Vietnam Vets returned in ones, two and threes to the cities and towns across America, still filled with misery over what they had seen and felt a continent away. Little time to re-integrate into society, many were thrust back into civilian life to wend their own way through a system that had damn near discarded them, now that their active duty was over.
Bearing the scars of war, internally, externally or both came at a terrible price. Sure, the external scars were lots easier to see. Those could be treated, and maybe even healed a bit over time. But what about the scars that couldn't be seen? The suicide rate and divorce rates for Vietnam Vets has been publicized to be higher than the national averages. I don't believe all the data because every study seems skewed based on different data sets. But I do know that a major reason is because nobody thought much about Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and how to treat it effectively. The "get over it" logic and the macho willingness to "hide it deep" gave way to the inability to keep it bottled up, and it manifested itself in numerous ways, none good. The DOD was putting people back in civilian life without adequate medical screening, the VA didn't have adequate mental health programs to diagnose and treat PTSD, and many veterans found it shameful to admit they had a problem. As a result, a good number turned to drugs and alcohol to mask their actual illness, a disease which should have fallen on the shoulders of the military and the VA to treat effectively.
You can't blame the warriors for turning to solace wherever they found it. When your mind is ravaged, nobody is helping, and red tape is wrapping around your every move, the vices are said to cut the pain and dull the senses. To each his or her own I suppose!
Things have turned the corner for the newer veterans of the latest wars and conflicts. Better diagnosis and treatments, which helps us all. Some Vietnam Vets still feel left out in the cold, as the newer vets are pushed to the front of the line, while the older vets remain queued somewhere awaiting adjudication of their cases, benefits and, sometimes I am told, treatments. That is patently unfair. While we all wish the newest breed of warrior the best in their quest for fairness in obtaining their just benefits, the "front of the line" logic has many of the older vets concerned that as they get older, their conditions will worsen before they receive the benefits they are due. I can't argue with that logic either. Many with conditions related to Agent Orange have died before the VA finally admitted that AO was a cause of their illness. Didn't help them any to have that found posthumously. The 1991 Persian Gulf Vets were hearing the same about Depleted Uranium and Gulf War Syndrome/Illness. It took until 2008 for that to be admitted as an issue!
In any case, I want to wish all my brothers and sisters a very hearty
and thank you for your service. And to all vets and active duty out there, thank you for your service as well. You and I know where the real American spirit is. And it isn't in Washington or in a newsroom or Hollywood stage. It's in the heart of every American service man and woman and their families.
God Bless and Be Safe.