My pen…then ’til now

 

As time moved on I began to feel again and remember. I couldn’t use or drink anymore. I was too close to death going down that road.  There were times when I wanted and actually screamed out at him, begging God to take me, even recently, but I’m still here.  I haven’t been able to do it myself.

So when the drugs and booze were gone work became my new drug.  I worked as many hours as I could, then come home, ate, socialized for a minute then collapsed into bed. Work, eat, sleep, repeat. Eventually the body gave out and I couldn’t work either. This was trouble. I think I actually got to the point where I could have been careless enough to blindly go over that final precipice without thinking. After about 4 months on my own with nothing to do but think and remember those most horrific things I’d lived, I was ready to stop.

One thing I can always depend on is my anger though, and this final blow to my existence triggered a major fit of raging anger.  In earlier times this would have at least resulted in a broken door, wall, desk or something. Lately, pain rules and knowing that striking anything with these old arthritic fingers is going to hurt for weeks, I’ve learned to shove my hands into my pockets instead…and cuss like a raging bull snorts.

This time my hand jammed hard onto a dog tag I had recently attached to my car fob.  The Tag was from a Veteran friend who gave it to me and said, “just in case, you know.” If I didn’t know when he gave it to me, I did know then.  As it turns out, the tag had the # for the veteran’s crisis line.  I called.

Therapy sucks but I’m still here and I am determined to see my grandkids grow up. I make progress in one aspect and lose ground in another but somehow I keep moving forward.  God knows it hasn’t been through my strength only.  I had truckloads of help from an army of caring people who really are out there to help. 22 a day are not getting that help and they are blindly falling off that precipice.

If I wanted to get a message out to any and all who suffer with PTSD it would be that:

1) it is too big for anyone to deal with alone.

2) You don’t have to do it alone.

3) To our hurting veterans, Call the Veteran’s Crisis Line:

1-800-273-8255, press “1”.

4) Don’t wait. 45 years of hell could and should have killed me.  The only thing that saved me was my wife and family…and one friend’s forethought.  BTW: It wasn’t drugs, booze or work at all.

I don’t write as much now but most of what I write is more upbeat, though I still go black sometimes.  The memories wont go away.  I handle them better now and I understand most of what I’d lost back then. Trying to recover it can be its own end.

As things got clearer for me through therapy sessions that dug until I was in tears each time and some really effective hypnosis sessions, I remembered almost all of what the concussions and fear and anger took away from me. I’d lost about 4 weeks of time from the day I got hurt for the second time until I was half way home on a medevac flight. So, the last two weeks in country and the first two weeks out.

What has rung a happy note with me consistently, aside from the family, has been most of my memories of my brothers in arms, some crazy parties on top of old burned out bunkers when we didn’t have duty, and the time I spent with Prince 16×5 as my partner on Bien Hoa, both at play, in training and at work.  He’s been quite an inspiration.  Both a source of happy remembrances and horror too.  Horror that he lived through and survived with me.

Here are some samples of what I write about my hero, Prince 16×5, US ARMY Patrol Dog.

This was the result of a game I played with myself trying to mash as many words into a coherent blurb as possible and have it mean something in the end.  This one worked better than all the others.  It was fun and it was time-consuming.

What about a dog?

Waking is a task

For help I often ask

To rise from bed

With legs like lead

Is more like dread

And so instead

I turn to God

And with a nod

He clears the fog

To deal with folks

Would take some tokes

A gallon of beer

Disperses the fear

So that what I hear

Never gets near

Enough to tear

My heart

Apart

Can’t use no more

Can’t open that door

So much in my sight

This life’s lonely blight

Living in fright

I have to fight

To be alright

Tonight

I need a buffer

Someone much tougher

To make my day

Go a better way

Someone to say

Not that way

Not today

I’ve lost the will

My breath is still

But I cannot die

instead I lie

And say I’m fine

Toe the line

March in time

Keep the rhyme

Make it mine

It’s a futile task

To maintain the mask

So i ask

A refreshing flask

Of hope

So I can cope

Without the dope

Please pass a rope

I turn to God

And with a nod

He clears the fog

I wake with the dawn

I now love the morn

The song of the birds

I’d never heard

Rings in my ears

Distills the fears

Relieves the tears

The tormenting sneers

Of imagined hateful peers

Of Satan’s leers

Yes it all clears

And now if I ache

My partner awaits

To carry me forward

Forever towards

An end to despair

A breath of fresh air

Anywhere near

This lofty lair

This life now fair

We two a pair.

I turned to God.

With a knowing nod

He reached through the fog

And gifted me a dog.

_________________________________

Prince

Silent stalker take the lead

My hunter never weary,

Using nature as you need

That I may see more clearly

Sit before a killer trap

Lead me ‘round patrols

Show me where the spider’s at

Hiding in his hole

Your senses our protection

Alert throughout the night

With courage and devotion

No fear of foe or fight

Willing night to break away

We near the mission’s end

Grant us Lord another day

For heavy hearts to mend

And though despair may scar and tear

My courage fade and pale

I know that you are always there

Your strength will never fail

Silent stalker, ever ready

Show your Princely pride

Blessed partner, strong and steady

Forever at my side.

_____________________________________

I wrote this on April 19th 2014, 43 years from the last time I saw Prince.

43 years and a wake up

…the overarching bellow of white noise slowly abated. There was no other sensation for a few moments that seemed an age.  I heard the soft but hurried footpads of your approach.  I felt your paw on my chest; heard the anxious soft whine on each intake of your breath.  I felt the liquid sensation of your tongue on my cheek.  I opened my eyes.  I saw your face…I was alive.

I now think that from my first moment in-country I was destined to be with you, boy. I had a desperate need for a companion and a guardian and you had to be him. I finally understood what was meant back at Fort Benning when they spoke of “bonding”.

From our first duty at the PX supply yard, to the Air Force Bomb depot, to sapper sweeps outside the wire, you never failed to keep me safe.  You never allowed harm to come between us, always leading, ever protecting.  My demise was my own doing and yet you still saved me.

As fierce a guardian as you were, you were still my big old cuddly Prince who loved to frolic and would belly crawl a mile to play with a child.  Your tenacity through the terrible, horrible carnage of the battle field saved two little ones, in spite of our best efforts to close our eyes.  By saving them, you once again saved me.  We lived the mission to its fullest and protected the innocent; not through my intrepid determination, but through yours.

As my spirit faded with the realization of the futility of our efforts understanding that we would, in the end, turn away from these people, you served on and reminded me always of our duty, honor and service.  A better soldier I never met.  A better friend?  Only in my dreams, as we play Frisbee on a free open field surrounded by throngs of laughing children..

43 years and a wake-up ago, I opened my eyes, I saw your face, for the last time…Good boy!

Prince (16X5), 34th Patrol Dog Platoon, 3rd Bde, 1st Cav, Bien Hoa, RVN 1972

Damn, I can’t go further now…WOOF, buddy.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s