We owe our lives to them. And our freedom. I am talking about all the men and women who have served in the military over the years. They have taken care of us. But who takes care of them? The time spent in war can take a toll on the strongest among us. We hear about depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as some of the possible side effects to time spent serving in the military. But how is it really? How does the military deal with mental health problems? And how does one cope with all the unimaginable stressors of military life?
In order to get some answers to these questions I sought the help of two courageous individuals who have both served our country during times of war. The interviews I am about to present to you this week are very different perspectives of the same theme. You will get to see how time has drastically influenced how we deal with mental health issues in the military.
My first interview is with Paul who you may all know from this site. Paul is an active member of our community and gives his support and compassion to anyone who needs it. But what you may not know about Paul is that he is a Vietnam War veteran. His candid interview is very eye opening about what life was like for a young man far from home in a war torn country. His story is no less poignant now as it was then. And by the way, the handsome young man on the right hand side of this photo is Paul as he was some decades ago during his service in Vietnam.
I now present to you, Paul.
I enlisted in the Army for Infantry when I was 17 years old, Just after graduation, I was sent to Ft. Knox, Ky. for my basic training. Went to Ft. Gordon, Ga. for Advanced Infantry training and was sent to Ft. Riley, Ks. as a rifleman with the 4th Cavalry, 1st Inf. Div.
I volunteered for service in Vietnam. At the time, there were only Marine units in northern South Vietnam and the 173rd Airborne around Saigon. I was sent to a unit about 30 miles south of Saigon, in Mytho, basically to carry a radio for advisors to the Headquarters of the 7th ARNV Inf. Div.
I did that for six months, then when the 1st Inf. Div. was sent over, I transferred back but ended up with the 2nd Battalion, 18th Infantry Brigade. I carried an M -79 grenade launcher and a .45 pistol.
My year of service there spanned 1965-66.
Can you tell us what it was like to serve in Vietnam? What was a typical day like for you there?
My time in Mytho seemd an endless trudging through rice paddies, being out with contingents of ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam) units. Searching for and engaging local Viet Cong units.
We lived with these soldiers, knew their families who lived with them, learned a bit of their language and culture, I loved the people there. I associated freely and mostly did what they did.