Vietnam (2)

But none of my later travels affected me as much as the thirteen years I spent on and off in Vietnam. Between 1962 and 1975, I was there at least four months every year. I had two complete multiyear tours there and so many shorter trips, usually four to six months each, that I lost count. I kept getting sent back because I was willing to go into combat with the army and Marine units I was  supporting. That made me very popular; no sooner would I get back to the states than a message would come saying, “Send Glenn back.” And back I’d go.

My experience in Vietnam changed me permanently. First of all, my work there proved that I was capable of providing much needed intelligence on the battlefield. That led to a multitude of overseas assignments after 1975.

I came away from my years in Vietnam with a severe case of Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI) which can never be cured but must be coped with. I learned that I could live with a malady that drove some men to suicide.

And I spoke Vietnamese so consistently that I habitually thought in that language. It helped me immeasurably to understand and use other languages.

But most important, Vietnam made me the man I am today. I was only 25 years old when I first arrived in Vietnam. I was 38 when I escaped under fire at the end of the war. I learned that I could go for days without food or sleep and still function at the top of my form. I learned that a loner like me could operate as part of a team and be more effective. I learned that I was able and willing to risk my life for the good of others. All that changed me from a boy to a man.

My Vietnam years took a toll, especially on my children, who had to learn how to make do without a father. They had to cope with my PTSI. They had to accept that they were not my first priority. My country was. They accepted that and developed an independence I admire in them.

Would I do it all over again, knowing now the effect that Vietnam had on my life? Yes. I did it all for the good of my country. And I am a better man today than I would have been without Vietnam.

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