Letters from Home

While I was in Vietnam, many Marines in my communication’s platoon didn’t get mail—ever. Since my family and friends wrote often and sent packages with cookies, candy and books like Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, I had books to fill the days when we weren’t in the field. At night when I was on radio watch in the bunker, I read too. I shared with my “brothers” in uniform who didn’t get anything. The cookies were popular. I loaned the books out too.

If someone who has never faught in a war listens to the news, it sounds like our troops are fighting 24/7. My mother believed it. Evertime she heard about combat and deaths on the news, she cried. My dad told me this after I came home.

Too bad, she didn’t know the truth.  During those down times, soldiers get lonely and think about home. For me, books helped fill the empty hours. Those books also helped get my mind off what was waiting at night and beyond the wire when I wasn’t on a field operation, out at night with patrols or was involved in ambushes that we were setting up. No one wants to be the target of an ambush we don’t plan—I was the target in a couple of those too.

Because of my experiences in Vietnam, during the first Gulf War (2 August 1990 – 28 February 1991), I organized a letter writing campaign with my secondary English students in La Puente, California.  One girl’s older brother was in Kuwait, then he moved on to Iraq after the war started in earnest. When his letters arrived, class time was set aside for his sister to share what was happening to him. I feared we might hear he had been killed. But he was fortunate and made it back in one piece.

Recently, I joined Operation E-Book Drop. This program offers free e-books to our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Any troop with a computer may sign onto Smashwords.com and download a book if they have the coupon code. They have to request the codes through the program. More than two hundred authors and nine publishers have joined this program.

Another program, Book Readers for SF (Special Forces—kindlesf@gmailcom), is putting Kindles in the hands of troops that belong to Special Forces in Afghanistan. Many of these soldiers are stationed in remote, rugged, mountain outposts.

Now, I’m adopting a Spc. in an Aviation Regiment from Operation Desert Swap http://operationdesertswap.webs.com/.

I’m mailing a copy of my novel, My Splendid Concubine, and will send cards and gifts when holidays come along.  Once we have been in combat, I don’t think any veteran forgets what it was like.

Discover Stanford Study shows effects of PTSD trauma on brain

_______________________

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.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

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What is PTSD?

Most combat veterans that have PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, do not talk about it.  Many are heavy drinkers attempting to drowned the disorder to keep the monster at bay. Booze and drugs do not work. They make the vampire worse. Get your life back. Support and understanding is out there.

What is post-traumatic stress disorder, or  PTSD (visit this source for more information)?

PTSD is an illness. You can get PTSD after living through or seeing a dangerous event, such as war, a hurricane, or bad accident. PTSD makes you feel stressed and afraid after the danger is over. It affects your life and the people around you.

If you have PTSD, you can get treatment and feel better.

Who gets PTSD?

PTSD can happen to anyone at any age. Children get PTSD too.

You don’t have to be physically hurt to get PTSD. You can get it after you see other people, such as a friend or family member, get hurt.

What causes PTSD?

Living through or seeing something that’s upsetting and dangerous can cause PTSD. This can include:

  • Being a victim of or seeing violence
  • The death or serious illness of a loved one
  • War or combat
  • Car accidents and plane crashes
  • Hurricanes, tornadoes, and fires
  • Violent crimes, like a robbery or shooting.

There are many other things that can cause PTSD. Talk to your doctor if you are troubled by something that happened to you or someone you care about.

Combat PTSD: What are the Symptoms?

http://ptsdcombat.blogspot.com/2006/03/combat-ptsd-what-are-symptoms.htmlIntrusiveRe-experiencing of the traumatic event(s)

  • Distressing recollections
  • Flashbacks (feeling as if you’re back in combat while awake)
  • Nightmares (frequent recurrent combat images while asleep)
  • Feeling anxious or fearful (as if you’re back in the combat zone again)

AvoidantDrawing inward or becoming emotionally numb

  • Extensive and active avoidance of activities, places, thoughts, feelings, memories, people, or conversations related to or that remind you of your combat experiences
  • Loss of interest
  • Feeling detached from others (finding it hard to have loving feelings or experiencing any strong emotions)
  • Feeling disconnected from the world around you and things that happen to you
  • Restricting your emotions
  • Trouble remembering important parts of what happened during the trauma
  • Shutting down (feeling emotionally and/or physically numb)
  • Things around you seem strange or unreal
  • Feeling strange and/or experiencing weird physical sensations
  • Not feeling pain or other sensations

Since returning from Vietnam in 1966, I couldn’t put a term to the symptoms I was experiencing. For fifteen years, I was a heavy drinker and never talked about what happened. The nightmares that are called flashbacks came at night and were vivid and real. There are many nights even now where I will wake and listen for warning sounds that danger is near. I’ll reach for the weapon I keep close to where I sleep to make sure it is still there.

Learn more from PTSD Vet Charged with Murder

_______________________

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.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

The Sniper and the [sort-of] “Dear John” Letter

In September 2009 , I found the 1966 Vietnam letters I wrote home that my mother had saved. Sitting on the floor sorting them, I noticed that my dad had written a lot while I was overseas. My dad was a man of few words, and the number of letters told me how much he cared.

My dad has been dead for twenty years and my mother for ten. These letters had been in a box for more than forty years. They showed that people now dead cared when I was in harm’s way as our troops are in harm’s way in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sitting on the floor with those letters scattered around me, I started to cry. After the tears dried, I read some more.

One of the letters was from Linda Grey, my dad’s best friend’s oldest daughter. By the way, when I was a kid, my family and friends called me Skip.

Hi Skip,

How are you doing over there, Skip? Your mother is teaching me how to cook for you, so when you get back I will cook a dinner for you, okay. That Tim just loves to tease me all the time. And it makes me mad! I hope you like the candy I made. We all miss you very much, and that is why we call Tim, Skip.

I’m sorry I haven’t been writing to you, but I have been working a lot this summer. Skip, have you met any beautiful girls over there?  Skip, for my summer vacation I went to Yosemite National Park with my grandmother, my cousin, my sister and I went horseback riding for four hours. When we got through going horseback riding, we went bicycle riding for one hour. Skip, could you find out how much does a culture pearl cost? Well, I will say good-by for now.

Love,
Miss Linda Grey.

Sitting on top of that bunker in Vietnam in 1966, I stared at the word “Love,” and wondered what she met and was afraid of my own imagination.

What if those thoughts were wrong?

It was a sunny, clear day with a deep-blue sky. That’s when the sniper fired. I felt and heard the round as it snapped by my ear brushing the skin but not breaking it. One more inch to the left, and I would have been dead.

Instantly, I rolled off the back of the bunker, grabbed my M-14 on the way down, hit the ground, flipped off the safety, rolled to the right into the open and searched for a target. There was no one beyond the concertina wire at the base of the hill. The rice paddies were empty—the trees a smudge in the distance.

A few weeks later, another letter arrived from my mother and she told me to write Linda and tell her that that I was too old for her. Linda was a teenager then—about four or five years younger than me. I turned twenty-one soon after arriving in Vietnam.

For the next month, my depression was deep.  As a child growing up, I’d known Linda for years, and she was a great kid to have as a friend. She also grew up to be a real beauty. I know now—decades later—that after she graduated from high school, she married the wrong guy, who abused her horribly, and her life was a mess for some time before she divorced him and eventually found love again.

After that narrow escape from death in Vietnam—one of several while I was there—I didn’t read letters on top of bunkers again. I also never forget the letters that the adolescent Miss Linda Grey wrote that ended with the word “Love“.

Are there any special letters or e-mails that you remember—ones that will still be in your thoughts decades later?

_______________________

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.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”