Since I began promoting Last of the Annamese and started this blog, I have been receiving email notes and Facebook postings from other men who served in Vietnam. They have reinforced my memories with stories of their own and, in effect, confirmed for me that others have unspeakable memories, too.
Sufferers of Post-Traumatic Stress Injury from combat invariably go off by themselves because they can’t talk about what they did and what they witnessed. That makes them feel isolated, as if they alone are tortured by monstrous memories. When they find the courage to face their experiences directly, they nearly always go through the maelstrom by themselves, away from their loved ones. On the one hand, they feel shame for what they have done; on the other, they don’t want to burden those they care most about. It makes for a lonely life.
So when other men speak to me of the combat they have seen, I come to understand that I am not alone. I am one of a band of brothers. We suffer alone, but we reach out to help each other when we can. I am comforted because I wrote both The Trion Syndrome and Last of the Annamese in part to confront my memories and in part to help others who suffer as I do. Annamese begins with the following dedication:
“This book is dedicated to those who suffered through Vietnam, were jeered and spat upon when they returned to the world, and have yet to be thanked for their service. May our country awaken, recognize your sacrifice, and honor you.”
My brothers, I thank you.