There was no delay, no time given, no quarter extended by my body, nor begged for by my mind. I’d never detoxed before, although the pain had become an old bad friend. The codeine tablets in my nearby metal drawer, twenty-three of them, got me through the night and on into the next day but the awful nature of combining the pain with the horrid terrible shakes, hallucinations, sweating, and fear was horrific. I believed that I would have died if I had not had the prisoner-supplied supplement. Not only that, but the prisoners were there when the supply ran out to add more codeine. I wondered if I would have to detox from that at some future time, but future time meant nothing to me. There wasn’t even a clock to count the minutes of misery, the seconds of bitter terror, and the actual agonizing physical nature of all of it.
I did not sleep, I lay in moving, moaning misery, waiting for a sun to rise and fall behind the never to be opened blinds on the windows. I waited for more water, ice, and bed changes. Our ward had a bathroom and I spent hours inside it through the nights, using the toilet instead of the pans for the heaving vomit, that most often produced nothing except almost complete exhaustion. Hot showers were a very small relief, but the shower made noise and the other prisoners didn’t like noises in the night. None of them had been to Vietnam so none of them were creatures of the night.
The prisoners weren’t bad men, not in my view anyway. They seemed to care a whole lot more than the rest of the Oak Knoll staff thrown in together. Peterman had killed no one, which is what I expected. I was the only killer in the ward but wasn’t in the ward because of it. I also didn’t think the ‘killer’ had much chance of making it through the detox and lack of real pain drugs alive.
My wife came to visit in the afternoon of the second day. I knew when they came to tell me she was outside at the nurse’s station that she’d not taken long to penetrate the fiction I’d had the Marine Liaison Officer perpetrate on my behalf.
My wife was smart as a whip and nobody’s fool when it came to those things she was deeply concerned about.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” she asked, as the attendant pulled the curtains back on the wall side. I didn’t miss the fact that the words ‘hello’ and ‘I love you’ were nowhere to be found in that sentence.
I wondered what I’d failed to tell her, since the question was uncommon, with respect to either my condition or the ‘treatment’ I was undergoing.
“You look terrible,” she concluded, after eyeing the mess of my body, bed, pajamas, and the debris laying around the bed.
“You’re losing weight, they say almost a pound a day,” she said.
I almost shook my head in wonder. I’d expected to hear about my drug addiction, my quartering with criminals, or something else entirely.
“You’re coming surgery isn’t on the schedule until March,” she said. “That simpleton Marine, Johannson, is working with the chief of surgery to get you a medical pass for three weeks because if you don’t gain weight then there’s not going to any reason to even do the surgery. Later today they’re giving you some solid food for the first time. If you keep that down then you can come home.”
I looked at her and had to smile through the pain and detox misery. She had no idea what I was going through and I wanted to keep it that way. Solid food wasn’t going to be a problem when they brought it. The toilet would eat that. I was in no condition to keep anything down, even water.
“They’re taking you out of this locked prison too, later today,” she went on, pacing next to my bed. “I told them I was calling the Commandant of the Marine Corps if they didn’t. What is wrong with these people?”
The only inmate who’d never said a word to me got out of his bed and walked to stand on the other side of the bed from where my wife stood.
“Hey, baby, you look hot and ready in that mini-skirt, and the loser you’re married to is good for about nothing, as you can see,” he said, his voice quiet but menacing.
My wife just looked back at him without changing her expression.
“You got something to say, hot stuff?” he went on, but again my wife didn’t respond, instead leaning down, picking up the call control, and pushing the button.
An attendant, or nurse, as all the staff I had met so far, except for the doctors, wore similar outfits, was there, outside the door and operating its locking mechanism. It was as if the staff knew they must be standing by as long as my wife was in the room with me.
The door opened. My wife turned, walked to it, pulled it fully open, and then walked out, her pump heels clicking out the only sound there was following the inmate’s comments. She didn’t look back at me or the inmate.
Once she was out of the room, the attendant slipped inside and approached my bed.
“They’ll be coming to disconnect you from the I.V. and the catheter soon,” she said, her voice almost a whisper, not looking across the bed where the inmate who’s spoken to my wife still stood, as if waiting for some answer to his nasty comment and question.
“They’ll bring you a regular light meal after that,” she continued, and if you keep that down for a few hours you’ll be on your way.
I was sick as hell, the room not exactly remaining still, the nausea I felt barely containable, and the pain from my abdominal and hip wounds hurting badly. I’d popped a couple of codeine pills an hour earlier, however, and they were allowing me to present some semblance of normality as I smiled and encouraged her to stay when all I wanted her to do was get the hell out of the room. Unfinished business stood next to my bed on the other side. Business that I was well accustomed to and very prepared to deal with.
“I don’t agree with the rest of them,” the attendant whispered.
“Agree with whom about what?” I asked, unable to keep the worry out of my voice. I needed the staff to want to get rid of me, not keep me for even another day.
“They protest the war all the time,” she replied, surprising me. “That’s why they don’t like you. There was another patient who came through here a couple of days before you. He talked about you. That’s how they knew you were Junior in Vietnam and how much you don’t like the name.
“Who was it?” I asked, but she only shook her head, either not knowing or unwilling to tell me.
“What’s your name?” I finally asked.
“Edith,” she replied. “I’m an R.N.”
