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Old 02-25-2006, 11:27 AM
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A perspective to share

Some of you may have already seen this, but it bears repeating......




From: Griffin, James
Sent: Friday, February 24, 2006 11:07 AM
Subject: FW: A Perspective


I want to share this with you, my Point Man friends, to let you know you are still in my prayers and thoughts. Peace.

A friend of mine, a brother Vietnam vet, sent this to me last night. While not all of us may share all the characteristics expressed by Broth Robert, all of us share some and they vary in strength/effect at different times-it's beyond our control though we always try to be in control. This is a very though provoking peace. Not just because it is a Vietnam vet's experience, but because it applies to the new generation we are creating in Iraq, Afganistan, and other places. What is discussed here is a common experience shared by all combat veterans. Please don't push it back as some historical issue. Give grace and comfort where you can. Be aware and be involved. Don't let your friends, brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles, grandfathers, neighbors distance themselves from you. Fight the fight to keep them close at the belt buckle not arms length. We've learned so much since Vietnam, but it will not serve us well if we don't put this learning into practice. Pass it on as you feel led. On behalf of my Veitnam brothers and for Brian and Barrett and a couple hundred thousand new recruits....

JIm
8th/4th FA(METRO) RVN 69-70
Operation Enduring Freedom-Kosovo 2002
Operation Iraqi Freedon-Kuwait 2004
__________________________________________________ __________________________________________________ __________________________________________________ _________________________

*The High Ground*
By Robert Clark, P.O. Box 457, Neillsville, WI 54456


A couple of years ago someone asked me if I still thought about Vietnam. I nearly laughed in their face. How do you stop thinking about it? Every day for the last twenty-four years, I wake up with it, and go to bed with it. But this is what I said. "Yea, I think about it. I can't quit thinking about it. I never will. But, I've also learned to live with it. I'm comfortable with the memories. I've learned to stop trying to forget and learned instead to embrace it. It just doesn't scare me anymore."

A psychologist once told me that NOT being affected by the experience over there would be abnormal. When he told me that, it was like he'd just given me a pardon. It was as if he said, "Go ahead and feel something about the place, Bob. It ain't going nowhere. You're gonna wear it for the rest of your life. Might as well get to know it."

A lot of my "brothers" haven't been so lucky. For them the memories are too painful, their sense of loss too great. My sister told me of a friend she has whose husband was in the Nam. She asks this guy when he was there. Here's what he said, "Just last night." It took my sister a while to figure out what he was talking about. JUST LAST NIGHT. Yeah I was in the Nam. When? JUST LAST NIGHT. During sex with my wife. And on my way to work this morning. Over my lunch hour. Yeah, I was there.

My sister says I'm not the same brother that went to Vietnam. My wife says I won't let people get close to me, not even her. They are probably both right.

Ask a vet about making friends in Nam. It was risky. Why? Because we were in the business of death, and death was with us all the time. It wasn't the death of, "If I die before I wake." This was the real thing. The kind where boys scream for their mothers. The kind that lingers in your mind and becomes more real each time you cheat it. You don't want to make a lot of friends when the possibility of dying is that real, that close. When you do, friends become a liability.

A guy named Bob Flannigan was my friend. Bob Flannigan is dead. I put him in a body bag one sunny day, April 29, 1969. We'd been talking, only a few minutes before he was shot, about what we were going to do when we got back in the world. Now, this was a guy who had come in country the same time as myself. A guy who was loveable and generous. He had blue eyes and sandy blond hair.

When he talked, it was with a soft drawl. Flannigan was a hick and he knew it. That was part of his charm. He didn't care. Man, I loved this guy like the brother I never had. But, I screwed up. I got too close to him. Maybe I didn't know any better. But I broke one of the unwritten rules of war.

DON'T GET CLOSE TO PEOPLE WHO ARE GOING TO DIE. Sometimes you can't help it.

You hear vets use the term "buddy" when they refer to a guy they spent the war with. "Me and this buddy a mine . . "

"Friend" sounds too intimate, doesn't it. "Friend" calls up images of being close. If he's a friend, then you are going to be hurt if he dies, and war hurts enough without adding to the pain. Get close; get hurt. It's as simple as that.

In war you learn to keep people at that distance my wife talks about. You become so good at it, that twenty years after the war, you still do it without thinking. You won't allow yourself to be vulnerable again.

My wife knows two people who can get into the soft spots inside me. My daughters. I know it probably bothers her that they can do this. It's not that I don't love my wife, I do. She's put up with a lot from me. She'll tell you that when she signed on for better or worse she had no idea there was going to be so much of the latter. But with my daughters it's different.

My girls are mine. They'll always be my kids. Not marriage, not distance, not even death can change that. They are something on this earth that can never be taken away from me. I belong to them. Nothing can change that.

I can have an ex-wife; but my girls can never have an ex-father. There's the difference.

