My Wife During Vietnam (2)

By the time I escaped Saigon under fire twenty days after wife and children were evacuated, I was sick with dysentery and pneumonia and was suffering from severe Post-Traumatic Stress Injury. I had been holed up for days on end in my office with little food and no sleep as the North Vietnamese first shelled then launched a ground attack on Saigon. I arrived in Maryland in mid-May 1975 but couldn’t go back to my house there because we had leased it to another family for the expected length of our Vietnam tour, three years. My wife and the children landed in Massachusetts on a flight from Europe to stay with my wife’s father. I telephoned her and begged her to come to Maryland. I explained that I was ill and in need of help.

She refused. She said she would not return until I was able to pay off the family in our house and get it back. She and children finally came back to Maryland two months later, after I had regained the house.

In sum, my sickness and need were of no interest to her. I was left on my own to cope with my physical illnesses and emotional wounds. Because I held high level security clearances, I couldn’t seek psychiatric help with my Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI). I was on my own.

Thanks to my childhood with an alcoholic mother and a father in prison, I had long since developed resilience and self-reliance. I got through it all by myself, without help. I managed my health problems and healed myself. I don’t recommend it as a way of life.

The worst aspect of my recovery was the realization that my wife was indifferent to my need. She delighted in being the woman around town in Saigon but didn’t care enough about me to help me when I was at the lowest point in my life, suffering from both physical and emotional illnesses. It was obvious that cared little for me. That was the beginning of the end of the marriage.

During the divorce, she secretly arranged to have one of my children brought into the courtroom just as I was about to testify against her. I wasn’t about to lay out all the evidence of her misdeeds in front of her child. The end result was I lost everything to her in the divorce. It took me years to regain financial standing.

My wife, meanwhile, spent the rest of her life in our family house, alone after the children grew up and moved out. She was content.

One thought on “My Wife During Vietnam (2)”

  1. Tom, I have been reading your daily blogs with great interest. I have heard most of the Vietnam experiences from you or during your presentations but I have been very interested in the family dynamics that were occurring.

    I have a few questions such as: Given the situation with your wife, are your children close to you these days? I could be wrong but I believe that you told me your daughter is the one who gave you the grand piano if I recall correctly. Is your wife still alive and if not when did she pass away? Not to get personal but were the two of you happy before the Vietnam separations?

    The dynamics were different with my family but the six months stay at Fort Riley for my dad to help form up a company as first sergeant and then the consequent 13-month tour in Vietnam placed such a mental, physical, and emotional separation between my parents that it allowed my mother to become independent for the first time since she was in high school. They split and subsequently divorced within 2 years of his returning from Vietnam. The good news is that although there were some bad years between them they both took the attitude that their children did not cause the divorce and they remained civil with each other for the rest of their lives. They also attended our family Christmases together even after new marriages for over 40 years. So I was very lucky in that regard.

    hope you are doing well and that the settling-in process is almost finished. I suspect it is as you are writing prolifically again now.

    Hope to see you Thursday at the men’s forum. All the best,

    Ken

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