“Thank you, Edith the R.N.” I replied, with a relieved smile. The mystery of why I’d been treated so badly was being revealed, and it was not likely to keep me from going home, at least for a while. It was also good to finally find out someone’s name. In Yokosuka all the personnel at the hospital I’d had any contact with wore nametags, but not at Oak Knoll.
Edith looked across the bed at the inmate, but she said nothing before turning and retreating toward the door. “I’ll be back when they come to help you,” she said, over her shoulder and going through the cracked open door.
The lock was then turned from the outside, and silence fell over the room. I looked up at the inmate standing nearby, wondering why he was still there. Peterman was in his bed. The inmate stood between where he was and my own bed.
“Your one of those hero veterans returned from the war, I’m guessing,” the inmate said, making sure his voice carried to everyone in the room. “You come out of some phony jungle war and think you’re tough, but I’ve got some news for you. I’ve been in and out of jails all my life. It’s why the Navy wanted me. They need tough men, not banged up pieces of shit who look like kewpie dolls.”
I looked at him, my face expressionless, but said nothing.
“That’s it, that’s all you got?” he asked, laughing out loud. I make a play for your wife right in front of you and you’ve got nothing to say?
He looked around the room at the other men, his laugh reduced to a huge grin. “That’s what I thought,” he went on. “I’ll be making a visit to your home address just as soon as I get out of here. Your wife’s quite the sex package.”
“I’m glad you have the same good taste in women, as I do,” I replied, quietly.
“What a chicken shit thing to say,” the inmate concluded, turning while he said the words and then slowly walking back to his bunk, his body moving like John Wayne walking his special walk.
A few moments went by, as I waited patiently for the medical team to return. I wondered when I should take the black beauty, but I felt it was too soon. The team would not release me. That would have to take the applied judgment of the young doctor who’d put me on the ward, I knew. I had to wait, getting by on the codeine tablets.
Peterman got out of his bunk. I presumed he was going to use the bathroom, located on the other side of my bunk, but he walked the few steps to the right side of my bed instead. He leaned down.
“Don’t do it,” he breathed out.
“Don’t do what? I replied, wondering what he was getting at.
“I know your background,” he went on. “I hear things in this place, even though it doesn’t seem that way. I heard about you. You’re this really nice, innocent, easy-going young guy who really does look like a kewpie doll.”
I stared up into Peterman’s eyes, still not sure of what he was getting at.
“He has no idea,” he said. “It’s all an act. You’re very intelligent and you’ve been to hell and back. He doesn’t have a clue that he might not live through this day, much less the night if you’re still here…or maybe sometime in the future when you choose to hunt him down.”
I was shocked at what he said. It was like Peterman was accessing parts of my mind and soul I was totally unaware were reachable by anyone, excepting myself.
“Don’t do it,” Peterman repeated. “He’s right about your wife. She’s not only a knockout but she’s smart and totally in your camp. You’ll lose her and your daughter if you go to prison like us, so it’s not worth the risk.”
I knew Peterman was right. I wasn’t going to be able to do anything about the other inmate’s behavior or what he’d said. All I must think about was the mission; somehow getting to the small apartment my wife and daughter shared with another Vietnam Veteran’s wife. He hadn’t come home early, more than likely because he was an attorney and would never see the bottom of the A Shau Valley or any other combat zone. My first objective to accomplish the mission was to get medically approved for disconnection. The second was getting disconnected. The third was being approved for solid food, no matter how limited the diet might be. Finally, actually getting physically transported would take the remainder of whatever extra energy I could generate. There was no place in any of my plan to destroy, maim or kill some lowlife career criminal.
“Your wife is one piece of work, no question about that,” Peterman said, and the other men laughed.
“Yes, she’s something else again,” I whispered, more to myself than to the men.
I was no longer in it alone, and that feeling warmed my heart, and put fight right back inside me. I went to work cleaning up the bed, the area around it, and making everything look almost as if there was a normal patient staying in it instead of the mess that was me.
“You’re going to need these,” Peterman said, walking over to where I was working, gagging, trying to breathe, and still get something accomplished in cleaning my area up. He handed me the pill bottle containing the remainder of the codeine pills.
“You’re also a long way from being through, and I don’t even know about the pain,” Peterman said. “They can’t release you with the catheter or the I.V. so you have to sell them on letting you go without you needing them anymore if you can do it. The black pill, the only one that’s not codeine, is called a Black Beauty, and it’ll raise you up from the dead long enough to allow you pass as a regular human being, for about two hours, and then you’re going down for quite a long sleep.”
I was surprised, as I tried to rest when they finally came just after noon. The single Salisbury steak lunch came right along with them. The doctor made no appearance, so my preparations to attempt to treat him with respect and care I felt nothing of was to no avail. They took the catheter out, with some difficulty, as it had been in place for some time. The I.V. was pulled with ease, however. I was quickly shown how to change the colostomy bag, which hadn’t been needed since my diet had been all liquid. The four-person crew departed, with only Edith remaining, my covered lunch plate on a swing-out arm table she held onto.
