I’ve just completed editing on an article on Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI) by a former Navy corpsman who served with the Marines in Vietnam in 1967. In the article he describes what he went through on the battlefield that left his soul in tatters. During the final read-through of the edited article, I remembered questions readers of this blog have asked me: what happened to me that caused my own case of PTSI?
Most of it I still can’t bring myself to talk about. The events that wounded my psyche came from my repeated signals intelligence support to troops in combat, both Marine and army, all over south Vietnam, between 1964 and the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Vietnam in 1973; and from living through the fall of Saigon in April 1975, escaping under fire after the North Vietnamese were already in the streets of the city.
Men fighting by my side were killed in ways so grisly that only those who have experienced combat can understand. Sometimes so little was left of them that the survivors were hard put to find enough to put in a body bag.
One of the factors in my PTSI is that I was so emotionally close to the men who were killed. The strongest bond I have ever experienced is that between men who fight side by side on the battlefield. These were men I was living with, sleeping on the ground next to them, sharing C-rations with them, using their latrines, going into combat with them. To have them so hideously killed by my side shook my grip on sanity.