"Sharing can be a way of healing. Grief and loss can isolate,
anger even alienate. Shared with others, emotions unite
as we see we aren't alone. We realize others weep with us."
~Susan Wittig Albert

Through our writing, we walk out of the darkness into the light
together, one small step at a time, recording history, educating
America, and we are healing.
~CJ/Todd Dierdorff

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Children's Poem: "Daddy's Boots"

Will James' Dad

As many of you know, my son-in-law is a Marine Force Recon sniper. He has nearly seventeen years in now and will be leaving soon for yet another deployment, somewhere.

I wrote this poem for his oldest son, Will James, when he was about seven, because he had such a difficult time whenever his dad was away.

Will James is now sixteen, but he still has the poem in a frame on his dresser.

It doesn't matter where the conflict is, or when. War is war and it's difficult for everyone, but it's always hardest on the children ... 

Daddy's Boots
by CJ Heck

Daddy left his boots for me 
and here I have to stay. 
My daddy is a soldier. 
I’m in charge while he’s away. 

In Daddy’s boots, I can pretend 
that now I am the man 
who does the things that Daddy does 
as only Daddy can. 

I help with little brother, 
I help with folding clothes, 
I help to take the trash out, 
and I hope Daddy knows 

that every day I wear his boots 
so I’ll feel close to him
and I try to keep Mom happy, 
till he comes home again. 

I know that he’s protecting us, 
that’s what soldiers do, 
but his boots are way too big for me 
and my job, being him, is too. 

I wonder when he's coming home. 
I miss him ALL the time. 
Mom said Dad is proud of me 
and his boots fit me ... just fine.

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Feel free to comment on this post. You are also invited to write about anything you feel comfortable sharing. Memoirs From Nam is YOUR blog. You are writing America's history, sharing the truth about the Vietnam veteran, and what it was like in Our War.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

1971: Craig Latham

Today, I'm sharing a story, using Mr. Peabody's "Wayback Machine" (remember the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show?).  It's a newspaper article from 1971, featuring an interview The Coshocton Tribune (Coshocton, Ohio) did with U.S. Army News Correspondent, Craig Latham.  Craig, as you know, is a regular contributor here at Memoirs.

Craig Latham
Coshocton Tribune, Sunday, September 5, 1971:

Craig Latham, son of Mr. and Mrs. Gerald Latham of Hay Avenue, has just returned from a year's duty in Vietnam. While there, he was stationed at Phu Bai, where he served as an Army news correspondent in the public information division.

In an exclusive interview with The Tribune, Craig noted that much of his writing in Vietnam was done from the human interest angle.  "Giving the guys something to laugh about," Craig stated. "And, contrary to popular belief," he added, "there are funny things happening over there."

He recalled an incident he wrote about concerning the men getting soft drinks and beer as often as possible. "The drinks are brought by helicopter and they try to keep them as cold as possible." Craig volunteered. "One of the fellows could never find a can opener and, by the time he did, the drink was usually warm. 

 So, he wrote to two of the top breweries and asked them for a can opener. One of them sent 10,000, and the other one, 7,000. He wrote and thanked each of them and mentioned to the one that sent 7,000, that the other brewery had outdone them. They promptly sent 10,000 more. Then the guy had 27,000 can openers, which of course he didn't really need. 

 He put up a sign telling the other fellows to "help themselves". As it turned out, the next time the soft drinks and beer were delivered, the fellow had forgotten to keep one of the openers for himself and he still didn't have one."

Craig's articles appeared in The Stars and Stripes as well as his Division's newspaper, which was put out every two weeks and consisted of six pages.  "Naturally, the material is censored before it is published," Craig pointed out.

He feels the men in the field at Vietnam have a good morale and they laugh at the students back here who are always demonstrating against the war. They don't really let it bother them.  "Drugs are probably the worst problem over there. Marijuana grows right along the road. Thefts are another problem. The youngsters steal from the soldiers something awful, then, of course, the guys can buy the same things back from the black market for a lot more than it's worth." Craig said.

The temperature was about 95 degrees the evening he left and he didn't seem to mind the heat as much as the rain, noting it had rained for five straight months while he was there. The rain didn't last all day, but during those five months there there were one or two showers daily, which caused flooding.