I let her start to slip the table across the bed, in order to get the plate before me, but I stopped her. I’d already slipped the pill bottle into the single pocket in the bottom of my flimsy hospital pajamas. I indicated that I had to use the bathroom, which was the truth since I could not take the Black Beauty in front of her. I knew I needed the drug, if it would work, to cover just how bad my withdrawals were proceeding. The hallucinations were the worst. I kept seeing my Marines standing around. In a corner here or at the distant window. When I’d look away, blink my eyes, and look back they’d be gone. I tried not to look at all but, in the daytime, I had to look somewhere. I couldn’t take enough codeine to be unconscious and I couldn’t afford to be that way in order to get free of the hospital anyway.
I took the Black Beauty, washing it down with handfuls of water from the tap inside the beautiful new and spacious bathroom. I wanted a shower before I left for home but didn’t want to put anything in the way of my leaving. I relieved myself for the first time since being in the field in Vietnam. It hurt badly to do so, but the relief was so overwhelming, that it all still worked, that I let out a sigh and said ‘thank the living Christ’ out loud, as I finished. I prepared myself to get back to my bed, in order to attempt to figure out how I was going to eat a whole meal when there was no hope I could possibly consume one bite without it coming right back up.
Edith was gone when I opened the bathroom door. I walked to the bed, once again feeling a near euphoria from not having to drag bottles and bags around with me whenever and wherever I moved. Edith was gone. That fact struck me like a flash of lightning. I grabbed the plate, walked quickly to the bathroom, and flushed the meat into the toilet, saving only a chunk of bread and some beans so it wouldn’t appear obvious what I’d done.
I had energy, I realized, as I got back into bed and repositioned the levered arm table, atop of which sat the empty plate, a filled water glass, and cheap silverware. I scrunched up the napkin after rubbing it slightly on the used plate surface. I was ready and all of a sudden feeling almost normal for the first time since the detox had kicked in two days before. I wanted to walk, even run. I controlled my breathing at that point. I realized the Black Beauty was kicking in and my state could not be observed to be too great or someone as experienced as Edith, or even as smart as the doctor, might figure it out.
I looked over at Peterman, who’d observed everything I’d done.
I’d closed the curtain around my bed, excepting the part between Peterman and me. The bad inmate was still to be feared, not for his physical intimidating presentation or possible action, but because he could observe and then talk.
Peterman got out of his bed quickly, cross the short space between us, and held out his hand.
“The pill bottle,” he whispered. “They’re going to change you out for travel and you can’t have them finding it. I’ll give it back when you’re ready to be transported.”
I thanked God for Peterman, wondered about whether the Black Beauty, making me feel human again, wasn’t also drawing down what intellect I might still have. I handed over the bottle. Peterman pushed me gently from a sitting position into the upward leaning mattress at the head of my bed. He pulled back just as the curtain was swept back and the doctor appeared, to stand with my chart in his hand at the foot of the bed.
“Looks like you can eat and hold it down,” he observed, marking something on his chart. “Take his blood pressure and vitals,” he instructed Edith, who appeared on his right.
I realized I had not heard the operation of the door lock. The Black Beauty was having effects on me that were beginning to scare me.
The apartment, located on a seemingly anonymous back street in Daly City, was small. The upper floor and lower all looked exactly alike up and down the street. When I’d dropped my wife to stay and wait for me to one day come home from Vietnam I’d sat looking up and down the street one day. I realized then that, if someone had too much to drink, then that someone might never find his or her actual apartment in the clone-like mass of hundreds of identical structures lining the narrow streets without going door to door and begging for help.
My wife had no trouble finding our place, however. I knew that, even with the street name and number memorized, in my current condition, I would have had a much tougher time finding the place without her.
The car quit running in the short driveway without my wife turning the ignition off.
I got out with a little difficulty and went straight through the lower doorway leading to the staircase that led to the upstairs apartment. My wife had been allowed to transport me in what turned out to be the battered and nearly not running GTO I’d purchased two days before she’d called while I was in the Basic School to announce the pregnancy. The car was going to be a problem but I wanted to see my daughter first and my .45 second. I’d won the .45 Colt for being the top candidate in the school in the Military Skills area (the jock area). I’d been without a .45 since the medevac to First Med from the Valley. I needed my daughter, my wife, and the .45. Everything would be okay if I just had those three things.
Pat, my wife’s roommate, waited at the top of the stairs with the door open, a great smile playing across her face. A song I recognized played from behind her, sounding just as tinny as the small speaker Fusner’s radio had produced on a daily basis. The song playing was “You’ll Never Walk Alone“. I stopped once I was inside the door. I was taken back, not visually not in a hallucination but just stopped dead in my tracks by memory. The words mid-song played into my ears but reached deep into my very soul: “Walk on through the wind, Walk on through the rain, though your dreams be tossed and blown. Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart and you’ll never walk alone…you’ll never walk…you’ll never walk…you’ll never walk alone.” Roy Orbison sang on, but the paralysis that stopped me didn’t reach into my wife’s roommate, now my roommate too.
“What is it?” Pat asked. I heard my wife’s footsteps coming up the stairs. She’d told me in a letter how a Marine Officer and a Staff Sergeant had come up those stairs’ months back, to inquire about whether a Marine Officer’s wife resided in the apartment. My wife and I had always thought that the Corps only sent personnel on such calls if the Marine was dead. All she could ask the Marines was “which one?” They’d had to take some time to talk and figure out that my wife didn’t know if it was her roommate’s husband or me who was dead.