I can still see the faces, though they all seem to have the same eyes. When I think of us I always see a line of "dirty grunts" sitting on a paddy dike. We're caught in the first gray silver between darkness and light. That first moment when we know we've survived another night, and the business of staying alive for one more day is about to begin. There was so much hope in that brief space of time. It's what we used to pray for. "One more day, God. One more day."

And I can hear our conversations as if they'd only just been spoken. I still hear the way we sounded, the hard cynical jokes, our morbid senses of humor. We were scared to death of dying, and trying our best not to show it.

I recall the smells, too. Like the way cordite hangs on the air after a fire-fight. Or the pungent odor of rice paddy mud. So different from the black dirt of Iowa. The mud of Nam smells ancient, somehow. Like it's always been there. And I'll never forget the way blood smells, stick and drying on my hands. I spent a long night that way once. That memory isn't going anywhere.

I remember how the night jungle appears almost dream like as the pilot of a Cessna buzzes overhead, dropping parachute flares until morning. That artificial sun would flicker and make shadows run through the jungle. It was worse than not being able to see what was out there sometimes. I remember once looking at the man next to me as a flare floated overhead. The shadows around his eyes were so deep that it looked like his eyes were gone. I reached over and touched him on the arm; without looking at me he touched my hand. "I know man. I know." That's what he said. It was a human moment. Two guys a long way from home and scared sh"tless.

"I know man" And at that moment he did.

God I loved those guys. I hurt every time one of them died. We all did. Despite our posturing. Despite our desire to stay disconnected, we couldn't help ourselves. I know why Tim O'Brien writes his stories. I know what gives Bruce Weigle the words to create poems so honest I cry at their horrible beauty. It's love. Love for those guys we shared the experience with.

We did our jobs like good soldiers, and we tried our best not to become as hard as our surroundings. We touched each other and said, "I know." Like a mother holding a child in the middle of a nightmare, "It's going to be all right." We tried not to lose touch with our humanity. We tried to walk that line. To be the good boys our parents had raised and not to give into that unnamed thing we knew was inside us all.

You want to know what frightening is? It's a nineteen-year-old-boy who's had a sip of that power over life and death that war gives you. It's a boy who, despite all the things he's been taught, knows that he likes it. It's a nineteen-year-old who's just lost a friend, and is angry and scared and, determined that, "Some *@#*s gonna pay" To this day, the thought of that boy can wake me from a sound sleep and leave me staring at the ceiling.

As I write this, I have a picture in front of me. It's of two young men. On their laps are tablets. One is smoking a cigarette. Both stare without expression at the camera. They're writing letters. Staying in touch with places they would rather be. Places and people they hope to see again.

The picture shares space in a frame with one of my wife. She doesn't mind. She knows she's been included in special company. She knows I'll always love those guys who shared that part of my life, a part she never can. And she understands how I feel about the ones I know are out there yet. The ones who still answer the question, "When were you in Vietnam?"

"Hey, man. I was there just last night."
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  #2  
Old 02-28-2006, 07:41 AM
Pointman69
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Re: A perspective to share

Dana - haven't posted for a long time. Just read the thoughts above and had to say thank you for sharing this. The writer knows those things we can't express. It was like reading between the lines of my life. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of pictures behind those words, and there was compassion.

Thank you. Dave Wright

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Old 03-05-2006, 09:27 AM
Don Dodson Don Dodson is offline
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Re: A perspective to share

Great to see your post, Pointman69! And I agree, these thoughts should be offered to every OEF/OIF returnee to help them with their transition home. Kind of like a letter from another war.

Don "Oboeman" Dodson
Vietnam 1969-1970
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Old 08-01-2006, 02:41 PM
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Re: A perspective to share

Thanks Dana,
Just joined - just last night... Been sayin' that for a long time, cause that's the way of it.

I've been reviewing several of the threads and noticed a lot of them touch on the very issues I've had for, well since '69-'70. Situation at work got so bad for me 2001 I was put off work permanent by the VA. I already had a claim for PTSD, hearing problems, and agent orange so, I filed for unemployability and got it. Now I tend toward isolation. Never made friends on any of the many jobs I had, only considered them as buddies, sometimes. Church is the only thing that has given me stability all these years. I attend regularly and sometimes run the electronics for them. It helps to feel apart of something, instead of hiding in the corner as I've done for so many years. Even at church, it's buddies, more than friends as people change and come and go. Those you get to thinking are friends suddenly decide to go their own way and leave the church.

Rarely bring up the subject of Vietnam to anyone outside of the VA or at home. My wife has been very supportive for all these 35 years now, even when things looked the darkest for us financially.

Well that's about the most I want to say for now.
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Old 08-01-2006, 05:38 PM
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Re: A perspective to share

One more thought here...you can substitute Iraq...Afghanistan..Somolia..Grenada...Kosovo...Pa nama....Balkans...Liberia.....Djbouti.....Korea... .any World War 2 hotspot...Libya..Beirut 76 and 83 and probably 06.....Taiwan in 58....Haiti..Dominican Republic...Panama....all the secret places of the Cold War...it sure does not matter what war or conflict you were in..results are the same, and even knowing that, I would do it over again.

