The Holidays….as the Daughter of a VietNam Veteran

*** WARNING: IF YOU ARE A ‘NORMAL AVERAGE VIETNAM VET’ this blog DOES NOT apply to you. So proceed accordingly. For you out there who told me that you ‘HOPE IM ENJOYING THE FREEDOMS YOU FOUGHT FOR OVER THERE’ —This Blog site is evidence of that. Telling me to hold my tongue and my words for ‘the therapist’ instead of writing them online–I dare say that would be a direct contradiction of exercising my freedom of expression and my freedom to try and help people. I am truly sorry I don’t know more ‘normal average vets’ like you. But this blog is not meant to LUMP ALL VETS TOGETHER. Id like to make that clear at this moment. It is meant for the ones in pain, both vets and their children. Again, if it doesn’t apply to you—don’t read it. Thank You.******

 

“So he’s still alive. It feels like a dead check, he answered the phone. So, Dad, Merry Christmas! You don’t know what holidays or birthdays are all about. Your pissed off at me, and the world, and your place in it. I can feel the dread and dead in your voice. Your voice a strangled and hoarse version of your younger days, when you were Elvis. Singing in bars, falling in love with girls. Before the crummy war.

So yeah, your still around, for whatever reason…”

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This is a public posting  I stumbled across, and  was written by, the daughter of a Viet Nam Veteran. I felt in her words the anguish, loneliness, anger, confusion, hopelessness, and misunderstanding that have built up…probably a few decades over. I felt the gap of an ocean…or two….between her and her father. I was so moved, so touched by her honesty and the reality from which it came from that I wanted to share it….but I also wanted to share “the other side” too. Because, I have been on both sides of the line. I have felt that resentment and anger…..and I have discovered forgiveness and healing through what I believe—and there is no other way to put it— was a miracle. I am posting this to help other children of Viet Nam Veterans, to give them some kind of hope that somewhere inside their fathers–really deep inside there—is a father who just needs to know that the hand is out, your hand and a tiny part of your heart willing to take the chance of allowing them in.

This post breaks my heart, because it sounds like me a few years ago with my father until I came across a video in which he was interviewed about Vietnam for some Latino historical society in Texas dedicated to memorializing Latinos in the Viet Nam War….. Until I saw that video I never understood why……but then I finally “got it”….. My father didn’t ask for who he used to be as a person to die there in Vietnam. He didn’t choose to come home the person he was. He didn’t choose to become the parent he was to me, and only now has he been able to acknowledge how painful life was with him as I grew up and how it has affected me as a person today….

He  came home from Vietnam with TBI and PTSD but my father didn’t accept help until recent years……it’s taken him decades to tell me, how sorry he is and that this wasn’t the father he dreamed of being and that he knew he was never going to be his true self again BEFORE even leaving Nam. I was the one that seemed to be the focus of his blow ups, the first born, the only one of three children never afraid to go nose to nose with him and stand up to him but with that came a lot of emotional trauma. Since seeing the DVD….I have forgiven him and told him I RELEASE HIM from carrying that burden— That I accept him for where he is and who he is at this moment.    Had I not seen his interview…. I’d still hate and despise him today

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My best advice to any child of a Vietnam Veteran…… Meet them where they are today…. And not who you wish they were yesterday……that’s the healing place to start. This is a sickness. These men and women have been exposed to numerous chemicals that forever altered their brain function. They were injured from bombs and combat loss they never processed….couple that with the shock of coming home to their home soil and being spit on and called murderers and shunned from society— it forever damaged men who truly wanted to be good people…and loving attentive husbands and fathers……many of whom now sit in the darkest corners alone,  holding on for dear life to a tiny thread of hope that tomorrow will be the day the flashbacks stop, that they will stop hearing radio transmissions over and over…. Or seeing the constant replaying of the violent deaths of their comrades whom they believe they “should have, could have saved” but failed to……and carrying the burden of failing as fathers and husbands…

To anonymous….I know your pain, I lived it all my life…. I still do when he blows up at me from time to time….but I also know these men need, and are desperate for some light and hope. Try to forgive him.   Truly— he knows not what he has done, he may not even “see” what he has done….Because he is so stuck in yesterday…..

The daughter who was brave enough to share her pain and a snapshot into her heart….she is many of us and in a place many of us have been…..she has not found forgiveness yet because she hasn’t truly seen through her father’s eyes what he experienced and what it was like for him. I truly believe, like me, she NEEDS that piece in order to take the steps forward toward forgiveness and finding a new normal and a new relationship with her father. Perhaps, in her own time and in her own way she will forgive him before he dies….because I guarantee you, it’s the one thing many of these vets want most before death—-light, warmth, acceptance, and the peace of forgiveness…..maybe not understanding…..but the forgiveness of those they never meant to and never wanted to hurt the most.

This much I know for sure….the Veteran referred to in the post above died already…back in Vietnam, so many decades ago. The greatest gift we can give these men and women is the gift of holding out a hand to them and never letting go, so that they know they belong somewhere in the present…..

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