“Nothing,” I said. The last time I’d heard that song had been while listening to the Jerry and the Pacemakers version sitting by a composition B fire while heating water for coffee with Zippo, Stevens, Fusner, and Nguyen. I forced myself to move. The .45 would have to wait. I wasn’t about to ask the two women where the gun was. I would have to wait. If the lowlife scum of an inmate came to visit then I would introduce him to the firearm.
I breathed in and out deeply. The Black Beauty was still affecting me deeply. I thought about Peterman. He’d taken my name and address in case he got out and might be able to find me in life, or he’d used that excuse in the hospital hall so he could get the pill bottle back to me. I owed him. I hoped I would see him again one day. I thought about what he’d said about not doing what I had been thinking of doing to the inmate. I had to keep that in front of my mind and not the .45. I also knew the drug was wearing off because tendrils of pain were beginning to surface and nausea was laying deep down inside me, getting ready to make itself evident again.
I was home. I’d made it. Even if I was never to take another step, I’d made it back, somehow.
Pat looked closely at me, as I went silent, waiting for my wife to join us.
“What happened to you?” she asked, leaning in close to examine my face. “No, I mean what the hell happened to you? It is you, isn’t it?”
My wife stepped through the door, no doubt overhearing the surprising shock in her roommate’s voice.
“She’s in the bedroom in her crib waiting,” My wife interrupted, changing the subject. “She’s always waiting, and she’s never even met you.”
I knew I didn’t have long. I had to get down, get fluids into me, get a pan or garbage can, and then go back into the detox that’d been put off for a bit but not finished. The car needed me, my wife needed me, although I also knew I needed her more than she needed me, and her short performance at the hospital had burned that in. I hoped my daughter needed me too. I followed my wife down the hall leading off from the living room. Christmas was days away, my mind fixated momentarily, as we walked, on an open corner of the room that the tree would fit into perfectly. I heard small gurgling sounds coming out through the bedroom door we were approaching. I smiled, for the first time since being in the hospital. I hoped my daughter was as ready to meet me as I was to meet her.
I walked through the door.
<<<<<<The Beginning | Next Chapter >>>>>>
Dear Uncle Jim,
Once again outstanding writing please accept these humbly offered edit notes: because if you don’t gain weight then there’s not going to( )any reason to even do the surgery. Should there be the word (be) here? <—this one was mentioned in a previous post.
A few moments went by, as I waited patiently for the medical team to return. I wondered when I should take the black beauty, but I felt it was too soon. The team would not release me. That would have to take the applied judgment of the young doctor who’d put me on the ward, I knew. I had to wait, getting by on the codeine tablets. This paragraph is out of place the black beauty tablet has not been introduced to the story yet.
The black pill, the only one that’s not codeine, is called a Black Beauty, and it’ll raise you up from the dead long enough to allow you( )pass as a regular human being, Should be the word (to) here.
I’d closed the curtain around my bed, excepting the part between Peterman and me. Maybe change this sentence to: I’d closed the curtain around my bed, (except for) the part between Peterman and (myself.)
Peterman got out of his bed quickly, (cross) the short space between us, and held out his hand. Should this be (crossed)?
When I’d dropped my wife to stay and wait for me to one day come home from Vietnam I’d sat looking up and down the street (one day.) The words (one day) are not needed.
A song I recognized played from behind her, sounding just as tinny as the small speaker (Fusner’s) radio had produced on a daily basis Should this be (Fessman’s) Fusner’s pseudonym?
The last time I’d heard that song had been while listening to the Jerry and the Pacemakers version sitting by a composition B fire while heating water for coffee with Zippo, Stevens, (Fusner,) and Nguyen. Should this be (Fessman)?
You are such a bright analytical analyst. You get it and you give it back to me and all of us one here.
I cannot thank you enough. Semper fi, my nephew and friend.
Not meant for a comment here, but have not been successful in any other method of trying to make contact. I have ordered the last book in you 30 days series and received confirmation of the order, but still have not got got my copy. The last information I did receive was that there was a problem with the publisher making a mistake in the printing. I would appreciate an update on the status of the book. Thank you
What else can be said except “welcome home” !!
As a DUSTOFF medic, we picked up wounded like you and kept almost all of them alive until we got them to a MASH unit. I never had any further contact with any of those that we picked up in the field. I had one memorable US Army patient that was shot in his right thigh thru his metal compass. Perfect hole thru it. Would’ve thought that I could have located him but never did. Like you, memories sometimes cloud reality and tears burst forth at the most inopportune moments.
Good day LT, I’m writing this because of all your Great Writings that I read all the time, and some of the wonderful comments your “Followers” (meant kindly) write back to you.
To begin with Sir, though being a Vietnam Era Vet, I never saw combat. I did have friends that came home and wanted to talk, while others understandably, never wanted anything said, even remotely, about what they had seen, and experienced. On the other side of this, I also had three friends that never came home. Sadly, and heart wrenching for not only me and his other friends, but even more so for their families. For what could I say to them, having no experience of what they had probably…No, did go through. (To this day I still often wonder, could I have “lived” through the hell that so many others had experienced, would I have had the balls to stand up when the SHTF.) Some said I was “lucky”, others wouldn’t even talk to me, or anyone else that hadn’t been in actual Combat. I’ll always wonder…
No combat, but I still came home with my own issues, as so many others had done. But…when being released from the VA from one of my periodical “vacations”, a Dr. Mike Tradakis, came up to me and asked if I wanted to learn to help my fellow Vets that had “similar issues” as I did. (PTSD, anger, anxiety, hatetride of crowds and suffocating when in one, but the “main one” was my seeing a thread in front of my eyes, and knowing that if it snapped, I would also. I really wanted someone, hell anyone, to start s**t with me so that I would have a “reason, an excuse”, to choke them. Not hard, just enough till they blacked out, no problem.)