A couple nights before I went to staging and then Vietnam...I went to a gin mill to catch up with my Dad. Place was called Souders and one of the local bar flies told me not to make friends...keep my distance and I would not get hurt.......I really did not realize what he was saying because he was already half in the bag and I thought I knew everything. After all I survived Marine Corps Boot Camp. And I was positive the Drill Instructor told me everything I needed to know and it did not include any emotional stuff. (The guy was a Marine Chosin Resovoir Vet). Needless to say I made a couple very close friends and they got killed. Like the story says, buddies would have been less painful. I talked to a couple guys from my squad in the last few days and all our conversations start out this or that and are marked in time by a corresponding death of one of our squad members. Its really strange that is how we marked our time.

In another thread, one of the posts is about memories.....and now we are comparing memories and trying to sort out some things that happened.

And I lost my train of thought so thats it for now.....Trapper, its good to see you here and jumping right in. Please make yourself at home.
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Old 08-05-2006, 04:20 PM
Don Dodson Don Dodson is offline
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Welcome Home, Trapper!

Trapper:

Welcome to the Point Man chat, and WELCOME HOME from RVN. This is a great place to unpack some of the crud from inside that ruck sack we are all prone to carry around. I like the thought at the top of this thread: it's OK to remember Vietnam, it will never be taken out of us until we cross over to that Perfect Home God has prepared for us. In the meanwhile, my challenge is to remember I don't have to carry it around with me all the time. I actually mentally "take it off" and put it in the corner. Sometimes that's easy to do with distractions and pleasure. Othertimes it seems like I can't get out from under the grief. But God has a way for us to cling to Him, and He is Able to carry more ruck sacks than we can load up.

Hope to hear from you again, Trapper.

Don "Oboeman" Dodson
Vietnam 1969-1970
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Old 08-05-2006, 05:35 PM
Wild Trapper
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Re: A perspective to share

Thanks for the welcome Don, My real name is John but never use my full name online. I use the handle Wild Trapper on some forums and Elijah on others but never reveal my full name other than John. The problem with most Internet forums is, I can't talk about PTSD or the connected issues to most Internet personalities as you can imagine what the possible replies might be. Even the mention of it might give the folks the idea I'm a nut job or something.

BTW, there doesn't seem to be much activity right now on this forum. Is this normal for the time of year? I notice that people don't seem to be as active on the other forums in the summer either. Many on vacation etc. I try to check in at least once a day to see if there is any new posts.
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Old 08-05-2006, 06:09 PM
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Re: A perspective to share

Right you are Trapper.things are slow here in the summer. Fall up till a couple months after Christmas are the busiest. However when someone posts it might take two or three days for a response even though folks have read what you may have written several times before responding. Dont be alarmed if it takes a day or two for a response. This is generally pretty heavy stuff and even though the board works the same as any other, sometimes the posts are few and far between. There is not much general run of the mill posting. Look in the death thread for some examples of what I am talking about.

Im just glad you have decided to join us.
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Old 08-06-2006, 12:10 PM
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Re: A perspective to share

Thanks Dana,

Had a good morning today at church, a little stressful for me as I'm learning to run the power point. Actually, I write some of the presentations now for the first service, (our church has two morning preaching services). Today the guy who normally runs the system was out of town, so I got to do both services.

Stress always leaves me kind of washed out. At least the feelings I get afterwords are the feeling I've accomplished something that matters. Makes it worth it.

John
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Old 08-06-2006, 03:35 PM
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Re: A perspective to share

John, It just struck me that one of the hallmarks of Marine Corps Bootcamp is that it is so stressful that you just eventually stuff the stress and do what you have to do, to get through it. The only problem becomes what do you do with the stress afterwards? Im sure the other services are similar, but you are not a Marine until you graduate. Once you accomplish this goal, the thinking is, you went through this, you can do anything. same with your war experience. You went, you did what you had to do, and you came home. In a much smaller way, your stressful life experiences are the same.......do what you have to do and if you are washed out later, thats OK. Mission accomplished. Get with some like minded individuals and sort it out. You can do that here if you want or talk to some of these guys in a private e-mail.
Its all for the good.
S/F
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Old 08-07-2006, 03:46 AM
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Re: A perspective to share

Heh John,
Just like Dana said, there are a ton of us out here ready to chat at anytime. Mike
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Old 08-07-2006, 02:58 PM
Wild Trapper
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Re: A perspective to share

Quote:
Originally Posted by chapmic
Heh John,
Just like Dana said, there are a ton of us out here ready to chat at anytime. Mike
Thanks Mike! don't devote too much time to this forum. It'll take me a while to warm up as discussions on the subject of PTSD just don't pop into my head and they take me even longer until I know how I want to express them.

OTT, I am going to be down in GA, NC area for most of next week. Out of my AO... Wifes Mom is staying with us for the last couple months and we'll be taking her home.
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