"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, September 30, 2014

A Different War, A Changed World: by James Hathorn

PTSD and War

[This post was left as a comment on The Last Road, a Vietnam Vet's Perspective, written by Vietnam veteran, Michael Lansford, on July 9, 2014. 

I felt this was a significant article, one that should be its own post, because James speaks for all Vietnam veterans here. --CJ]

In reading Michael Lansford's writings, I find them to be powerful in their reach into our minds and souls, as best as words are able.

Often, I think about not only what Vietnam was like for me, but what other wars must have been like for other American soldiers. Then I wonder whether I am being arrogant, to think that our war was different from any other war. To me, the most obvious difference was not about how we went off to war, but how it was for us when we came back home. 

In no other war that I know of throughout history did the people who stayed home resent those who went to fight. The reason for the war is not important, in terms of the effect on the soldiers. All wars have horrors, casualties, and death. We all had them and it lived inside us then, lives in us now, and it will be there forever.

One twenty-three hour ride on a TWA jet airliner and our world was changed forever. The time there was a blink of an eye. The time since then has been an eternity.

I am a disabled veteran. I did not even apply for benefits until forty some years after returning from Vietnam. My injuries were numerous, both physical and mental. The mental one has been the most insufferable. I did not believe in post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and I did not apply for that disability. My VSO (Veteran's Service Officer) suggested that I apply for PTSD. The VA scheduled me for a psych eval.

At the interview, I was asked a lot of questions, some related to Vietnam and my injuries, and some related to civilian life, before and after. The one question the psychiatrist asked that hit me hardest was, "What event do you feel contributed most to your anxiety over your time in the war?" 

I had to think for a minute. Then it suddenly dawned on me that the trouble I have had for years in interpersonal relationships, social interaction, sleeplessness, etc., were not due to my two tours in country, but the stark and explosive consciousness at the Sea Tac airport, when I came home and the months that followed.

Anti-war Protesters
In Vietnam, I was with real brothers.

As I stepped into the entrance area of the airport, it was like a different country from the one I left almost two years earlier. There were dirty people in robes carrying signs telling us we were killers and war mongering trash.

That complete culture shock was what caused me the most pain since the war. That pain is still with me, but I don't think it is just with me, but in America as well.

Those war protesters and draft dodgers are now a majority and they are running the country. They have changed America from the home we fought for into the ideology we fought against.

To get to my point, I was at 100% disability before being diagnosed with PTSD, but once I was diagnosed with it, I wanted to know what the psychological evaluation actually said. I filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for a release of the information.

The report did not state specifically why I was diagnosed, but I think the sum of all things up to, and including, my return to the "World" are what caused our war to be different from those wars, before and since.

The mental pain of rejection for doing the right thing and being denigrated for it has changed us Vietnam vets in a way the rest of our country cannot ever understand. We struggle to try to explain it in words; however, the only thing that results is that people hear what we say, but they cannot feel what we say. It is important that our people understand, so it does not happen again.

I think I know what Michael feels and what it is that drives him to write. He has a talent for getting as close as anyone can to putting that whole time and place into words ... 

James Hathorn

James Hathorn
Sgt. U.S. Air Force
November 1966 – July 1968
Cam Ranh Bay, South Vietnam

Armament & Electronics,
Weapons Control Systems
F4C-F4E Phantom fighter bomber

E-mail James

Also by James Hathorn:

Homeland Militia Survey

“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. Thanks James for all your thoughts about our world. Your thoughts as well as mine speak for us all. I too came through Sea Tac I encountered the same people. What a shock it was to leave one nightmare just to walk into another more cruel one that still stings to this day. To me, none of them earned the right to do or say anything to & about us. At times I wonder how their lives turned out. Did they really make a difference for our country? Probably not. Now all these years later we as Vets are opening up more but haven't heard a thing from any protesters. If they were so adamant about their cause & were against us so much why haven't they continued their quest to do & be all they claimed to be? Thanks for reading what I've written. Your words speak volumes also for us all as I said. My deepest respect to you my friend. Thanks for ALL you did also. Never forgotten, ever.

  2. yep, same fealings ,glad I just overcame & strived on ! n [family, business & life]

    Later Dee [815th/102nd Cbt Eng 75th Ranger US Army Rt. ]


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