Longing for Home (2)

I wrote two days ago about my illness following the escape during the fall of Saigon on 29 April 1975. I told the story up to the point that I passed out after trying unsuccessfully to brief CINCPAC in mid-May.

I should have gone to a doctor immediately, but instead I booked a flight for the mainland. I, like Thanh in Last of the Annamese, yearned more than anything just to go home. The day after I arrived in Baltimore, a doctor diagnosed me with amoebic dysentery, ear damage from the shelling, and pneumonia due to inadequate diet, sleep deprivation, and muscle fatigue. Worse, I was afflicted with a condition we didn’t have a name for back then, Post-Traumatic Stress Injury, brought on by my time in combat and surviving the fall of Saigon. I was subject to panic attacks, flashbacks, nightmares, and irrational rages. I was, in short, a physical and psychic wreck.

My wife and children had fled Saigon twenty days before the city fell. They had gone on a grand tour of Asia and Europe during the North Vietnamese siege of Saigon and by mid-May were in Massachusetts staying with my wife’s father. I telephoned her and begged her to come to Maryland—I was desperately ill and needed her.

My wife said no. She told me she wouldn’t return to Maryland until our house in Crofton was available. We had leased it to another family for the length of our tour in Vietnam. Sick as I was, I had to negotiate for the return of the house and pay a penalty for our unexpected return. My wife and children didn’t return to Maryland until the following July.

Like Thanh, I had longed to go home and replenish my spirit, but I had no home. My wife’s refusal to help me when I was so sick made my homelessness clear. It was lowest point in my life and the beginning of the end of the marriage.

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