Introduction to Our Forgotten Soldiers
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to go back in time and change the bad things that happened in your life, or to change your life completely? Do you think the men and women who served in the first and second world wars would volunteer or want to be involved the second time round? Would the men/women who were in the Korean and Vietnam wars go back and fight again?
We all know that when the second war ended, the service personnel coming back were treated like hero’s. There were parades in the streets, bands playing and crowds of people waiting for the ships to drop anchor. What no one realized at the time were the consequences that would be suffered by a lot of combat veterans.
During World War I, it was called “shell shock”, and in some cases it was called “lack of moral fiber”. During the Second World War it was still referred to by these names as well as “battle fatigue”. During World War One, the French, British and American armies are reported to have executed by firing squad, troops that had shown symptoms of these problems. During World War Two, medicine was beginning to realize that these troops were not cowards, but had reached the end of their emotional limits. More was learned during the Korean War. But when the Vietnam conflict began, mental health care had fallen far, far behind in treating mental health problems. Some of these included PTSD, alcoholism, drug use, anger, and suicide. These veterans had been taught to kill, lay traps, maim and perform their duties without complaint, but no one taught them how to live back in society.
You would have thought that by the time the Vietnam War had begun, they would have used these previous experiences to help the returning veterans. Sadly, this was not the case, the veterans who returned were treated badly. They were considered an embarrassment, so there weren't any parades, bands playing, nor any crowds of people waiting for them to return home. What they got instead was name-calling, such as "baby killers", "murderer"! Some were even spat upon.
The government department set up to help returning veterans did not want to see these Vietnam Veterans. No counselling was offered, they were treated like lepers and an embarrassment to the same government that had sent them to war. The average Vietnam veteran was, at the time of his deployment, eighteen to twenty years old. Most came from working class families that were in the poverty or lower middle-class economic bracket. Since one way to avoid the draft was to go to a college lower-class families couldn’t afford, most were high school drop outs that had been drafted. As you will read in these stories, the majority of Vietnam soldiers came from families that were already dysfunctional. In many cases because the father was himself suffering from PTSD, as a result of having fought in World War II. The end result were veterans ending up on the streets with major physical health problems as well as emotional and mental issues. These veterans were looked upon and treated with disgust instead of compassion. Sadly, some committed suicide. They were alone, isolated and vulnerable, having returned to civilian society individually and not as a unit, with no one to talk too.
So what is P.T.S.D. and what causes it? What is the “cure” for persons suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress? P.T.S.D. has been described as a feeling of “detachment from emotional feelings or bonding”. Sufferers have reported having problems forming healthy relationships with others and estrangement from family members, as part of a group of symptoms. Post-Traumatic Stress is not, however, solely the result of exposure to combat situations. Victims of rape, survivors of extreme natural disasters will also experience P.T.S.D. depending on circumstances.
What is the “cure”? At this date there does not appear to be a conclusive cure, only management and an amelioration of symptoms over time. Social interactions with other sufferers can and does help to alleviate feelings of isolation and desperation. Also of help are meditation sessions, hypnosis and family support. One medical specialist was a combat medic in Vietnam. It is his theory that P.T.S.D. is like a metronome. During normal mental activity your thought processes go from side to side. This is called the “fight or flight” reflex and is a normal process. But with P.T.S.D. the fight or flight urge gets stuck. He thinks that the introduction of serotonin used in conjunction with the meditation and hypnosis therapies might help reduce the emotional distress of P.T.S.D. sufferers. Several of the contributors of this book stated that their siblings were told to “stay away" from them. You can NOT stay away from a sibling that suffers from P.T.S.D.! That is the absolute worst thing to have happen because it adds to the feelings of loss the individual is going through. Fear, ignorance, and lack of professional understanding all combined, make pariahs out of the people with Post Traumatic Stress.
What follows is a series of stories from those forgotten soldiers. Their stories detail how they put themselves in this position; what led to their PTSD and, how it has affected them since their return. Some of these stories are short because the soldier has worked for decades to forget. Other stories are long and the language is blunt. Any racial terms used were common speech in use at the time of the soldier’s journey into hell and these stories are from the heart.