Casualties of the Mind (part 3 of 3)

For those fifteen years, I didn’t talk about the war. During the day, I didn’t think about it either. However, at night, every sound was the enemy coming for my family and me. I’d wake sweating and grab the eight-inch knife I slept with, and there was a loaded revolver under the bed.  Then in 1981, I was working toward a MFA in writing and proposed an individual graduate project where I would write about my experiences from Vietnam.

It took six months to get beyond page forty in that manuscript, which was my first day in Vietnam. The Ph.D. with the major in English literature finally gave me an ultimatum, and I opened up. On page 41, I scrambled down a net and boarded a landing craft that carried me to the beach in Chu Lai.

Did that breakthrough help me sleep through the night?  No.  I still wake up listening to every sound.

If the crickets around the house stop chirping, I open my eyes and listen.  You see, the crickets have become my first line of defense—my trip flare.  Before bedtime, I check all the doors and windows to make sure they are locked. I still keep an eight-inch knife close and a twelve-gauge pump shotgun one-step from where I struggle to sleep. I’ve lived with this combat in my head for forty-four years so far.

When my VA shrink told me a few years ago that I had to lock my weapons up so no one would get hurt, I stopped going to counseling. Even in the US, the odds of becoming a victim of violent crime are one in four according to statistics and the last piece I read said the odds are getting worse. When the real beast comes, I have to be ready, because we live in a combat zone.

Return to Casualties of the Mind, Part 2 or start with Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

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