Anyway, Dr. Mike, as we called him, and though young, had more letters after his name then I had ever seen. Smart as a whip, but a down to Earth type of man who never boasted, or showed in anyway, that he thought he was better than other people. He had been my Dr. (Shrink) for a number of years, and pretty well knew me better than any other. Although no Military experience, he let you know that right off the bat. He Always Listens to your Story, and he actually learns from them. He always said that how else could he learn having no experience, but through the eyes of a Vet who knew. As I had said, Dr. Mike really had his act together, and you could see this in his eyes, and his voice, that he cared, and honestly wanted to help Vets, more so than any other Dr. I have ever know.
For a couple of years I received training on how to handle, help, and mainly Listen, to “My Vets”, as I soon began calling them. You Cannot…Listen to a Vet pour out their guts for months, years, without feeling like a Bro, or family to them. At least this was “How I Felt”. I even got called out on the carpet a few times for feeling that way. Why, because it was suppose to be a 9 to 5 “job”, you were suppose to go home, and not even dare think of any of the Vets you were helping. Those well the “lifers”, the ones who had actually stopped caring, who were just there putting their time in until their 30 years were in so they could retire with all the benefits that they were “entitled” to. Me, I was a “lifer” too, I usually opened the doors when the alarms said it was safe to do so, and a lot of times I was the last to leave. Wages, and Benefits….None. I was strictly a “Volunteer”, and in all the years of my helping I never received one dime for “Volunteering”, just maybe a Pin once a year saying “Good Job”, but I never cared. I knew that no matter what my story was, you’d better believe there were others who made mine look Very, Very, Small. I Loved my…it wasn’t a job…I Loved helping in some small way, that I may have actually helped my fellow Vet. I Loved the feeling in my Heart and Soul for what I was doing. I am retired now, but I still talk and help at the VA whenever I think I see a Vet in need, and may just want to talk some. To unwind a little, get something off their chest so that they can maybe go home with a clear head. I will continue being the CPSS I am, and doing all that I can until they finally take me for my last great Vacation
I became after training a Certified Peer Support Specialist, CPSS, I became Certified at my VA, able to help Vets with their issues, and also Certified with the State of Utah. I was just smart enough to know my limits, and know when to refer them onto some other Dr. who could help them better then I could. And Yes, I did talk some Vets into staying at the VA for a “vacation”, and I stayed with them every step of the way until they said it was time for me to leave. But I would still see them, and be on call for them if needed. I continued to see, and kept in touch with My Vets even after they were discharged. I scheduled appointments for them so they could see me as often as needed. Until they felt the urge to move on we always talked whenever needed. But I knew it was their time to go on with their life as, I hopefully prayed for, a person who is capable of knowing what their “triggers” were, what set them off, and with a better understanding on how to deal with them. Also knowing that when they needed to talk to someone (they had my personal number), they could see another CPSS if available. Or even go to the nearest VA if they believe that is what is needed. I would even go with them if it was possible. Explain to the VA that he wanted, needed, some help and he felt it would be in the best interest, not only for him, but maybe for other loved ones as well. That he felt it was time for a “Vacation”. Just some time to readjust his head, clear his mind of troubles for a bit, so that he could go back to the “real world” and kick a**, and take names again. While all the time smiling, because he knew he was in charge of himself again. (Peacefully I hope.) Knowing to schedule appointments as needed, but again, still better able to handle their issues. While others need their Meds to “maintain” their way of life, and need help with reminders to take their Meds, and to order more refills before they run out. Some Vets don’t need the Meds, or what to take them. Myself, I know that I need my Meds, and I know they help. Without my pain Meds, or my “happy Meds” that help me to “maintain” my life, I know that I would have gone back to being angry, or wanting to just go somewhere and “hibernate” forever. If no one (my wife) were to get me the help that I needed at that time, then I knew I would revert back to the ugly person I was so many years ago.. Hell, I was in and out of the VA a number of times before I was able to cope with my issues, and I still have a Dr. here that I can call on whenever I feel that need even after all these years. Some need this help, and it takes real Guts for a Vet, man or woman, to come to the realization that they are finally at the end of their rope, that it could snap at any time, and God Bless them for knowing that. While a small few come to this realization before it overwhelms them and seek out help right away. Some never will, and may God Bless them all as well.
Lt., you know that my “comment” was only to be just that, a comment, and not a full confession of my life. I apologize immensity Sir. I have read everything of yours that I see, and I love the way you make it so real to life. As said, I have never seen combat, but I have “learned” quite a bit from “my Vets” over the years. Some of their stories also came to life right before my eyes as I Listen. With no shame whatsoever, I have held, and cried right along with them. I have felt their scars, felt the “baggage” that they carry. While not seeing combat, I have seen the living hell that my Vets had gone through, and the hell that remains their constant companion, and I believe there are even worst stories out in others that need to be told, and listened to. At times I am overwhelmed by it too, but if on my final vacation I were to be Granted just one Wish…it would be to ask my God to spare all my Vets everywhere. No matter who they are, if man or woman, give me all the heartache, the grief, pain, and everything else that they may carry. Give it to me so that I may carry it all away from my Vets, and give it all it’s final resting place, and let there be Peace in the Souls of everyone.
