesson for a 13 year old, but I loved my Grandma so very much that I would do anything that she asked of me - and that night, I did. I asked that God's will be done. Imagine my shock when my mother woke me up at 5:00 am the next morning and told me that Grandma had died in the night. So when it came to praying for my mom - how could I do less than what my grandmother and God had taught me? So I prayed that God's will be done and for Him to ease her pain.
My mother died in November, 1967. I was 15 years old and I didn't cry much. A few tears trickled down - of that much I am aware, but nothing else. I held in all my grief as if I thought that I could keep it at bay forever. My father was an alcoholic and even though he hadn't drank in about 10 years, he began to drink after my mother died. I realized that I wouldn't be able to live with him because of the instability - and I moved in with my brother Tom and his wife for a few months. They were very good to me, but they were a young married couple and quite frankly, I felt as though I were in their way - and I just felt like I didn't belong. My father remarried 5 months after my mother's death and after a few months with my brother, I decided to try to live with my father once again. Well, needless to say, it didn't work out - both he and my stepmother were drinking very heavily and were fighting late at night. When this happened, one of them would wake me up and say something like "We don't want you to witness our fights, you will have to get out of here" - most times they woke me up around 2:00 am. Where is a 16 year old girl suppose to go at 2:00 am is beyond me, but I got into the car and drove. The first time, I spent the night in a park. When my girlfriend's parents found out, they went into action - and very shortly, I found myself living with them.
And that's when the Vietnam War actually came alive for me. My girlfriend, Debbie, had a "thing" for dating servicemen. Her parents liked the young men and so did we. Frankly, they had much better manners than the guys at high school - and they seemed more mature and not weird. Debbie and I always "double-dated". Debbie was writing a Marine that she had met before we started hanging around - and he was in Vietnam. She gave him my name and address to give to a friend of his and that was my first experience with someone in war. I can't even remember this young man's name - I believe that he was only 19 years old -(I was 16) but he left a lasting impression on me. I was horrified and dismayed when he wrote about his war experiences - he was a body bagger and he sometimes went into detail about what he did and saw. I was horrified - for him. I couldn't imagine how a young man was supposed to handle that day after day. Little did I know that many more were asked to do that and worse. I have often thought and prayed for this man - I remember that I wrote him on a regular basis and he did make it home - New Jersey, but that's all I remember. I even baked him cookies for Christmas. The spring of 1968, Debbie and I met a couple of Marines whom we dated all that summer. Debbie's boyfriend, Ron - got orders to Vietnam and it was so horrible. I never knew anyone who was sent off to war and so this was my first experience at saying goodbye and not knowing if you would ever see the young man again. Debbie and I, with her mother in tow went down to Camp Pendleton to see Ron off. Ron was very personable and since I had broken off with the guy I had dated that summer, Ron introduced me to a friend of his - Bob. I felt very sad - we were down there for three days - and these young men and their friends were trying so very hard not to act morose. We were all joking and carrying on - Debbie's mother was a wonderful chaperone - and I remember that we stayed up very late playing cards.
I wrote Ron. He was an only child - and I wrote him as a kid sister would. He and Debbie had talked about marriage in the future - nothing really definite, but still there were the thoughts of future plans. I also wrote Bob who I had only known for 3 days - again as a kid sister would. Having two older brothers, I just kind of related to guys as brothers. Even though I wrote Ron regularly once a week, he didn't write me back very often - and I totally understood - he was sweet on Debbie. But I always felt that he appreciated having the extra letters to read and so I made sure to write regularly. Bob and I were friends and our letters back and forth were friendly. He was "older" - 22 to my 16 - and as I look back, he sheltered me from the war - mentioning it only occasionally. I remember that he was in Hue during Tet of 1969 and his outfit took a lot of hits. He had been separated from Ron as soon as they arrived in Nam and so they relied on Debbie and me to relay information back and forth.
Meantime back in the states - my other grandparents passed away. I call them my "other grandparents" even though we were not related. My paternal grandmother had died before I was born - and I was very little when my paternal grandfather died - I don't remember anything about him. I was very close to my maternal grandparents. Their best friends, whom I grew up calling, Moe and Man-Moe (beats me how this name was started!) didn't have children of their own and they were my grandparents age. Many times, they were included in our family get togethers at holidays and when I was little, I thought that they were indeed my grandparents. During the spring of 1968, Moe was diagnosed with a fast growing cancer and she died within 6 weeks of the diagnosis. Her beloved husband passed away within 3 months of her death. It seemed to me that everyone that I loved was dying on me - and there was nothing I could do to stop it. Again, there was very little emotion - this time less than at my mother's funeral - I was getting practiced at this quite well.
