We don't talk much on any of the Vietnam related lists I am on about the loved ones we left behind. And, maybe we should.
My wife is a very private person, and maybe would be a bit put out by my relating this. My being in Vietnam was extremely hard on her. She had seen war up close and personnel when she was a little girl, and is a survivor of the Holocaust. She had lived for over 20 years with PTSD, although we didn't know what it was. Her mother relived WWII every night, everyday, until she passed on about 10 years ago. (saint's note: written in 1999)
When I left for Vietnam, she was six weeks pregnant with our second child, about a year after we had lost one through miscarriage. Many years after I returned, my oldest son told me that he remembers his mother crying herself to sleep every night.
We stayed in Germany for a few days before heading for Ft Belvoir. My second day home, she took me down to AFN Kaiserslautern to introduce me to the staff. Turns out she kept glued to the radio, listening to them go into great detail about fighting up on the DMZ, in Hue, in II Corps, in II Corps, in Saigon. Then they would say fighting continues in the Delta, and she would call asking for exact locations. I know what was going on with me, and as the circumstances were, I was in a fairly safe location, with only a few times of being the target of the enemy. But, she didn't know that, and a couple of years ago when I asked why she didn't want to go to Angel Fire, to the Vietnam Memorial there, she said she didn't want to be reminded of the year she wondered if John would ever see his Dad.
Because I was no longer a member of NATO, she was no longer authorized to shop in the Commissary and PX. She did, without a ration card, which wasn't too bad. We moved out of quarters in Vogelweh to a new four flat house that had been built by a sixty year old German sugar daddy for his 20 something wife. They rented out to four American families, and Liliane had one of the bottom flats. Above her was a Air Force major and his wife. Liliane told me that this woman turned her into the German Police for unauthorized use of the commissary and PX.
Seems, that shortly after John was born, came that dreaded German Police knock on the door. Liliane opened it, crying baby in her arms, barking dog, and whining 7 year old, and asked the cop what he wanted. He said he was from the customs police and had a report she was buying in the commissary, which was against the law. Liliane turned on the water works, and the cop, who had some compassion, told her to come down to his office when she had the time. Customs asked her to estimate how much she had spent in the commissary, and assessed her something like ten percent for tax. And she had to save her receipts, and take them down once a month, to make a payment. The major's wife tried to tell me how "good" she had been towards Liliane; and knowing the above, I let her have it with both barrels.
Years later, our oldest son adopted anti-government, anti-military, anti-Vietnam ideas, and we had some violent arguments because I took it personally. Even though we now have a truce, the wounds inflicted haven't healed.
I stayed on active duty for three years after returning, and then went to Germany as a civilian, working for the Army in Mainz, Baumholder, and Frankfurt; and serving in an active reserve slot. Even with all the military around, I never mentioned Vietnam.
Throughout the years, I have not been able to watch any of the Vietnam war movies, nor look at anything associated with Vietnam on television, nor read any book or magazine article about Vietnam.
I don't think I have PTSD, but I want to head for cover anytime anything is dropped in the house, or I hear a bang outside.
About ten years ago, one of the employees at the Pueblo Depot Activity, took orders for ball caps with Vietnam above the bill. I bought one, then felt self conscious wearing it. Still, I did not talk to anyone about Nam.
A few years ago, we were driving highway 64 from Raton, New Mexico, to Taos. I saw a sign that said DAV Vietnam Memorial, so many miles ahead. I figured it was a bronze plaque of some sort. Then we drove by the entrance, and continued on down the road, until I glanced to my right and saw that magnificent monument on the hill. Slamming on the breaks, I made a U-turn, and we went in. I didn't notice my wife walking in and out in a hurry. After we left, there were no more thoughts or feeling about Vietnam until I got on the internet in June, 1995.
Then, just browsing around, I came across AWV on the web, read some stuff, and responded to something I read. Then, a complete stranger suggested that I belonged on one of the Vietnam lists, and one led to another to another, etc.
I have a few more final thoughts about Vietnam, which I will relate in a day or two.