Not all post-traumatic stress is created equal.
This became very clear to me earlier this month, as the 14 Vietnam veterans in our group – including my father – shared some of their stories on the long bus rides between Ho Chi Minh City, the Mekong Delta and Tay Ninh. (Many were prompted by the memorial services we held there; check tomorrow’s Journal News for that story.)
Not everyone who served in Vietnam had done so involuntarily, through the draft; some, like my father, had joined the military as officers, eager to serve their country. Some of the veterans had seen countless gory battlescenes, but a few had served in supporting roles in offices or ships that rarely or never saw combat. Some were wounded, some weren’t. Some had never been on a plane or outside the country before; my father was an immigrant from a war-torn country. Some shared funny stories, like my father’s rabbit breeding program and USO show memories, but others chose to reveal wrenching tales of lost lives and harrowing bloodshed. Some stayed in the military after returning from Vietnam; others couldn’t wait to get out.
But they all had some trouble readjusting when they got home, including Read more of this entry »
“Doc” Bernie Duff, an Army medic during the Vietnam War and member of Rockland County’s Vietnam Veterans of America, started painting scenes from the war five years ago, while receiving treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He moved to Vietnam last year and now lives in Ho Chi Minh City with his girlfriend – the daughter of a former North Vietnamese military officer. (Ah, peacetime.)
While in Ho Chi Minh City and Tra Vinh, I spent a few days talking to Bernie about the related changes to his artwork and humanitarian goals. The story ran today.
Click on the video link below (or go to this YouTube page) to hear him talk about eight of his Vietnam War themed paintings: Price Tags, Frozen Heat, Childhood Lost, Nefarious Memories, Faces, More Than Friends, Bait and Snitch, and Heather’s Homecoming-Operation Babylift.
Sorry for the posting delay, folks. Internet crashed at our Can Tho hotel. We just got back to Ho Chi Minh City, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed…
Now that we’ve joined a group with 13 other Vietnam veterans, I’m seeing a different side of nature in Vietnam: the dangerous side. I don’t mean the snakes and insects, though we’ve seen plenty of those; it’s the haystacks, termite hills and mangrove patches that once served as ideal hiding places for Viet Cong guerillas, turning almost any place troops traveled into a potential death trap. In other words, as my father put it, “We never felt safe. Maybe the base camp was safer than being out in the field, but you were always a target.”
Here’s some mangrove leaves we floated by on the Mekong Delta. Click the audio link below to hear Ed Frank, a Navy veteran, explain what made this such a dangerous plant.