This blog will be a little different for me as I usually write about family life and marital aspects of living with PTSD, but thought it was important to share with all who reads this while it's been rolling around in my head these last two days.
I spent the most part of the weekend out at the First Annual Vietnam Veteran's Homecoming this past weekend. There are several of these all over the U.S. but the first for our state. Our Homecoming was sponsored by the Fountain of Life Church, Rolling Thunder and the Vietnam Veteran's Association with the proceeds benefiting the Wounded Soldier's Project and VVA. Supporter of the Wounded Warriors Project but do have my opinions on how things are run, but hey, can't go wrong with the Vietnam Vet Association! We went out as the Family Readiness Group and I took a few soldiers with me. Man was it an eye opener for all of us. In the process of being hailed on, rained on, and simply just HOT...it was a hell of an experience and so glad I went. Ok, maybe glad is not a word I should use to describe my experience.....let's say honored to be there. I met so many wonderful veterans from all over the U.S. and just chit chatted with them about many many topics ranging from comparisons of the "Old" and "New" Army, the different wars that these Vets served in, and believe it or not, PTSD.
Read more on Mistress's conversation with her battle buddies...
It was interesting to see so many of the Vietnam Veterans openly discussing what they saw over there, although many of them had me in tears, and the fact they were quite open about their issues with PTSD, Agent Orange, etc. Some were very quiet and said it was hard being out there because they had buddies they lost, or family members...but most of all because of the reminder it gave them. Our soldiers were well received being the only military unit there present for most of the weekend, so that brought us extra attention and stories. We shared our canopy/booth spot with our local Disabled American Veteran's chapter in our town and really figured they might go out, but not do much. Holy cow were they busy all weekend! I was surprised to see how many Vietnam Vets did not ever apply for their disability benefits, many with the same story of "the VA said we had to apply that first year we were home because if we didn't, we could never apply for them"....so 25 years later, these Veteran's are finally getting the information needed to file their paperwork. Shame on the VA people who told them this BS. Maybe a few here and there, you might think they just understood wrong. However, I lost count after 35 different vets who came up at different times throughout the weekend with the exact same story.
Many of these guys I just wanted to hug because so many either had been diagnosed with PTSD by their family physicians, and the rest had all the symptoms, just never researched it further with the VA. I did wonder why they gave up so easily though and didn't fight, but many of them simply stated that after Vietnam, they got so screwed by everyone coming home, that the VA was just another "screw you". In echo of my husband, the same statement or similar one was "it would have been easier to lose a leg or an arm because you can deal with that loss eventually. PTSD just never goes away".
I could not imagine the hell these Veteran's went through over there in Nam, let alone the extra purgatory they endured when they came home. I was encouraged by many Vietnam Veteran Wives who spoke about their family issues and some were not very encouraging in the stories they told. I guess as a military spouse prior to war I was very blind to the topic of PTSD and TBI, but now that I am indeed a spouse of a combat vet diagnosed with it, it has been interesting to see at these events how the topic is brought up. I saw more t-shirts with "PTSD-don't leave Nam without it", bumper stickers with PTSD awareness and patches. PTSD stickers, "PTSD armed and dangerous shirts", and the likes. I have been to other functions and sort as FRG, but never really noticed it before. Saddens me in a way as I am sure that the general population is blind to it as I used to be. Sitting all weekend with a bunch of "crazy vets" as they humorously referred to themselves, was not only an honor but sincerely made me appreciate the heroic efforts these Vets have of living with PTSD without any damn help! I was also surprised at the amount of Vietnam Vet wives that were also quite open about the fact that they had been diagnosed with Secondary PTSD as the results of living with their spouses.
The purpose of these "Homecomings" is to show appreciation for all Veterans but mostly the Vietnam era soldiers who never received such a thing as a Welcome Home Ceremony/parade when they returned. So many horror stories of hatred,protests for some, lack of patriotism, loss of jobs upon their return, and so much more. I was very ashamed this weekend because as FRG we are supposed to provide such Welcome Home ceremonies to our returning soldiers, and it's a lot of work and stress. We have the hardest time getting volunteers to help us with this event because of the work involved. Seeing these veterans this weekend, made me want to kick myself seriously in the ass! I mean, what right do any of us have to complain in regards to the way things are done now when so many before us had it so much worse? I cuss and fuss about the lack of resources available for our families and soldiers, but was PTSD even a subject talked about when these guys came home? What about all the other wars in the entire civilization of mankind? I mean, we had to have PTSD back in 1812. I know there was "shell shock" but have you ever wondered if the Roman Soldiers ever had problems such as our military now? Made me think a lot this weekend and came home with a healthier and sincerely deep respect for all Veterans of all services.