No, I’m not a Preacher either, just how I feel. Sorry, but I get caught up with this even now, and start writing another chapter. You are a great Writer/Author Mr. James, and may your own load be lighter with the stories you convey. Not everyone will understand your hell, or the hell of others, but there are those of us “Volunteers” that have Listened, have held, and cried with real pain beside you. God Bless you Sir, keep up the great work that you do, stay safe, and may you always Stand Tall.
And by the way, I know this comment, I mean book, is too long to be but in your Comment Section, but I had to let you know about the Volunteers, and their own Vets. Thank you greatly for allowing me to write this, and I hope you do read it before you file it in that small, round, black cabinet that sets beside your desk. 🙂 Oh, and just so you know…This We Will Defend – Go Army. 🙂
Semper fi Sir.
Wow! I think this is the longest comment I have ever received on here and I cannot thank you enough for ‘coming out’ and talking about your own experience. This comment will remain up and on here for all to read.
It will not be filed in my ‘small round black cabinet’ you think I keep. Thanks for the terrific layout of your life and what you have done and how it has effected you!
You really had a long spell of hell from the A Shau to Japan to Oakland and
Then meeting Homan and me
So glad to call you friend
Your story also proves how those of us who went
Just got screwed again when they go home
You are, indeed, my friend, and I cannot tell you how much your support and care for me and my work means to me.
Semper fi, My friend,
Great chapter, James. Look forward to the next. One question that I hope isn’t too sensitive. You refer to Fusner in your comments, but reading the 30 Days seems to reveal only Fessman as your radio operator. Do you care to straighten me out? Understand if you don’t.
It can be real problematic to use real names. They are traceable. There are survivors of the people who died. There can be serious come-backs from all that.
Completely understand. Thank you.
Your story is always riveting. I was a REMF in Nam and served as a Marine Security Guard at the American Embassy and never in the jungle. For 10 years I thought the Vietnam war had not affected me. One day on the job I was called a baby killer and other names by a fellow worker who had dodged the draft and had no clue what my service in Nam was like. I exploded, nose to nose and shouting. Me telling him what I thought of his faked excuse for not serving and that I had served honorably. Luckily there was 2 doors in the office and we each took one. After that incident, I realized the war had affected me and I had to come to grips with that. None of us were free. We all carry some burden. Found out from counseling that I had survivors guilt. Thanks, LT.
I read and reread every post, I have all the books (so far) and have read them cover to cover twice. I am so moved by what you write. I think about those posts for the rest of the day and especially at night. thank you for sharing your story and impacting so many of US
Thanks for the input and compliment Michael.
Jim, I have enjoyed reading all your books and can relate to much of it even though I was Army 11 Bravo. Without my wife, I do not believe I would have made it. The wives gained little recognition, if any, for the contributions of their war. Thank you for your sharing and God Bless.
This was another riveting read for me. Thank you for sharing it.
Thank you again James for another great read. Keep the faith.
Thanks for another chapter so soon Jim. It is most difficult for me to grasp the treatment you received in a Navy hospital. That is a disgrace and reflects poorly on the Navy as a whole. Some heads should have rolled. Thank God you made it thru, and God bless you today and the future. Semper fi!
James , I have read all 3 of 30 days and have all three in paperback, as well as this book when finished. I never seen combat, but spent 50 years as a career and volunteer firefighter, been trapped , seen plenty of death ,but My career could never come close to your 30 days of hell. I’m glad you found a way to coup with your hell . I have a good friend who like you had a nickname in his early life, he ha a very problematic early life with the law, but after his time in prison he came out with a great attitude, became a successful business man , but would tell you very quickly not to call him by the nickname, that was a time he wanted to forget, probably much like you. Keep up the good work , God bless you .
Many times while reading your amazing chapters of “30 Days” and now of the “Cowardly Lion”, I have thought of you and of the quote: “That which does not kill me, makes me stronger.” You, SIR, have had far more than your fair share of white knuckle dances with death/destruction and of being faced with difficult dilemmas and unfathomable hardships. You Sir, are definitely ONE. STRONG. MAN.
I thank God that he put so many “angels” (including your wife, Peterman, etc.) there to help you at your critical moments during those tumultuous and terrifying times. You continue to be a blessing to me and the many others who are eagerly devouring every chapter of your captivating saga. But I have to admit that every chapter you write makes my heart pound faster and elevates my blood pressure. Thanks for taking us–through your captivating writing–with you on this incredible journey.
Walt, this comment got lost in the muddle, somehow. Thanks for reminding me to go looking for it. It’s a great one, as usual.
Thanks so much fo the sharing and the caring, as so well expressed here..
