"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

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Larry Hansen: Facing Fear, Finding Courage

We all have an inner voice, our own personal whisper from God, maybe even the universe. All we have to do is listen, and feel, and sense it with an open heart. Sometimes it whispers of intuition or precognition. Other times, it whispers a remembrance, that we carry with us for a long time.

Everyone loves a story with a happy ending. It gives us a sense of hope, a sense that something bigger is going on than what we can see or imagine. This is one of those stories and it's beginning and end, span forty-five years. It's a story about brotherhood, love and loyalty, but most of all, courage. I'm only the writer who brings it to you. The story belongs to my friend, Vietnam veteran, Larry Hansen:

Larry Hansen:
Hey brothers, I need your input. Robert, my friend, and I landed in country on November 23, 1967. On July 9, of '68, my best friend died in my arms. Before he died, he asked me to go see his sisters, and two brothers. I was to tell them what happened.

When I came home, I started out for their parish in Louisiana, several times. Each time, I talked myself out of it. What would I say? How would I explain me being alive?

I was a terrible drunk in those early days. No drug could pass me by. Time grew and the promise I made from the past has landed to bite me in the ass. Somehow Robert's youngest sister has located me and she wants answers. I'm afraid! I was awake and crying all last night, remembering that horrible day. Now I have to go through that hell all over again. I will not tell them how he suffered for thirty minutes in pain.

All I want to know is, by agreeing to go see them, will it end the loss? Will it ease their pain? Will it bring some ending to my hell of remembering that day, every July? Thanks brothers for your time. It's not a new story, and I aint the only one to live it. I've feared this day, and I thought time would lessen their need to search. I do think I'll tell them that no Marine ever loved his family, country, and God more than Robert did. Thanks for being here.

John Wagner:
Hang in there Larry, and do whatever is best for you. Robert wouldn't want you to do anything that would bring you more pain.

Dave Ramsey:
Larry, I think it will be hell at first but you have walked in hell for years with this hanging over you. The family will thank you for what you do and so would Robert. I think it will be good to tell them he was your friend and how you cared for him till the end. In war some live, some don't, you have nothing to be ashamed of Brother. Mount up and finish the job. You will do just fine. Semper Fi.

Doug Meyer:
I ve been in touch for years with my friend's older sister. We met a few years back. We both cried, and some kinda healing happened to her that day. And it was good. We stay in touch to this day. And the coolest thing was, I saw Tom in her eyes, in her facial being. It was a powerful thing. But of course, some things were never mentioned. She just happened to know what questions to not ask. Good Luck Brother.

Patrick Flynn:
Hi Larry. That's a hard one for sure. I was in the Vietnam War, two tours, not by choice. Anyway, three weeks before I got shot in my leg, a broken ankle, my friend was killed and at the time I was shot I was a door gunner. When I found out he was dead I cried my eyes out. I knew a Colonel I worked with a lot and asked him since this was my close friend, would it be okay to deliver his letter in person to his mom and dad.

He said, "Paddy are you up to doing this?"

I said, "Yes Sir, because he would want me do that for him and his Parents."

I got home the next day. I stayed with mom and dad. I asked dad, "Can I use your car?" He never asked why. I put my uniform on and went to their house with my leg in a cast. In my head I knew what to do. I have to say it was the longest drive. It was really only about 30 minutes, but it seemed like an hour. I went to their driveway, opened the car door and smoked about five cigs before I walked up to the door. His mom looked at me and we both started crying . She already knew. I told her things we did in country and how he would always be my best friend.

I know sometimes closure is best. I am still friends with his family. His mom and dad are both dead now. I'd do it all over again. I should have been dead too I'm sure. I know my mission now is to help other Vets. I was drunk for a long time, but I've been sober now for seven years. In your heart Larry, you know what's best. You don't have get into details unless you want to.

Larry Hanson:
Brothers, thanks for the lift. I spent a couple hours on the horn talking to Robert's younger sister. She has a way of making a body feel at ease. Funny, but she's just as he discribed her to be. They are coming up here next month. God, I wished it were done.

Well, the only thing to do is square my shit away, and lock an load. The thing that hurts the most is that I let Robert down. Being "better late than never", just don't cut the mustard. Putting it off for 44 years has one problem. It's closure for his sisters and brothers, but it's too late for his mother.

