As I've talked with readers, I have most enjoyed the opportunity to connect with our Vietnam-era Veterans. I did not expect that our book would have an impact on this community, and it's been a joy to hear the candor and enthusiasm.
For me, this connection has taken an extra meaning; it is personal. My Dad was a Vietnam Vet and he died in 2019. He didn't talk a lot about his experience, but I know that his deployment haunted him until the day he died.
When I was going through the worst of my own combat-related PTSD, my Dad was the only one who "got it" and didn't press me. We never discussed it, and I regret that now. If there is one thing I would want to have told him, and that I will now tell you, it is this:
When you came home from Vietnam, you were spit on, disparaged, denied civilian work, and very actively bullied. I can't even imagine what that was like after surviving suck a total cluster of a deployment. What happened to you is not okay and it is absolutely inexcusable.
I recognize that our Vietnam Vets are the very reason that my battle buddies and I were able to redeploy and be welcomed at the airport by my family and loved ones. Complete strangers cheered for us at the airports and gave us food and coffee; I saw your hats and your biker vests and your tee shirts, though — you were not strangers. I know it was our Vietnam Veteran brothers and sisters who ensured that this wrong was not repeated. I am very deeply thankful for that and I get choked up to this day remembering that.
The second thing I would want to have said is that treatment is for you, too. The data are clear that evidence-based treatments work for Vietnam Veterans with chronic PTSD. Even if you have been experiencing symptoms for decades, the data show that it is never too late to reclaim your life.
You allowed us to come home, and you were the first to extend a hand in solidarity. If I had a wish for you it would be that you get the help you need to reclaim your life — because you are worthy of being whole.
Bangor, Maine 2003 — Maine Troop Greeters: I have never forgotten you. Read more about this amazing group at http://themainetroopgreeters.com/getting-to-know-us/maine-troop-greeters-mission-statement/