LT. sir. Thank you for your writings. Had an uncle same age as me who was at Khe San during siege. Always felt bad that I never made it to Vietnam. I enlisted and never left the states. Never felt that I served until one day a good friend who was Air Force and did extractions said to me. You served. We all went where Uncle Sam sent us. I salute you sir as an officer and a patriot. I am sorry for what you and others of our generation went thru. But take pride in the fact we answered the call irregardless of which branch we served in.
Yet again, you answered a question I didn’t know how to ask. I noticed that among the veterans I met or knew before they went overseas, that many of the combat vets went out of their way to avoid fights, didn’t talk tough, sometimes barely talked at all. On the other hand, I’ve seen “that look” in their eyes when they’re being pushed too far.
Can’t believe the hospital staff let your wife come into a room full of convicts without some type of guard. Unbelievable and stupid. Also as I mentioned in the previous chapter, someone from you unit in Nam had to have come thru this hospital for them to know so much about you. As for the convict who made nasty remarks about you wife obviously doesn’t have a clue who you are or how deadly you can be. Still a riveting story which captures me and I have to read more than once just to be sure I didn’t miss anything. Thanks LT.
The management of Oak Knoll, at least the small portion I was run through, was just not there. No security for my wife or I in that locked environment with potential bad actors. Four of the guys turned out to be okay
and Peterman was terrific. The staff simply wasn’t on the ball or caring at all. I was, indeed, quite dangerous at the time, I think, but I was already adapting to just how badly I wanted to fit in and Just how
badly I didn’t want to kill or be responsible for the killing of any more human beings. Period.
Thanks for the great comment and the terrific support here…
Another great chapter James. Thanks for posting.
You are most welcome Allen.
LT i was a army artiiery man i never hed anything like you endured happen to me i cant tell you how much it means to read and respect what you endured thank you!
I am tickled that you got to be in the shit without really being in the most deadly part of it.
You still no doubt have issues from that time. Hard not to, even if not in direct combat.
Semper fi, and thanks for writing about your own experiences here.
I’m sorry about what happened to you sir.thank you very much for your service and I apologise It.please forgive me
It was the time and the circumstance. Your apology is accepted but not necessary.
Nobody on here knows who you really are and I believe you want it to be that way. I don’t miss the time or the combat
or the horror of it, but I do miss some of the Marines, like you, who were there with me.
Semper fi, brother,
Wow did you ever peak my interest. I understand if he wants to stay anonymous but after following you over 4 years I’m very curious.
I hope from here on it gets better for you. It is so so wrong what you and your brothers had to face when you came home. Awesome friend of mine faced it too when he arrived home only 48 hrs from the jungle to the cold wintery upstate NY. Unable to get a bus home he tried to hitch hike on I- 87, In full military uniform was told by a NYS Trooper to get off the highway or get arrested. Welcome home LT
Yes, those were hard times for those of us in certain circumstance returning. I was ‘ushered’ back in through the medical complex but when I got centered and in a place
further down south, as you will eventually read, my neighbor came over with a bottle of old scotch to inquire if I had, indeed, killed women and children on a regular basis
while in country. I drank his scotch, talked the talk with him…and then let him leave and live on into a future that he never understood was being decided by me right there and
I have been wondering for a while, if your marriage survived. Im so happy for you that it did. I learned a long time ago, that my wife is the reason I’ve survived being a cop for over 20 years. They all support us, more than we know. I know she feels fear when I leave, sometimes, but when I get home, she makes me realize what life is all about. Glad you guys made it through the storms.
James, when did you finally meet Tex? Did I miss that fact somehow?
I met Tex in the A Shau where he died not long after.
I have heard from several members of his family and sent them books without charge.
Like all of your work, I read each chapter many times over. I cannot begin to understand how a man can put in print the hell we went through and how it rekindles the memories that shall never go away. You have made me and many others become better men by reminding us how thankful we should be for making it home alive and to be reunited with our loved ones. Thank you Sir.
Bed. I go to bed and lay under the covers when it is bad, but I have to keep on going. My wife reads and says that she was a softer nicer creature back then, but in reality she was my advocate sent by
God. she was not a woman, she was an angel from the arm of angels sent to help pitiful creatures like me at the time. She was tougher than nails when I was a damaged marshmellow.
All I can say is WOW. I served but never in Combat although much of my family past and present have. I got the usual treatment when I got back and into a few bar scrapes as well for standing up for the hell you guys went through. A very powerful and emotional chapter to say the least. Air Force here but enough Marines in the family to say Semper Fi Lt. and a very belated but heartfelt Welcome Home!.
Great comment Tom, and I hope you don’t mind that I cut and pasted it to my website.
You are so thanked, it’s beyond describing…
Jim: I know how you feel about the asshole that insulted your wife in your presence. You got some good advice from Peterman. I had occasion to want to do bodily harm to a former son-in-law, but I realized as a prisoner I could not do any thing for anyone if I was locked up. Thanks for another great read. I’m looking forward to the next chapter.
If we can come home and engage our intellect, instead of the biologic deep brain, then we can make it.
I pray and believe…
My second daughter was born while I was in Vietnam. It was hell not being there.
I went back to Vietnam last year and had a motorbike accident. was on Morphine for just about 10 days, yeah I watched the clock. for the next shot. They had taken a large section of the skull out and put it back in with 16 screws. Coming off the stuff had me in a ball on the floor. Not hell but close enough to see it. Cant imagine your pain. Stay well.
That was big, JIm, and raw!
