VIETNAM: DEVELOPMENT OF PTS
All wars are the same, all wars are different
Most of the people involved in the military have never done this before., They only heard stories from people who didn’t or couldn’t share the reality. They were civilians primed to be made into soldiers (marines, sailers, flyers)
So we got the part about John Wayne being a hero and only died once in all his movies and even that death was meaningful
The short tour in Vietnam 12 or 13 months was the opposite of WWII, Korea and all wars before. those were all for the duration: get it done or die trying. Most of the people who landed on Normandy never made it to Germany, but that’s not the story we were told.
America right or wrong: A man’s duty to defend his country. Our churches told us so. (1950’s and early 60”s) That began to change about 1966-67 with demonstrations (demonstrations and riots occurred during the civil war and WWII (don’t know about WWI, but probably.)
We had to fight communism over there before it came here. The concern was the domino affect that was created out of the cold war - which occurred during and after WWII.
Many volunteered for military service: Navy and Air Force were all volunteer, The majority of Marines were but a few were selected during the draft arbitrarily,. Airborne units were volunteer. Special units within the Army and Marines also were volunteer. We weren’t all draftees, reluctant to serve.
So, in many ways we were gung ho to serve our country do or die: But the level of denial about my death was very high. There was no expectation or training to prepare us for the possibility of death. Or after coming home, psychological and other problems. Having emotional problems was not allowed, except anger, and that began in basic training. Anyone who couldn’t measure up to the ideal was humiliated as a way to help the unit form a macho bond (i.e, full metal jacket)_
Much of the rest of what we discovered are now cliches but at the time were astounding discoveries: I’m not going to list them, you know what they are. you heard it during our bull sessions and shared a few of your own.
As the attitude of the country changed so did the attitude of many who were serving in the military. and the attitude of civilians towards those who served. It was a social revolution. It caused a split in families and many social changes. And the civil rights movement was still building steam and impacted the later years of the war.
The news from America was passed on by letters, newbie’s who joined a unit with a different and more self-centered attitude
the list is long, but cutting to the chase
We were supposed to do our 1 year duty, come home get drunk, get kissed, have a parade, wear our medals, tell our stories at the VFW, get back with our girlfriends or wives, get a job, buy a dream car and get on with life.
For some much of that was their story. They went, they served, did their job, came home (no parade and occasionally but not usually drinks at the VFW - we weren’t welcomed there. We were losing our war - in their opinion - and the older Veterans denied returning veterans the wisdom of the elders) That is HUGE. We had no-one to talk to who had a clue of what it was like. We were branded as dopers, baby killers and fools for serving - especially those who returned to college - the hotbed of the revolution.
These were the seeds of Post Vietnam Syndrome, What we didn’t know was that war had impacted warriors from previous wars too. Imagine walking across the fields of Gettysburg shoulder to shoulder with friends and brothers while canister shot and direct fire from people safe behind stone walls aimed their weapon at YOU. Your buddies, maybe your brothers died, I guess you didn’t. Hopefully you weren’t wounded. The pile of arms and legs outside the surgical tents was huge. Amputations done often without anesthesia This day is done, but you get up and do it again tomorrow. The story was that those who survived somehow put it behind them. Not all of them did. After fighting in the Pacific there were large numbers of emotional cases, suicides, drug addiction, broken marriages and that was on the island of Okinawa, the rear area. Wonder what happened to them? We weren’t told this, or it was assumed this time it would be better. They forgot to tell us we were expendable. Maybe they didn’t forget. Maybe that was their burden.
We suffered alone. The VA wasn’t prepared. Psychiatrists weren’t either and there weren’t social workers and counselors like there are now. (I saw one at UWM, nice guy. I thought I was explaining things to him so he could help me and other vets, He diagnosed me as undeveloped personality disorder. Probably accurate at the time.
Veterans found each other and talked and it helped, but many Vets retreated to their basements, their bottle, drugs, anger and adrenaline addiction that often lead to crime and jail.
Veterans were told to get over it and constantly reminded that they were fools to even participate in the immoral war.
At some point we understood that we were expendable so that the leaders could strut their stuff and show how strong they were to other leaders (all mostly male) by sending their young men to die. Medals and promotions were often their reward That takes the wind out of your sails.
Doctors who obviously knew much more than us - they had degrees and white coats and we didn’t- so they put together a list of symptoms that were all too obvious.They put a label on it that fit their view of the world and published it for all to see. They gave us a brand. At first I welcomed the letters PTSD because the label showed I wasn’t crazy or making it up. But now it’s a bunch of letters and a diagnosis and a disability. A label that explains it all. It explains some, but not all. It’s only the beginning. Trauma in its many forms is a survival reaction to threatening experience. It is not just a cognitive problem, nor just a physical problem, but a moral and spiritual problem. And, for many of us, trauma has been part of our lives, and will be part maybe forever.
In the end, what happened to us mattered. By the treatment we received the new Vets have been treated much differently. and the understanding and treatment for the broader occurrence of trauma has become a specialty for many areas of treatment. And for that, it was worth it - my opinion.