Post#: 215-18 – Words: 1421 – Audio: N/A
This will be a somewhat more poignant post than likely my readers are used to reading from me. In the least this has little to do with Trump.. but something far greater than he could possibly ever arise to.. serving in the military.
Every once in a while, my better half and myself, being of similar age, will react to some word or phrase that we may utter to each other or hear from the TV, that clicks into a reflection of some music lyrics from the days of rock & roll. That invariably leads us to scurry to the PC and meander through the myriad of lyrics and YouTube videos for the song (how did we ever do without the Internet??). All too often this research leads us to begin a trip down memory lane clicking on the long-forgotten rock hits along the right margin. One such click brought me to the Procol Harum tune, ”A Whiter Shade Of Pale” (HERE).
As many of you likely know YouTube provides space below the videos for comments. As you find on many rock & roll YouTube videos, the music tends to be reflective of the Vietnam years.. either people comment their reflections on hearing the tunes while serving in Nam, watching the war news on TV, or being involved in the anti-war movement. The following post struck me…
“Back in 1966 my boyfriend, a Marine, spent 13 months in ‘Nam. I was scared to death for him and he did actually get shot once. I couldn’t wait until he got home. When he finally got back, he swung me around and round in circles on the sidewalk. Later that night he drove his car around in circles with me in it – he was so glad to be back home. Unfortunately, he wasn’t the same guy. Vietnam changed him somehow. After 13 months of waiting for him, our relationship quickly went bust. He was the big love of my life. I still sometimes look at his picture, some where he has on his dress uniform, and wonder what would have happened if the Vietnam war never happened. I will never know. I want to thank you for your service.”
This post author went on to mention..
“One of my closest childhood friends, was killed in ‘Nam and he was only there a month. We went to the same church since age four. It was announced in church that he had been killed and that Wayne’s dad took a fatal heart attack when he learned that Wayne was dead. I’m glad you [her Marine bf] came home okay and got on with your life. Salute!”
A rather sad story this lady posted.. and a reminder that as wars of our past slowly begin to fade in our memories and become historical points of reference, there was a human side. This was no unique story by any means. This following story is from me… back in 1970.
My ex-wife.. before we were married, had a personal girlfriend who worked at the hospital. Her friend had a Marine boyfriend who was in the middle of his tour of duty along the DMZ and was on leave. They decided to meet in Hawaii during his leave. Upon her return she told my wife that the visit was terrible, to put it mildly. Her boyfriend was totally different; had relationship issues… even physically abused her during their sexual interludes. She returned to the States emotionally drained having broke up with him on the trip. The boyfriend, of course, went right back into the fight. Unknown if he survived the war.
Let’s fast forward 50 years to.. well, two days ago.
I was on duty (security guard, as you might recall)… swing shift (afternoon to midnight kinda thing). I work at a county complex of a couple buildings housing welfare and family services offices. About 9pm a late model sedan pulled into the parking lot… and the driver came up along side my vehicle. A younger woman, late thirties perhaps, with two young boys, 5 and 8, in their car seats in the back.
She was looking for the welfare office. I exited my vehicle and as I was beginning to explain it was the next building over, she shared this story. She turned off her car, and said she wanted to talk away from her kids, so she exited her car to approach me. About two hours prior her Marine husband left her and the kids; apparently just cleared out of their apartment. He emptied the bank account and just left. Her explanation was being occasionally interrupted with tears and suppressed urges to cry.
She went on to say that they had been married for 12 years, all that time he was on active duty, and had three tours overseas. I didn’t ask where because that was essentially obvious. When he returned from his last deployment she said he was not the same; had changed. She said she tried working with him, trying to get him to counseling, etc. But she had just reached a point where she could do it no longer… and then it must have come to a head which resulted in him leaving. She actually said that, as a serviceman’s wife, she had done enough to support the Marine Corps.
Knowing a little about the military (although Marine life does tend to be a little quirky-different from the other services) I asked if she had gotten help from base services. She went on to tell me that this idea that the military encourages their own to seek help for PTSD symptoms and that there would be no stigma is apparently a fallacy… at least according to her. Apparently if you seek help they will end up removing your security clearance, thusly impacting your service record and the obvious opportunities for advancement and select assignments. I have no real way to verify this or not.. but the point is that this woman was so distraught that she felt the need to talk about her PTSD husband to a stranger at 9pm at night in an empty parking lot.
I could see she was wrestling with feelings of some level of personal failure as a wife, a lot of guilt, and all inside the feelings of making sure her kids would be safe. I told her that her kids were the important immediate thing… and that the next morning at 8:30am she could go to the next building over and the folks there would assign a welfare officer and that person would present to her all the welfare options available to her and her kids… and immediate options she doesn’t have to wait for to receive.
But most important she just needed another human being to validate her existence and her personal problems, and her need to care for her kids. When we parted I told her that once she gets help from welfare and gets some balance in her life regarding care for her kids, she needs to care for herself because her kids will draw on their mother’s strength; I told her that when mom’s happy then the kids will be happy. She seemed appreciative of the advice and left to scout out the entrance to the other building for the next day’s visit.
When I came across the YouTube posting by the lady with the 1967 Marine boyfriend… I had to pause and reflect personally on the idea that she was a teenager when her story occurred; I immediately recalled the sights and sounds, and feelings to understand the environment she was referring to and the impact of her relationship on her. When looking at that experience of PTSD in that war… and then comparing that to the experience this young mother had with her PTSD husband leaving her and the kids… I am thinking… “We, as a nation, haven’t learned a damn thing.”, certainly as it relates to getting involved in wars and conflicts; and I’ve been just talking about those that suffer PTSD. We’ve not even included those soldiers handicapped for life or those that made the ultimate sacrifice as being the greatest tragedy.
That Marine father and husband from two days ago wasn’t even born 50 years ago when that other Marine affected the loved ones around him back in 1967. Yet as history again combines with personal destiny… the personal tragedies just continue through the generations as the wars continue. The beat just goes on… and at my age I am just a witness to the passage of time and seeing it all repeated over and over again. A bit of “Groundhog Day”.
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