Robert trusted me to do a job, and I pussied out. Now, the one and most important person that I should have been up front with passed on. What a coward I am. So damn concerned about hiding, staying drunk for twenty years had its price. I just can't help knowing that I failed as Robert's bro.

Today, I have a lot of owning up, apologizing for me, and hoping they will forgive and understand. Back home in the hills of Tennessee my ol' mamaw would say. " If'n your gonna dance, you gotta pay the piper." Well she's right about that. Again, all we got at times like this is each other. Or as Billy Joel sang, "We held on to each other, as brother to brother." Thanks you've all been top notch.

CJ Heck:
You didn't fail anyone, Larry. You're not a coward, and you did not let Robert down. Survivors guilt is a heavy burden. We do what we can do; we face what we can face, and we bury the rest, thinking that it will stay buried. Then, years later it comes up to bite us in the you-know-what.  When we bury it, the only person we're letting down is ourselves.  What's helped me more than anything is the veterans who contributed to my blog, and those I've met through VIETNAM VETS. The key to healing, the key to recovery, is through each other and through sharing, whether it's talking, or writing the words on paper and seeing them there.

Dave Ramsey:
Most of us vets are like an old '56 Chevy, banged up, uses too much gas and oil, plus it smokes like crazy, still, we can't let it go. It has too many memories. We find ourself sitting in the worn out seat all by ourself with a ton of memories that only we know. Truth be known, if we would send it to the body shop for a make over it will fetch a price greater than any Lexus. It's value would skyrocket.

With a little help from their friends a Veteran would be the same way. A war veteran is the most valuable thing in America. We served our country in a time of need and came out a little banged up, but we came out. Our hair may be gray, we don't run as fast but, by God, we're here, standing tall.

Jerry Lamb:
It will be a tough pill to swallow and you already have swallowed your share. It was suggested to me a long time ago that, "This too shall pass", along with, "One day at A Time". My thoughts along with all those who read your posting will be with you at this time! Welcome Home Brother! And Remember, Only You can tell the Family How Brave He Was!

Larry Hansen:
CJ, Dave, I want to thank you for the words of widom. Maybe, just maybe, the trust we instilled in each other really is strong. Funny after all the years have gone by, I know that I don't stand alone. In the broader picture I couldn't find that safety area. I fought everybody every step I took. What I couldn't deal with I just walked away from.

CJ, I threw away 3 good marriages with my eyes shut, and pitching with both arms. Ten years ago, I crawled out from the bottle, and have not looked back. Today I will have a few beers, but no more whiskey.
Thanks Dave for getting me out. You have no idea just what your words have meant to me. Stay tight. CJ I do so want to express my deepest words of comfort for your loss. It seems we have our cherished ones with us, but for a short time. Hold on to the memories, they will get you through the rough times. They have me, now more so than then. Love you all! Gotta go to the VA. It's treatment day, and the radiation waits for no one.

CJ Heck:
Thank you, Larry. I also thank everyone else for not booting me out of the group because I'm not a veteran. I want you to know that it helps, being here, talking with you, listening to you, and if I can give anything back, even be a sounding board, I'm here if you need me. In trying to find people who served with Doug, even on the day he was KIA, I used to be frustrated no one would talk to me, but now I understand WHY. Listening to you men talk about how hard it is to do exactly that has opened my eyes. Now I can wait patiently until these men are ready to talk to "Doc"s widow. Thank you all for that.

Dave Ramsey:
As far as I'm concerned a widow is very much a part of any Veterans Group. I can only imagine the knock on the door ...then facing the life ahead with the never ending pain. The love I have for my wife is great. I could never stand to see her hurt. My wife keeps our life in balance with her tenderness. I guess you can say she's the heart, I'm the ass. Anyway, she calls me that sometimes, but she's forgiven.

Patrick Flynn:
I am married to the love my life. I am not sure why she stayed with me 38 years. Her name is Anna Marie and I love her very much. I am blessed.

CJ Heck:
She is blessed, too, Patrick.

Patrick Flynn:
Thank you. CJ Heck I say you're welcome in my group anytime. Thanks for caring. I hope you find who you looking for. God Bless you.

Larry Hansen:
CJ , welcome to our piece of hell they call "the world". I'm rather tired out, must be the radiation. Its a long slow road, and it leads to your typical combat veteran. Your slowly working your way out of "the newbie". It's our protective shield, sort of seeing what your made of. From where I sit, you'll do. Soon it'll be, "Hey, whats going on?" Trust, mutual respect, and your heart is all thats required. Yes, CJ, I believe you're doing just fine. We all love and respect you, for the cut of the cloth.