Then in October, 1968 - tragedy struck again. My favorite cousin - 13 year old Jerry died. He had been born with holes in his heart as a result of my aunt having German measles in the first trimester. His whole life was one of struggle and he had six open heart surgeries under his belt. The last one though was so promising. They had gotten everything this time around - Jerry was over the hurdle we were told - no more to worry. Well, the doctors are not always right - and that year he suddenly died. It was a true shock - he was so young and for the first time in his short life, we had all breathed easier, just to have that hope snuffed out on us. I remember attending his funeral and I didn't cry and only locked my jaw. What was God doing to us - NO - to me anyway?
I continued to write Bob and Ron, and Debbie and I made oodles of cookies on a regular basis and sent them out. I remember the thrill of getting one of their letters and writing back. My letters must have been very boring - all about school - our senior year and all the mundane things that teenagers think are so important. But we were watching the television news more and more and we were sick by the news in Vietnam. Each week, the body count - it was ghastly. A hollow feeling was growing inside of me - and I honestly don't know whether it was the war or my personal losses or both. I just know that it was growing inside of me. I was both attracted to and repelled by the news of the war - it was horrible, but I felt compelled to watch it - we knew guys over there now - it was not a faceless war anymore. These were real people - and they were nice and kind and didn't deserve to be in that place - none of them did. What were we doing there anyway? No, mustn't say that, it was unpatriotic.
With Jerry's death came the realization of another death for me - that of my extended family. It really died with my mother's death - there was no one that could carry on and muster the extended family to the many get togethers that we had enjoyed so much. My mother's funeral would be the last extended family get together ever - only it took me months to realize that. It took me months to realize that I was not invited to Christmas or Thanksgiving or anything. It was all dropped like a hot potato. I understand it now and don't blame anyone - but then, it was very hard. It would be 25 years before I connected with a couple of cousins who felt as bad as I did over the loss of the extended family.
Then the unthinkable happened - March, 1969 - I was 17. We got news of Ron's death - horrible, just horrible. By this time, I was also writing one of Ron's friends in his platoon and he filled us in on what happened. His name was Mike. I am speaking from memory here - over 30 years worth - but it was this: Ron had been wounded earlier and had a broken arm. It still had not properly healed and was in a cast, but for whatever reason, he was sent out and was point man. The squad was ambushed and Ron was killed. They could not recover his body for several days. He had a closed casket and neither Debbie or I could attend his funeral - it was in Northern California. I lost a friend, but Debbie had lost her fiancÚ - he had asked her to marry him before he left and she wanted a little time - but then a few months later she had changed her mind. He had a diamond engagement ring in the duffle bag that he had left at her house and told her to wear it.
I was almost completely numb now due to all the deaths - the only thing that made me cry over Ron was seeing Debbie cry - I cried for her, but I wouldn't cry for myself. I was beyond that now. People react differently to death - for Debbie, she just wanted to live in hope again. She started dating immediately - and in no way do I think that it wasn't because she didn't love Ron or honor his memory - I just think that she was doing her best at denying death too. She handled it her way and I handled it mine - ever the stoic.
A couple of weeks later, Debbie and I met two Marines - on the freeway. And for that incredible story of how I actually met Jim, here's the link . I was instantly in love for the first time and only time - and so was Jim, although we tried to both deny it at first. Unfortunately, Jim was headed for Vietnam and I felt that sinking feeling. At first, I wanted to run away - I had seen just too much of death for my age. But both Jim and I rationalized the risks. Jim's mother had died from cancer when he was 14 - and so he understood where I was at. In fact, Jim was the only person that I could share my feelings about my mother with - he understood - for he had been quite close to his mother as well. In fact, when I told Jim about my mom, I cried - we both cried - and I marveled at that, for I hadn't been able to before. We shared a common background - his father was an alcoholic and had remarried and Jim had joined the service at 16 (inducted on his 17th birthday) as he too was "in the way."
I remember a conversation with Jim in which we discussed God and that Jim would be protected. I thought magically back then - we rationalized that he would be okay, because we had both given up our mothers at such a tender age. We wouldn't have met like we did, if God didn't mean for us to meet. So it was like a sign - and I was able to dispel my gut feeling that I shouldn't fall in love with a young man going to Vietnam with my track record. I just completely put it out of mind - Jim would come home and that was that.
Jim went home to Texas on leave to visit his father and beloved grandmother. Unknown to me until 23 years later, Jim confided to her that he knew that he wasn't coming home - he "knew it" and he wanted her to know that.