The only issue I had this weekend was the fact that the local/state papers were contacted, and ALL the news channels. I noticed in doing my part of promoting this event, that no one heard of it. The sponsors called again and reminded everyone (press) two weeks before, nothing. Finally a week before and several reminder calls later, one news station reported a "blip" and that was about it. I did see a small mention in a neighborhood paper if you could call it that, but it wasn't worth anything more than emergency outhouse paper to wipe your ass with. So yesterday, they had this HUGE massive parade with such people as the congressman, commissioner for VA and well, about 250 other organizations, groups and individuals. Pretty good lineup for a parade and larger than most in our state. It was nice to find out through the main guy of the event that the Governor failed to show, and many other celebrities that RSVP'd the event. I thought, well ok, screw them and they don't know what they are missing but how tacky their secretary or assistants could not have called to tell them this. Many other organizations and large amounts of Vets from WWII on down came out, but no newspaper reporters.
I came home last night early due to exhaustion and some problems with my leg, but waited patiently for the news on three different channels. I wanted to see if the Homecoming at least made an honorable mention. After a domestic disturbance report that happened locally, a loooooong story on the Gaza Flotilla Raid, the weather report, a report on the heat, reports on the local sports....I thought perhaps anytime now. Not yet dear readers! We then had to see about the Gulf oil spill which I thought outranked the domestic disturbance (but hey what do I know), the upcoming DOG SHOW (which was at the same freaking fair grounds as the Homecoming by the way) and THEN the "dog jumping" contest (not in the state) where all these people entered their dogs to see who could jump into the water the farthest...(yeah I know-insert nose bleed and head banging against the keyboard here) We finally caught a "picture" of the Homecoming. Seriously?
So I wait and caught all the other channels and around 11:20 p.m. there was a ONE MINUTE SEGMENT on the event. I am being nice on a minute because I didn't count the seconds it actually was. If you had blinked, you would have missed it entirely. Really. I checked our papers today and yesterday, not a damn thing! I KNOW it bothered the people who busted their asses to pull this off, but most of all, I felt it is a HUGE slap in the face once more to our Veterans!! I mean damn, press people, could you not have spared us "lucky" the 10 foot water jumper and his owner's comments on how he usually jumps farther? The Homecoming was because these Vets never got one, and now 25 years later they get smacked again! The sponsors don't feel like fooling with comments to the stations, but damn I do! So when I get caught up....(is that ever possible with me?) I am most definitely writing a letter to the editor in response to this insult and the fact that most of us who care about our military, could care less whether Lucky made it to the 9th marker, or whether it's going to be sunny tomorrow to golf! Hell people, you can't even get the weather right!
Overall though, a fantastic event with lots of music, lots of era memorabilia and of course, the moving Wall which even as a replica, is very humbling. I met so many different organizations that we never knew existed and their roles in helping all military and Veterans. I also met one of the Navajo "Wind Talkers" from WWII, a group of Korean War Veterans who had me cracking up all weekend, and made some long time contacts and friends. I got a nice lecture on Jane Fonda and a lot I didn't know about her. Would explain all the "Jane Fonda is a Communist B*&^%!" t-shirts and patches I saw. I will most definitely be attending next year at the 2nd Annual Homecoming and hope that we can get these guys a little notice.
To all the Vietnam Veterans reading this, I am so sorry for all our country didn't do for you when you came back and even today, we still do not give enough credit due to all of our Veterans who served. I wish somehow I could make that up to you, but I am just one person. Hopefully, my work on this end will somehow make it possible to keep another group of soldiers from enduring what you went through. So if no one hasn't told you yet, "WELCOME HOME" and that is coming from a military spouse of a combat vet and of the deepest sincerity I write this.
Til next time,
Uncle Sam's Mistress and (newly discovered) Jane Fonda Hater