We had just transferred a few UH34 choppers up north to Hue, from our headquarters down at Da Nang. That morning we were flying huge bags of rice out to some village.
After my discharge, I was like most young men coming home from Vietnam. We all had our bad habits and mine was excessive drinking. Being young and bullet proof, I thought that was the perfect way to spend my paychecks.
Finally, I slowly brought myself to the reality that if I ever wanted anything in life, it would require a lot less drinking and a lot more working.
The transformation wasn’t easy, but soon I was working twelve to fourteen hours a day, sometimes six days a week. By then I had married and we had two beautiful children. It’s sad to acknowledge, but my family took second place after my work. I would never mention Vietnam at my workplace and very little was said in my family circle.
The years rapidly went by and I began to slow down, forty-two years, to be exact.
One particular day at work, one of our customers was wearing a vest and cap with Vietnam patches on just about every square inch. For some odd reason, we struck up a conversation, during which we shared where we had been in country. He had been in the Army and I had been in the Marine Corp.
At that time, he was the Commander of the local VFW. The conversation turned to Agent Orange and to be honest, I knew very little about that deadly chemical. I only knew our squadron had two choppers equipped with tanks and we sprayed on several occasions.
Soon he started questioning me about the symptoms associated with Agent Orange. I think the first question was about Diabetes and sure enough, I had been diagnosed with Diabetes just a few years prior. He said the VFW was holding a workshop in our area a couple of weeks away and he insisted that I attend, which I did.
It didn’t take long, with the VFW's help, for the Veterans Administration to approve the Diabetes claim. During this time I began to explore other areas in my life.
Like I said, I had never mentioned Vietnam, wishing instead to put it a safe distance behind me. Little did I know Vietnam was living deep in my subconscious and I refused to accept that fact. As I began to slow down, those memories became more and more vivid. During those many years, I had many strange and crazy dreams, but I brushed them away because I had a duty to my work.
One day I had a regular appointment at the VA Clinic. Out of the blue, the primary doctor requested that I see a psychiatrist at the clinic. Believe me, I was astonished as to why. He was seeing something that I had refused to accept. So, after many questions, I agreed to go.
As I started writing, I did as she instructed. I gave him a proper first name. I selected the name Dong, because I will always remember the Vietnamese money (Dong). A few days later, I finished writing the story and stored it away.
I hope over time, I’m able to finish other stories of the late night dreams. Maybe I can put to rest other demons. Maybe this will also work for you ...
C David Ramsey
“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