Your search has brought you almost full circle. That you have a true heart in your quest not to let your "Doc" fade away. In that quest you found that little piece off in a small corner of this world. To me and others what you began was a journey into the true Docs, whether they were called Doc, Corpsman, or medic.
They were a very special people to us. Someone who we could confide in and, no, it won't go anywhere else. He tended our wounds, gave us his all. Even if that all was to lay down his life. They were life savers! 

We all have our Doc, and thanks to all your efforts we remember them through yours. Hun, you ARE one of the people who is genuine. Bless you for your giving of yourself to us. It is a far better world for me anyway that you traveled the road that led to us. "When you are tired lay upon my bed, and I will give you peace. When you're hungry and thirsty then sit. I shall share my meager meal with you. Come drink for the water is mountain stream cold. When the load your carrying gets to be a burden, you need not worry. Your back is covered too by any and all. Bless your loving devoted heart, and soul CJ Heck. You are a Florence nightingale. Love ya.

Patrick Flynn: 
I would like to invite all to join another great group, called Veterans of Vietnam and Other Wars. We are 64 strong and need more. And Larry, I know, my friend. Please call 1-800-273-8255 and press #1 for veterans. I am always here for you guys and include women in our lives. Don't forget our families and friends suffer too. You know, for a lot of years I thought my name was asshole, so I always said, "That's MR. Asshole." I found I was not an asshole. I have PTSD.

Philip L. Richards:
Larry, I feel the pain, but look at the load you have carried all these years. It is tiring and debilitating. I try to live a simple life and by only a few rules. Consider how you would want to be treated if you were on the other side. The answer is in front of you. I sense you too are a simple-minded man and I believe you will find peace during this portion of your journey through life. Just a few to share with you: Truth is relative to what the other is willing to believe. Actions speak louder than words. The golden rule with infinite facets that help lead the way. I hope you find some peace and God be with you.

Ann Proffitt:
Larry, I am praying for you and for all the Nam vets. God bless you and I hope you get better. X

Larry Hansen:
I promised you that when I spoke to Robert's family I'd tell you. Well, I left early Tuesday for Norman, Oklahoma, thanks to my nephew, and a cesna. I met Robert's three sisters and a brother. I explained about his death, but not in great detail. It brought them to tears, but also closure.

I apologized for taking 43 years to do this. I went on to explain about my being a coward and not fulfilling my promise. They understood, which did make me feel better. At the cemetery the family left me alone with Robert. While I sat there, a strange thing happened. I caught the strong scent of peppermint candy, like what he used to eat. As I talked about that day so long ago, I began to cry. It was then that I had a feeling of not being alone. A feeling of calm came over me then, and I felt his presense. For some reason I understand now that his death wasn't my fault. Thanks to all who encouraged me to go through with this. I found peace at last after all these years. I'll never forget my best friend. Rest in peace bro, I shall never forget you. Thank you all!

[A Personal Note:  What I've learned through Larry's story is this:  A person is not a coward, if they are afraid.  It's all about facing our fear and finding the courage to do something that's difficult.  

When soldiers go to war, they have to overcome tremendous fear.  They do this by replacing the fear with tremendous courage.  When they return home, that same fear is still buried, where it festers for years, surfacing through night terrors and PTSD.  

The healing can only begin when those fears are faced, again with tremendous courage.  What then comes is acceptance, a renewed feeling of self-worth, and a realization that the fear does not own us -- it brings us peace.]

“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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  1. Larry,
    You are not a coward, but a brave man. You have nothing to be ashamed of. You had a mission, you've completed that mission.
    I posted a story on Memoirs (CJ's site) a year or so ago about my mission of going to the Wall in DC and the experience I felt after touching a friends name.
    We heal in our own way. Some wounds heal immediately, others take time, but we do heal. Memories linger, pain can be overcome, but this is what makes us (American Veterans and their Families) who we are. Welcome home Larry, Welcome home everyone.
    Thank you CJ for the "Porthole" to let us get together, chat, post, remember and heal.
    Craig Latham
    Combat Writer and Photographer
    101st Airborne Div. (Ambl)
    Phu Bai

  2. If you are the Larry Hanson who fought with me on Hill 467 with the 4th Infantry...please make contact. I was the acting CO of B/1/8.


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