What Battlefield? (2)

The worst aftermath of my time on the battlefield came in April 1975 when Saigon fell. The helicopter I escaped on after the North Vietnamese were in the streets of the city took so much lead that I thought we were going down. But we made it. Once aboard a ship of the U.S. 7th Fleet cruising in the South China Sea, I realized how sick I was. Two communicators and I had been holed up in our communications center at Tan Son Nhat, on the northern edge of Saigon, while the North Vietnamese besieged the city. For nearly a week, we were isolated there with almost nothing to eat. We weren’t able to sleep because the North Vietnamese regularly shelled the area, first with rockets, later with artillery. When I got back to the states, I was diagnosed with pneumonia due to muscle fatigue, sleep deprivation, and inadequate diet; amoebic dysentery; and ear damage from the shelling. I still wear hearing aids.

But the worst was the Post-Traumatic Stress In jury (PTSI). I was subject to panic attacks, nightmares, irrational rages, and flashbacks. Because I had top secret codeword plus clearances, I was not allowed to go to a psychotherapist. I had to cope with the disease on my own. And PTSI never goes away. I had to learn to live with it. That meant confronting my memories, forcing myself to relive them, and accepting them as a part of who I am.

To face and come to terms with my memories, I wrote them down. That led to writing books as a way to vent my soul. As a result, I now have six books and seventeen short stories in print, most of them about war and combat or the consequences of surviving on the battlefield.

My most popular book is Last of the Annamese, a novel set during the fall of Saigon. Although the book is fiction, every event described is real and actually happened. I fictionalized the various disasters I faced by attributing experiencing them to fictional characters.

Writing the book helped. I’m better able to live at peace now that I have portrayed to public view what I went through.

But I’m not done yet. I have at least two more books waiting to be written. My work is cut out for me.

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