A Veteran Speaks to his Son

At the end of 2012 I received an email from a Vietnam veteran,  an ER physician, who had received my book, and wanted to order another one for his son.  Below is the string of emails back and forth.  I am so grateful that my story helped this veteran father share with his son after all these years.

Dear Quynn,

Your book appeared on my desk one day.

I just received treatment for PTSD which I thought I might have
mildly, until I became unable to practice as a physician in July
and suicidal in December, at which I went to the VA and they
secured a spot for me in the Six Week In-patient PTSD program
at the Memphis VA.

Four of the kindest people in the world there helped me see that
I’d actually been carrying a heavy load and I was OK.

I’m getting a divorce, final soon. I was angry all the time, isolated, all
the classic symptoms.  For some reason my ex-wife refuses to accept I
have PTSD, even though I was a rifleman for a full year with the
9th Infantry Division, have a Purple Heart, witnessed children
being killed. She says my deeper problem is a poor relationship
with my mother who admittedly was not a good person.

I tell her watching all your friends die, and children, is worse
than a bad mom but she just walks away.

I can never figure that out. Do you have any idea why she wouldn’t
want to believe I have PTSD?

I’m reading your book in little bits and doses (I already have a
copy, that’s how I knew to write you) because it is so powerful it’s
all I can stand.

Thanks for writing your exceptional book.

R,

Thank you for sharing a bit of your experience, and thank you for your kind words about my book. Maybe someone put the book on your desk because they thought you needed it. I have had books at the Memphis VA I think.
Regarding your wife’s feeling about your situation, I would imagine that there are issues that you might still have with your mother, who doesn’t? I find that all these issues can bundle together into a big knot, but once the PTSD is in the light, it can possibly be easier to see and understand any issues that were created during childhood.  Wives often have a very hard time of it in this situation, the hardest actually.  Just keep moving towards healing. I mentioned this issue (divorce) in my book. “Everyone has a place, even if it isn’t with you.”
I am curious, when did you serve?

Thank you for reaching out,

 

Quynn,

I was with E/6/31st in the 9th Inf. Div. from April 1968 to 12/68,
and then C/4/47th in the Mobile Riverine Force of the 9th 12/68-4/5/69.

I happily give you permission to use any or all of what I said.

I sent a copy of your book to my son and then had a
nearly two hour talk with him last week, first I’ve talked with him since June 2011.
He’s a junior in HS so had a front row seat to see my anger and isolationism and it occurred to me
after reading your book that he probably didn’t know I had five
entrance and exit holes in my helmet or that I witnessed children
being executed by the VC or that I think I’m the only guy from my
squad to survive.

He didn’t. He just knew I’d been wounded.

I told him I didn’t expect him to forgive me but that knowing the
horrific things that happened to me might give him some under-
standing, which sometimes helps a bit.

Oddly enough, seeing those children killed didn’t harden my
heart exactly, although it put me on the other side of a glass wall,
the rest of the world being on the other. But it did make me really
good with caring for children as patients, and various nurses have
told me  I should have been a pediatrician, and as an ER doc I
have saved the lives of a few kids who were in the final stages of
dying which isn’t as easy as it sounds, believe me.

So maybe those awful incidents helped in a way.

I really owe you so much for your book, as I never would have
talked with him had it not been for your book.

Thank you.

Anonymous, MD

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