My Wife in Vietnam (3)

After the evacuation of my family, things in Saigon went from bad to worse very quickly. After being holed up for days in my office without food and unable to rest due to North Vietnamese shelling, I finally escaped under fire after the North Vietnamese were already in the streets of the city. When I got back to the states in May 1975, I was a physical and mental wreck. Suffering from amoebic dysentery and pneumonia and with serious ear damage due to the shelling I was caught in at the end, I was also going through the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI)—panic attacks, flashbacks, nightmares, irrational rages, and depression. Because I held top-secret codeword-plus clearances from NSA, I couldn’t seek psychological help. If I had, I would have lost my clearances and my job, not something I could risk with a wife and four children to support.

When I reached Maryland, I telephoned my wife. She was in Massachusetts staying with her father. I begged her to come to Maryland. I told her I was ill and needed her. She said no. She and the children would not return to Maryland until we were able to occupy our house, leased to another family for three years, the presumed length of my Vietnam tour. I finally arranged to reoccupy the house the following July. Only then did she and the children return.

My wife’s refusal to help me when I was seriously ill demonstrated how little she cared for me. That was the beginning of the end of the marriage. We were divorced a few years later.

My wife could have been (and should have been) an asset to me in Vietnam. Instead, she was a liability. Other Americans found her superiority offensive. Although she taught school briefly during our second tour, she spent most of her time in leisurely pursuits, regaling herself as the boss’s wife. And after the fall of Saigon, she left me to struggle with my physical and mental maladies on my own.

She had so many opportunities to excel and do good. She ignored them. Her children and I suffered the consequences.

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