Bob Hope in Vietnam
He was privileged to sit on the stage during Bob Hope's performance in Vietnam and he did a story on actress Mamie Van Doren. Shortly before his departure for home, he mentioned that Miss America and six other young women were visiting the various bases. 

When asked if the boys became involved with the civilians, Craig said, "Yes." He particularly emphasized the fact that the guys aid the orphanages and contribute to them. They also asked their folks to send them things for the children.

Craig is a 1968 graduate of Coshocton High School and attended Kent State University for one year, before volunteering for the military. In February, 1970, he was inducted and took his basic training at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, followed by a course in journalism and photography at Indianapolis, Indiana.

Following his discharge, which is due in February of 1972, he feels he would like to stay in newspaper work, especially now that he has the training for it and enjoys it.   His actual start with newspapers came about some years ago when he was a Tribune carrier boy.

His family was elated to have him home and actually rolled out the red carpet and had signs decorating their home to let him know just how glad they were.  Craig has two sisters, Bonnie and Mary, who live at home. His mother and dad are both employed by Shaw-Barton. And, of course, there is a girl in his life, Jeanne Zolar, who is a student at Kent State with three more terms between her and gradation.

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Dr. Harry Croft: PTSD

My name is Dr. Harry Croft. I am a psychiatrist in private practice since 1973 in San Antonio Texas and co-author of the new book, I Always Sit with My Back to the Wall.  The aim of this post is to give you some insight into my interest in writing about combat related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The Beginnings of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
I came to San Antonio in 1973 to serve in the US Army Medical Corps at Ft. Sam Houston.  I was the medical director of the Army’s drug and alcohol program on post. It was towards the end of the Vietnam conflict and we never lacked for soldiers to occupy our treatment beds
Almost without exception the soldiers we treated for their dependence or abuse of alcohol, heroin, marijuana or other drugs of abuse also had symptoms we now know to be part of PTSD.  But in 1973 there was no name for this disorder – the name PTSD did not come into being until 1980, five years after Vietnam conflict ended.  We had little clue about how to help these young men and women other than to treat their substance abuse.  

As a physician, I did what I was told to do, advised those with symptoms of anger, social withdrawal, increased startle responses and vigilance and other PTSD symptoms to get friends, get a family, get a job, stop being angry all the time, get a grip – get a life!  This was advice I knew was inadequate, but we had little else to offer for the PTSD symptoms.

My Formal Work in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
About 10 years ago I got the opportunity through a company contracting with Veteran’s Affairs (the VA) to perform disability exams on those suffering from PTSD. In addition to gathering the information needed to write the reports required, I began to really listen to what these vets (and often their spouses or children) had to tell me. How for years they talked to no one about their experiences in Nam, or their symptoms.  Many had gone to the VA in the 1970s or 1980s and felt shunned by the system and decided to never go back there again.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Survivors Speak Out
As I heard the stories and symptoms experienced by the vets in my office many of the spouses and family members were hearing these stories for the very first time. Most of those with PTSD don’t like to talk about their combat experiences, but those returning from Nam had another issue – the country had turned not only on the war, but on the vets themselves. In uniform, I, myself, was called baby killer, monster and worse.
As I spoke with the Veterans I evaluated I heard over and over:

“You know I took all my medals and military paraphernalia – put them in a shoe box high up in my closet and decided I would never look at them again.”

After talking to me during the evaluation, many decided they would actually get the box down and share their experiences with others, including their family members.

The Beginnings of I Always Sit with my Back to the Wall
I realized from the evaluations the need of these veterans and their families for good, useful, and hopeful information about their condition, and began writing a short paper that I would give out. The response was heartwarming – for the first time vets and their families understood why did and felt the things they did.

We talk about PTSD as if everyone understands it, but my experiences with more than 7000 vets over the past 10 years has convinced me that there is a crying need for more comprehensive and encouraging information about PTSD and how to deal with it. I Always Sit with My Back to the Wall is the outgrowth of the recognition of this need.

I am honored to have served, talked to vets and family members, and to have written the book.

Harry Croft, MD
Author, I Always Sit with My Back to the Wall, available through our website and Amazon.com.  Find me on Facebook and Twitter.

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

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