Jim asked me to wait for him and to marry him when he came back - and I truly loved him. I have always been a cautious person -- not really prone to anything wild or unsubstantiated. I knew that I loved Jim and I knew that I wanted to marry him, so I agreed to wait. We set a date of September 17, 1970 as our future wedding date. In the meantime, we would write and really get to know one another.
May 15, 1969, Jim was shipped out to Vietnam and left from El Toro Air Station, which was just closed in July, 1999. I didn't want him to go but it never occurred to me to beg him to go to Canada - and anyway, even if I did, Jim's the sort of person that would not have gone. Initially, I didn't have his address - I had to wait to get it - so I wrote every night and just saved the letters until I received his letter telling me of his new address. I felt so bad for him because when I got it, I had fifteen letters saved up - and I mailed them out on the same day. It took about 10 days for him to get those letters - and I got a couple of letters saying that he hoped that he would hear from me - and then reassuring himself that he knew he would. I have his letters to this day - and when I read the one where he did receive those fifteen letters, it always makes me laugh! He was very happy to say the least.
I wrote nearly every night - at least 5 times a week. I was in my senior year and would graduate within a month and I also worked - so time was pretty scarce for me. But I made sure that I wrote him at least 5 times a week. I sent out packages of cookies every two weeks - once a month, I sent out a care package that contained canned meats, canned pudding - things that he wanted or just plain liked. It gave me great joy in doing this. I loved baking him cookies - and packaging them in popcorn. It was how I spent my dateless Friday and Saturday nights. Jim left before my prom - and I gladly stayed home baking cookies for him that evening.
I was worried sick about Jim - all of the time. It was bad enough worrying about the news on television when I was writing men I hardly knew - but it is a horrible experience to have the man you love in war, as all of the women can attest to that. I worried about Jim constantly - and I can remember that I always asked him about the war and if he was okay and how bad it was where he was at. He always told me that it wasn't so bad. Once in a great while, he would share something that shook him up - a friend dying or being wounded, but always he assured me that for the most part, it was safe. Boy, was I gullible back then. I thought if he answered me, it would be the truth - I didn't realize that it was standard for men to lie about wartime conditions to their sweethearts - I truly had no idea. So I went around with a false sense of security that somehow, Jim was very safe - even while "humping" all over the countryside and passing through areas with ominous names: Ashau Valley was the worst sounding to me.
I began to notice changes in Jim that concerned me - not about him - but what the war was doing to him. He was always worried if a letter didn't arrive - even though he might have gotten four 2 days before - if he was writing a letter, he would say that he was worried not hearing from me. I kept assuring him that I was true (and I most certainly was true), but I didn't know "where this was coming from." Here I was going to school and that September, college, working 25 hours a week, baking him huge packages of cookies every 2 weeks - where on earth was I getting the time to have fun anyway? But he had no idea of my schedule - just as I had no idea of the real and present danger that he was always in.
I found out later about Jody - the fictional character that the combat troops hated. For some strange reason that I will never, to my dying day, understand, the men were "tortured" about Jody by their superiors. Jody was the guy who was dating (or even worse) the girls back home who had pledged to be true. Jody. . .it was he that tormented my Jim and so many of the troops in Vietnam.
Another thing that broke my heart - Jim told me early on that he had to burn my letters - company orders. It hurt me so to think of him in-between mail calls, worrying about me, when a single letter kept for a couple of days would have sustained him. It breaks my heart still today to think of him like that - and also the other men as well. I understand the reason behind the company orders - they didn't want the enemy to get hold of any personal effects like that - but it still broke my heart to know the Jim couldn't carry just one letter in which he could take out and look at when he needed comfort.
But in spite of these changes, two things about Jim that did not change - his sense of humor and his love for me. His sense of humor was one of the things that attracted me to him. He had a really easy-going sense of humor - and very quick wit. He never laughed about others - always about the situation or himself. He was a very kind and sensitive person, and I remember several times I jumped to conclusions about others - only to have Jim point out to me the circumstances and to bring me around to a more compassionate viewpoint. He was a very honest and straightforward person - totally uncomplicated and earnest. And he had a genuine love of others - and they in turn loved him back. He took quite a ribbing when he was stationed at Camp Pendleton and fell in love with me - the other guys teased him about being bitten by the "love bug" - Jim just laughed and admitted that it was true.
In September, 1969 I entered my first semester of college which I enjoyed somewhat. I liked the academics, but I didn't like the "freeness" of the anti-war protestors - they were everywhere those days. It didn't bother me that they were against the war - more and more were becoming so - but what bothered me so much was how they were treating our servicemen - as if they were the enemy. It bothered me terribly - and the stories of American servicemen coming home from active duty only to be spit upon by fellow citizens was painful to me. I worried about what Jim was hearing in Vietnam - and what he thought - and what it would be like for him when he returned, but I was very careful not to mention this part of "American life" to him in my letters.
