A Conversation with a Vietnam Veteran   14 comments

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Back in November 2001 through August 2002, I hitchhiked in and out of St. John, Kansas quite a bit. St. John was my home base during that time. I would stay at one of a few places, do odd jobs and then I would hit the road.

A couple of people that I would stay with were a man and his wife. He was in his late fifties and she was in her early sixties. I don’t remember their names, but let’s call him Frank.

Frank was a Vietnam Vet who served in the U.S. Army in 1965-1966. He was exposed to Agent Orange and was on full medical disability. Frank was on his second marriage.

One day Frank and I were in the kitchen—I was sitting at the table and he was standing at the counter. I told him some of the things that I had experienced in my past: I went through a lot of rejection from family, friends and church people because of my Christian faith.

Dad put me in mental hospitals, had me pay $5000.00 worth in hospital bills and then later told me that he paid for everything. My dad had absolutely no integrity whatsoever.

Frank then turned around and stared at me. He said, rather forcefully, “You’re suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)!”

I replied, “No way! You’re crazy! I never was in the military and I never was in combat!”

Frank said, “You don’t have to be in combat to have PTSD.”

I said something like, “How can I have PTSD? There is no way I have PTSD.” I was dumbfounded.

Then Frank got really angry and said, “I was in Vietnam. I saw many guys who were in serious firefights and you have the same symptoms as they do.”

I didn’t know what to think. The Lord puts people in your path for a reason. Maybe I was meant to hear what he had to say.

Eventually, I quit hitchhiking through St. John, Kansas and started hitchhiking in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana more often.

In the spring and summer of 2008, I passed through St. John, Kansas and tried to look up the people that I knew back in 2002; most of them had moved away.

I sometimes think back on that conversation. There may have been some truth to what Frank had said. I do know that through Jesus is great redemption. Repentance from sin and forgiveness for other people’s trespasses are very powerful.

The moral of the story:

Don’t call a Vietnam Vet crazy and. . .

. . . Sometimes a blind man doesn’t know he is blind until someone tells him that he is blind.

[Originally published by Digihitch.com]

The Jerry Shey Family
Good Will Hunting:  It’s Not Your Fault
The Wild Truth by Carine McCandless
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Emotional Abuse
The Walking Wounded–PTSD from Ancient Greece to Afghanistan
Book Review:  The Walking Wounded:  The Path from Brokenness to Wholeness
Dostoyevsky on Cruelty of Man
Guernica Revisited
Feeling Overwhelmed:  it’s a PTSD thing

“His mind is broken. We broke it.” – The Bourne Supremacy (2004)

“Whoever has experienced the power and the unrestrained ability to humiliate another human being automatically loses his own sensations. Tyranny is a habit, it has its own organic life, it develops finally into a disease. The habit can kill and coarsen the very best man or woman to the level of a beast. Blood and power intoxicate … the return of the human dignity, repentance and regeneration becomes almost impossible.”

–Fyodor Dostoyevsky

“An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior.”
— Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl M.D., Ph.D., World War 2 Holocaust Survivor




14 responses to “A Conversation with a Vietnam Veteran

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  1. I appreciate that. I hesitate to mention PTSD to older folk b/c of the idea that only vets have it. Childhood abuse survivors never knew that it would be over someday. Never got any “r&r”…no safe place to run. Thank you.

    • I sometimes feel guilty mentioning I have Complex PTSD to people IRL because CPTSD is still controversial diagnosis and because my symptoms are so different than those experienced by people with the traditional flashbacks type of PTSD. Yet as my therapist who was treating me for Borderline PD said- BPD is just another way of saying CPTSD. And the abuse and trauma issues, plus my symptoms of mistrust, fear, shame, identity issues, self harm etc are very legitimate. I would worry people are thinking I’m jumping on a bandwagon.

    • Yes- I never knew when it would end or if I would survive another abusive incident when they happened. I really felt paralyzed by terror and hopelessness. Some of the abuse seems so minor compared to what others have gone through and yet I was a sensitive child/teen/young adult and for me even a raised voice would cause me fear. The physical incidences of abuse were rare, but the verbal/emotional stuff and threats of violence occurred often. My heart goes out to you abbiegrrl, The Road and others who have suffered.

  2. Hi, I don’t have “proper” PTSD with flashbacks etc, but I have something called Complex PTSD. My issues are to do with trust, shame social anxiety, generalized anxiety, OCD, self harm, eating disorder issues (obesity) feeling a need to change my identity/Don’t know who I am, addictions etc. It was caused by bullying at school when I was young and some other things I went through on an ongoing basis through childhood teens and adulthood. Someone had a word from God to me that I had PTSD- I pooh-poohed it. My diagnosis is Borderline Personality Disorder. Then my therapist for BPD told me that BPD is another way of saying Complex PTSD. Now things are much clearer since I started seeing it from that basis? God is doing a healing work in me bit by bit.

  3. I realise this is an old post and I hope you are in a stronger place now. God bless

  4. Reblogged this on Revista Creștină.

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  6. Thank you for sharing that difficult story about your life Tim. It’s not easy, but you made it through so far. Keep going.

  7. I meant to make the previous comment on the post about your family history.
    This is good insight into some of the facets of PTSD. It isn’t just war veterans. Thanks for sharing Tim.

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  9. I am here via Lady Quixote / Linda Lee of A Blog About Healing From PTSD.

    Thank you for your post. I hope you are doing well.

    Happy Valentine’s Day to you!

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  12. FIRST BLOOD – Sylvester Stallone

    My commentary on the film FIRST BLOOD (1982):

    Sylvester Stallone does a great job of portraying someone who is suffering from some serious battlefield trauma and the effects of torture. Look at his thousand-yard stare: classic PTSD. He serves his country in an unpopular war and comes home where people spit at him and call him “baby killer”. He goes through hell in Vietnam and is rejected by so many in his own country.

    The last scene with Colonel Trautman at the sheriff’s office where he is weeping before being taken into custody: a very powerful and moving scene. The war is not over for John Rambo. Painful memories persist. All of his friends are gone. A stranger in a strange land. I don’t know why Stallone did not get nominated for an Academy Award.

    “As George Orwell pointed out, people sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”

    –Richard Grenier

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