I have PTSD. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you know it because you often catch me posting at all hours of the night. PTSD keeps me awake. I hear from many of you who are sleepless for the same reason.
I spent months in Vietnam entertaining the troops. Far from being part of a traditional war zone tour, I hired my own musicians and performed my shows wherever I was wanted. The Army kindly helicoptered me up and down the country from the Mekong Delta in the south to the DMZ in the north. Many times my tour took me close to the heart of what war means: random and senseless destruction, my own death, the deaths of the innocent, the deaths of soldiers, and, perhaps worst of all, the cruel mutilation of the wounded. The things I saw and felt in those months left a lasting impression on me. Changed my life. Sometimes they surface in the form of nightmares. Strangely, instead of fading with time, they have become more vivid, more terrifying. You could be a veteran of any war, a victim of a violent crime, a rape victim, or a victim of an accident. PTSD is likely part of your life too. The chances are you feel isolated, afraid, angry, and depressed. Or all of the above. Others who have not had similar experiences will try to understand, but only a brother or sister in arms can truly fathom the depths of your pain.
A Vietnam vet named John Huddleston recently reached out to me, having spied me prowling around social media in the wee hours of the morning. John served two tours in Vietnam as a combat medic. You can be sure he saw some really bad shit. In our back-and-forth messaging, John was reassuring as only someone could be who has walked the walk. With John’s permission, I am reprinting a portion of one of his posts.
Mamie I can’t express how important your visits were.You stuck your neck out for us and we knew it. I hope you realize you’ve always been more than an entertainer. You also have a social conscience and a good heart. Many who saw you there never came home. You are the closest they got. Mamie, you are the last thing many of them ever saw from home.
I read the last two sentences and couldn’t stop crying. You are the closest they got. John, your kind words refocused my thinking. Being the final link for those brave ones who didn’t return shifts the burden for me. I don’t think the night terrors will be less, but when the cold sweats dry and the cotton mouth of fear is washed away, I’ll carry on for as long as I can. They swapped their lives for mine. I’ll wear their memories on my sleeve.