About this time, Jim wrote me that he was being transferred and that there was a chance that he might be reassigned to Hawaii - oh, how I prayed that it would be so. And it was not to be. And within a month Jim again got orders to transfer out of country - only to be reassigned back in. I was really angry and am still resentful of the military in how they built hopes up - only to dash them so cruelly later. Why say anything at all - better not to get those hopes up then to dash them. But then this is only my opinion.
Also around this time, Jim was wounded - I didn't find this out until 23 years later. Jim never mentioned it - and to this day, I still do not know the details of it. His grandmother, who I visited the same year that I found Jim's letters, told me this - and the details were quite sketchy 23 years later. I remember thinking that this is so like Jim - to try to protect me from worrying about him. He did write me at this time and told me that he had been sent to the rear - and I stupidly didn't suspect anything. And there was another time, when a couple of months later, he said in a letter that he had a choice whether to go out into the bush or not - and he had decided to stay in. I remember thinking how does he have a choice in this? But I didn't question it long - I was grateful.
Before Jim left, I begged him not to volunteer for anything over there. I knew that Jim would be the type to do that sort of thing - and I begged him not to - I wanted him to come home. I was a very selfish person - and I even told Jim that if it meant either him coming home or somebody else, he must come home no matter what. He promised me - he didn't have any choice in that matter - for I was relentless on this point.
Jim wanted me to meet him on his R&R in Hawaii and to get married - I was still underage - 17 - and I couldn't get permission to leave. It broke my heart to hurt him like that - and I know that the adults in my life were only doing what they thought was best. I worried more about Jim's response than my own because I knew that that war was relentless and stripped a person of hope. I didn't have any trouble waiting - I was happy to wait - for I loved Jim that much.
At this time, the adults in my life were reacting to several things that had nothing to do with me - and yet I felt the brunt of their decisions. It caused them to do some manipulative things to me - and I was in a state of confusion and depression. Coming up was the two-year anniversary of my mother's death and then of course Jim was in Vietnam. I was being told by the adults that Jim had only asked me to marry him because he was going off to war and that our marriage would be a sham if I didn't give him time to adjust from the war - and to make a clear and level headed choice when he came back. Many other things were being said by my girlfriend's mother - a person that I looked up to and had previously treated me so kind. She was very hurt and disappointed with her daughter, my girlfriend, and she took her anger out on me. I didn't know that this was happening. And because I trusted Ruby and was only 17, I allowed myself to be manipulated - I am not blaming anyone but myself - I should not have listened, but I did.
The reason why I listened was that I had such a wonderful relationship with my mother - one of complete trust and honesty. She never was manipulative - and was totally honest. She respected me and I remember a couple of times I didn't agree with her on a couple of issues - and she gave me the leeway to see my own mistakes. I later came around to seeing things as she did. But I just assumed that all mothers were like this - I didn't know that they were not. And I learned that lesson the hard way.
I started making plans to ask Jim for some time before we got married. I put off plans for the September, 1970 wedding - and I began to drag my heels on it. It had absolutely nothing to do with my love for Jim - I thought that it was the "adult" thing to do. When Jim went on his R&R in Sydney, Australia, in December, 1969, he called me three times. I still remember his voice - and the excitement of hearing his voice once again. He told me that it was so good to hear my voice too. And for those wonderful, magical moments, it was as if he was at Camp Pendleton talking to me and that he would be seeing me in just a few days. How good those telephone calls were! Jim mentioned that I had not made definite plans about the wedding - his grandmother wanted to know a few details, and I told myself that this was not the time to tell Jim that we both needed a little time. I went along with him - for I wanted to give him a really good R&R.
When Jim got back from R&R, I have no idea what happened. All I know is from one of his letters, the First Sgt. started hassling him and wanted him to go back to the bush - and Jim volunteered to do so. I saw "red" - I couldn't believe this - he promised me he wouldn't do this! I had no idea the kind of pressure that Jim was under - and to tell you the truth - even 30 years later with all the hindsight I now have, I still have no idea of that kind of pressure. But instead of being compassionate then and standing by Jim - I got mad. And I wrote him an angry letter. I told Jim that we had to wait to get married - he needed some time after the war to adjust to what he wanted. And I told him in that letter that I loved him and that I wanted to marry him, but we had to make sure that it was at the right time.
Well, I never should have written that letter - I know it - I found out a few days later that I never should have written it. And I have paid dearly for writing that letter. I know that for those who have gotten this far - you must be totally and completely disgusted with me. It isn't anything that I haven't felt for myself over the years - believe me, I have been far worse to myself than you could ever imagine.
