"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

Friday, February 13, 2015

War Reinvents You: by Jeff Yarger

Jeff Yarger
Michael Lansford's The Demons From War was very well written. There were lots of thoughts and memories evoked and revived in my mind.

When l first got in country, a few days after turning eighteen, l realized that those l'd been thrown in with were ... well, crazy ... sort of immoral, compared to how l'd been raised. 

That scared me bad, because l'd come up a little different ... harder, more street wise, and maybe just a little tougher than most.

Then as days turned to weeks, l emulated and copied those around me, trying to learn everything they'd learned. 

Soon l also realized that if l wanted to survive, l was going to have to become just like them. That realization scared me even more.

One had to forsake the teaching and values of their youth, become tougher, meaner, and more cunning than those trying to kill you. All for the sake of survival, you quit thinking as you once had.

Many things in your life lost their meaning. You became hard and, in ways, insolent and uncaring. You learned to become as devoid of normal feelings as possible, (or tried to, anyway).  You wanted to care, but you couldn't allow yourself that luxury. You learned that man was no more than an intelligent species of animal and, like all animals, willing to do most anything to survive.

As weeks turned to months, those who'd been killed, wounded, or left, were replaced with new guys that were as dumb as you'd once been. 

Soon, every firefight, ambush, and operation became blurred in your mind and all of it blended into one nebulous event. Most things became so obscured, to the point that you weren't even sure they'd happened, yet when you looked around for those once there, you knew that it was all too real.

Actually, if you were single, it was a very simple way of life. You carried most everything you owned and lived wherever you were. Your clothes, food, medicine ... everything needed to survive was provided. You had nothing to worry about, except staying alive. If you failed at that, all the other things didn't matter anyway.  Then, what you had never allowed yourself to believe in, became real.

In twenty-four hours, or less, you were home, but home wasn't there for you. Home, was as maddening as the war once had been. Everything and everybody had changed so much. In time, you came to realize that everything was the same, but you had changed. You wanted even some small semblance of your old life back, but it always seemed just out of reach.

To worsen matters, you realized that in an insane way, you missed the war that you'd hated so much. At the same time, those around you tried to make you feel guilty for where you'd been and what you'd done, when they didn't even know what you'd done. 

In actuality, you did feel guilty, but not for the same reasons. You felt as though you deserted the friends you'd left behind, and felt even worse when you realized that you had liked the adrenaline rush of combat and the camaraderie of war.
Then you go to your next duty station, hoping it will be better. Once again, you were back to weekly hair cuts, shined boots, starched uniforms and war games. It was different, but still not right. It was as if you would never fit in anywhere.

Many of those with you had no idea what you had been through and didn't care. You talk to others just returning and band with them. But they have no answers, because they all felt the same as you.

Finally, in desperation I came to a decision. I just couldn't handle the world around me and I knew what I had to do (at least in my case). After putting in the paperwork, (DD Form 1049), l waited. Weeks later, l was feeling somewhat normal ... back in Nam and starting all over again!

Sorry the above comment turned out to be so long. As is often the case when l write, the thoughts just keep coming ...

Jeff Yarger
United States Army, Retired
Disabled Vietnam Veteran 
1969 to 1972

[Jeff has written an historical novel about a two-year period during the Vietnam War, which he hopes will be published this year.

Chronologically accurate, it covers the major operations of that period, as seen through one man's eyes. It is the story of his time in Vietnam, along with the experiences of others he knew, all woven into one character, who went to Vietnam a few days after turning eighteen and was used up and discharged before ever turning twenty-one.]

“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.


  1. Well written, Jeff, and very insightful. If there is anything positive to come out of war it would be that it forces us to see life in different terms. It is an opportunity to know yourself and see what was real and what has become important. The price though is a psyche once chained in illusions and innocence, then confronted with its mortality, and ultimately, searching for the meaning of existence.

    The warrior that has faced death, carnage, and the horror of war has an opportunity to accomplish more for their fellow man than all the therapists and psychiatrists ever born. It is his journey into hell and his resurrection beyond PTSD that bestows upon the combat veteran a clarity of existence that few ever experience in a lifetime. Thank you for your service to humanity.

  2. Jeff Yarger jryarger062@gmail.comFebruary 13, 2015 at 6:24 PM

    Robert Cosmar, l appreciate your comment and the wisdom therein. I agree that war can instill in one a type of wisdom and clarity of life that many are never fortunate enough to experience. However, for many, the price of that clarity recieved from war is often, far too high.
    I look forward to looking into some of your writings.

  3. Thank you Jeff, pain has a way of leading us to our personal truth if we find the courage to allow it.

  4. Well written, Mr. Yarger. I think the most significant event in our lives as Vietnam veterans is the War itself. Perhaps, the second most significant event may be marriage or finding the #1 soulmate. However, above and beyond all these experiences, I realize that we all are on a spiritual journey and at least what ultimately I have sought was and is "Spiritual Peace".
    I wish you Shalom in your journey and a lifetime of joy in the simple things that life provides.--Glenn Sanada


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