Something Left Behind

The United States designates two major holidays to honor and remember those who served in our armed forces. Veterans Day is to honor and remember all who served. Memorial Day is for honoring those who gave their lives in the service of the country. On Memorial Day 2016, OneOldCop wants to call attention to a group of veterans who are often overlooked, sometimes even shunned.

OneOldCop met such a veteran recently. For the purposes of this piece, we’ll call him Joe in honor of all the GI Joes who served this country in decades past. Another reason to call him Joe is the veteran who returned from Vietnam was not the young man his parents christened and raised. That man was lost somewhere in the jungles of Vietnam.

This point was driven home when Joe was introduced to this writer. The mutual acquaintance making the introduction said in an aside, “He was in Vietnam, and part of him didn’t make it home.”

OneOldCop wrote in “Run Silent, Run Deep*” about the problems some veterans faced as a result of their war-time experiences. That piece, and “Lest We Forget,” only touched on the stories of Joe and the thousands like him.

Joe and the thousands of his brothers and sisters in arms may or may not have been physically disabled by battle. They may or may not have been diagnosed to be suffering from what is now called PTSD. Still, they are not the men and women who went off to fight for their country. They are not the same fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, daughters or sons who shipped out to Korea, Vietnam or the Middle East.

Joe seems to be doing okay. He apparently sustained wounds in Vietnam,
but does not appear to be in worse shape physically than many other men his age. Nor, did the reasoning part of his mind seem horribly impacted by his service. He is, by all accounts, able to function normally for someone his age. Yet, one only needs to spend a few minutes with him to note there is something wrong.

The specifics of Joe’s symptoms are not important. He seems to have a decent life with friends and colleagues who look past any peculiarities or behavioral issues others might find off-putting. His symptoms serve primarily to remind those around him of the price he, and others, paid in the service of the country. That is what seeing Joe did for this writer.

According to one source, the total number of U. S. service members killed in Korea, Vietnam and the Middle East totaled 101,442 as of April 1, 2013. While that may be a staggering number, another is even more VA Homelessnessstaggering. For every one of these casualties there are an unknown number of Joes in the world. Many may live relatively normal lives, but many live on the streets, are addicted to drugs, have serious mental issues, or have friends who warn those around them, “He was in Vietnam, and part of him didn’t make it home.”

On this Memorial Day when there is a moment of silence or prayer for those who have fallen, add Joe and the tens of thousands just like him to your thoughts and prayers.

*Run Silent, Run Deep was rewritten and republished as Run Silent, Run Deep: Revisted.

© S. E. Jackson – 2016

About S. Eric Jackson

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