Jim took it as a Dear John letter. He wrote me back a letter that was full of hurt. The very next day, I came to my senses and realized that this was all one huge, horrible mistake on my part - and if Jim wanted to get married as soon as he got off that plane, I was willing to do it. I wrote a letter telling him that - it was Sunday evening.
The very next morning before I had a chance to mail that letter - I got word of Jim's death. Jim's father and stepmother did not have my telephone number - and the telephone number was unlisted. So they called the police department of the city I lived in and two police officers came to my door to tell me the news.
I remember as if I were completely detached - completely devoid of any real feeling - there was absolutely no feeling whatsoever. I didn't feel pain, I didn't feel grief - I didn't cry - there was absolutely nothing - just a huge and complete void.
Added to that was Ruby's reaction. She did not know of my letter to Jim - nor of his back to me. I remember that very day, she said that we had to ship Jim's belongings back to his family in Texas. I remember watching her as she packed up his things - I didn't say anything - just watched her. I was unable to say anything. . .unable to even think anything. As a matter of fact, music was going off in my head. I was hearing classical music going off in my head - and I was trying to transcribe the notes in my mind. It was absolutely eerie - and I hope that no one ever has a reaction like that. But perhaps it was the only thing that kept me sane - I truly don't know.
That very same day Ruby also told me that I must get rid of Jim's letters and photographs - I couldn't keep them. They would only hurt me in the future - I had to get rid of them - and she watched me as I tossed Jim's letters and photos in the trash. Around midnight that night, I quietly got up and folded some writing paper in half - to make it look like letters and I snuck into the trash and retrieved Jim's letters and photos. I hid them under my mattress and then the next day, I locked them in the trunk of my car. There they would stay until I moved into my own apartment.
And now another horror heaped upon all of this - the day of Jim's funeral (I did not go - I couldn't afford the trip, nor arrange to be there in Texas), Jim's grandmother received Jim's last letter - and he told her that I had broken up with him. She called me and I couldn't say anything - just that I was sorry for everything. I just kept mumbling over and over again - like a zombie. Jim's funeral was 2 days before my 18th birthday.
Anyway, I found the elixir for the denial of guilt - keeping busy. I carried 15 units at college - and I worked 40 plus hours at my job. Very effective for keeping emotions at bay - and I would use that formula for 23 years - sometimes working 60-80 hours weekly.
The initial aftermath of Jim's death - I was totally and completely numb and add to this that within two more years, I would lose my beloved maternal grandfather and my father. I was 19 years old and had gone through nine deaths in six years - with one of them being my fiancÚ killed in war. I began to suffer from depression although I denied that as well - and kept it hidden from my family and friends. I was suicidal for several times during those 23 years. I hated to hear the telephone ring and having to answer it - for I feared that each call would bring news of yet another death.
The Vietnam war now horrified and disgusted me totally. I was unable to watch the news and I was unable to date any more servicemen. I couldn't even bear to look at a young man in a military uniform. I know that my eyes were devoid of life - I have had more than one person tell me that this is how they saw me during that period of time.
I began to slowly and methodically hate the United States - I refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance - and didn't for 23 years. I refused to sing the National Anthem - and if I thought I could have gotten away with it without a scene, I would have refused to stand for it. I couldn't bear anything about the Vietnam War - if something were on television about it, I would walk out - couldn't bear to see any more of it. I was very angry at Richard Nixon - for proclaiming that he would get us out of Vietnam during the election of 1968 - and then not really doing anything until the election of 1972 when campaign promises would be remembered. I hated Lyndon Johnson for his role. I hated Robert McNamara - geez, I hated them all. And added to this - the city where I would live for 18 years - it would be proclaimed by President Reagan to be the official home of "Little Saigon" - it was too much for me to bear. Oddly though, I didn't hate the Vietnamese people and certainly not the American combat Vet, even though I couldn't look them in the eye, out of grief, sorrow and guilt.
But I was really angry at God, although I denied that too. It's amazing at how the emotions can lurk below the surface and we are not really aware of what we do feel. But looking back on it now, I was angry at God. Well, why not? The minister at my church told me that it was "God's will" that all of this happened - and hinted that either I or my loved ones deserved it. Guess what? Left the church - and didn't go back for 23 years. If God was truly like that - no thanks - I'll take my chances on life without Him.
~ Continued ~
heartfelt thanks to Nancy at Winged Web
for this beautiful award! Nancy designed this pageset and
I am grateful to her for the beautiful way it allows me
to present my story of grief and transformation.
Music: Theme from the Deerhunter