I have yet, almost from teh beginning , gotten thru a chapter without stopping to let emotions settle.. Outstanding writing , among the top and I average 80 or more novels a year…My hope is that every family member who has a member returning from war reads the series ..
I’m so glad you had the right woman in your life, there are so many ways your life could have ended up destroyed.
Semper Fi, Sir
Yes, I might say it was ‘the luck of the draw’ but that would not take it fully in. She’s here all these years later, complaining that I made her look too tough.
God, she was tough, and by God I so needed it. She’s gentler now, but not a whole lot, although gentle as a lamb and soft as a marshmallow if you ask her.
Your telling of your wife reminds me of my Aunt Em. My Uncle, after WWII was stationed back east and tasked with establishing the Marine Corp NCO School and varoius training methods. One day, my Aunt all of 18 for some reason was on base with her parents. She was all of 18 and a firey Irish girl. As she stepped out of the car she spotted the Captain on the Parade ground and honed on him like a heat seeking missile. She said I saw him and knew he was the one. She was an absolute beauty and as a young boy I, my brother and all of the cousins were awestruck by her. She was at my Uncles side from right after WWII, as his wife when he served as Military Attache to Venezuela and under cover of darkness he worked with the Mossad to hunt and capture Nazi war criminals, through Korea and multiple other assignments. She was 10 years his junior but like you said soft as marshmallow and yet hard as nails at the same time. Uncle Gerry passed 10 years ago and I had the honor and priviledge to walk beside her as we buried him, age 93, at Arlington. Two of my sons were home on leave from Iraq at the time and were able to be part of the Honor Guard. One of my fondest memories. She lived until just this past spring when she passed and was reunited with the Colonel. She was part of the Old Guard. Too many Military Wives are given way too little notice for the Service they bore.
Fabulous input, Tom.
You are 100% correct regarding WIVES.
Thanks for your total support
Having thought you were OK with use of the J word, will NOT use that again. Thank you for your service again and your amazing word smithing!!
I don’t like the name Junior, but I measure the meaning coming from the person who might call me that.
It’s okay, like saying the “f” word to friends. Inside me, I identify the name Junior with what I had to become
to survive the valley..and I reject that being. My change back to being a real human being again took a long
time emotionally, but intellectually I figured it out pretty quickly. The A Shau was a place of death and Junior
died there. The U.S. is a place of life and I love having integrated back into it. You can call me Junior.
-+Home , a faithful wife , beautiful daughter , God is walking with a Lt. know as ” JR” !!
GREAT JAMES GREAT !!!!
To Dan C and James; In my unpolished opinion, The original grammar in lieu of the suggested edits, gives the story much more the feel of someone who actually lived through detox, with the mental and emotional agony of its retelling. I just feels more real read, even with the occasional stumble, to re-read as it seems more like a first telling.
James, thanks for another great chapter. Thanks especially for sharing your pain. Semper Fi!
James, Thank you for posting another chapter so soon. Good that you are free of that hell
hole of a hospital. My guess is the next week at home will be epic. We await the
continuation of your story.
Some minor editing suggestions follow:
“You look terrible,” she concluded, after eyeing the mess of my body, bed, pajamas, and
the debris laying around the bed allowed for.
Maybe drop “allowed for”
“You look terrible,” she concluded, after eyeing the mess of my body, bed, pajamas, and
the debris laying around the bed.
if you don’t gain weight then there’s not going to any reason to even do the surgery.
Maybe add “be” before “any”
if you don’t gain weight then there’s not going to be any reason to even do the surgery.
Tomorrow they’re giving you some solid food for the first time.
Actually the meal was that day not the following day.
Could change “Tomorrow” to “Today” or “Later”
Today they’re giving you some solid food for the first time.
Later they’re giving you some solid food for the first time.
“They’ll bring you a regular light meal after that,” Edith continued,
We have not yet been introduced to Edith. Maybe just change “Edith” to “she”
“They’ll bring you a regular light meal after that,” she continued,
“I’ll be making a visit to your home address just as soon as I get out here.
Maybe add “of” after “out”
“I’ll be making a visit to your home address just as soon as I get out of here.
gagging, trying to breathe, and still gets something accomplished in cleaning my area up.
Maybe change “gets” to “get”
gagging, trying to breathe, and still get something accomplished in cleaning my area up.
my wife to stay and wait for me to come home from Vietnam I’d sat looking up and down the street one day.
Maybe move “one day” to before “come”
my wife to stay and wait for me to one day come home from Vietnam I’d sat looking up and down the street.
OR change “one” to “that”
my wife to stay and wait for me to come home from Vietnam I’d sat looking up and down the street that day.
I’d been without a .45 since I’d the medivac to First Med from the Valley.
Maybe drop “I’d”
medevac instead of medivac
I seem to recall from 30 Days that your watch and Tex’s 45 were taken from you at First Med.
I’d been without a .45 since the medevac to First Med from the Valley.
Welcome Home. Blessings & Be Well
You are sharp as a tack, Dan.
All corrected and republished this AM.
Outstanding James as always. Im a Vietnam vet also but worked nightshift on carrier flight decks off the coast of Vietnam it was a very dangerous place to work with many close calls but nothing like you endured in the Valley. keep the good reads coming.
Appreciate your comment and sharing your experiences.