Revisiting Vietnam American RadioWorks
  Vietnam Scrapbook

Tim Connelly, Vietnam veteran
Richfield, Mn, USA

I Am Too Young To BE An Old Soldier.

I am a Vietnam Veteran. I hate the term Vietnam era Vet because it includes all those people in the Service at the time of that stupid war. I want to feel apart from those who did not spend time in that green hell.

One thing that I have noticed is that even in this new millennium it sucks to be a veteran of the lost war. I got a call from Earl on Labor Day. He told me Frank had blown his head off down in Arizona. I couldn't believe it. I thought Frank was doing okay. Earl, whom I have now dubbed the "Angel of Death", called me again on Thanksgiving. He told me they had found Rich dead in his car. He had killed himself, too. Hell, I had just seen Rich a couple of weeks ago. He had talked about moving to a warmer climate to be with his son. I dread every call I get from Earl. It is usually about the death of some fellow Vietnam Veteran I have met over the past ten years at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center's Post Traumatic Stress Recovery Clinic.

Not all of the guys killed themselves, but they all seemed too young to die. I think I know more guys who have died after Vietnam than in Vietnam, and I was a medic. I feel like my 82 year old father, who has lost most of his friends, but that seems more natural than losing most of your friends at 50.

I have come a long ways in the last ten years. From being homeless and then living in the hellhouse atmosphere of the Minnesota Veterans Home to getting married and living in a house in the suburbs of the Twin Cities. I did it with the help of some people who cared about me and other Vietnam Veterans suffering from PTSD. But those people aren't around to help anymore.

About five or six years ago, changes began to happen at the PTSR Clinic. A turf battle over how to care for PTSD patients was ever present. In the eyes of the Hospital administrators, the inmates had taken over. Doctors who had worked for 20 years developing ways of working with Vietnam Veterans were removed from their positions with no explanation. Guys who had been seeing a doctor on a regular basis were all of a sudden hanging in the wind. Support groups, which had helped many guys stay stable, were eliminated. Guys like Frank and Rich felt, in their minds, that they had no alternatives left. A family-like atmosphere with less restrictive rules was turned into a sterile, lifeless, clinical craphouse of psychological disinterest. A safe place to come and talk with other Vietnam Veterans about similar problems was eliminated.

Of course, the VA Hospital officals will say I am full of crap, the veterans are being helped, and so forth. If you have a different viewpoint, you are a troublemaker. I am not a troublemaker. I'm a skeptic. After being screwed and suckered into going to Vietnam and then seeing all the crap over there, I've gotten used to questioning authority. I also happened to be a journalist for ten years before I sought treatment for PTSD, so I have gotten used to asking questions and not getting answers.

Am I supposed to trust people who have no idea of what I and others have gone through? Wasn't it the veterans themselves who started self-help groups back in the 1970's to deal with readjustment problems? I will never understand why they treat us, those who have incurred the ravages of war, with so little respect. I am sorry we lost, but you can't win them all. I am getting tired of speaking out and having no one listen. Since I have a mental health label, I can be written off as a nut or being in "a loose period." However, I am not finished yet and will continue, in some way or another, to try and get the message across that it still sucks to be a Vietnam Veteran in the 21st Century.

I bought a hat at the VA Hospital a few months ago. It says "Vietnam Veteran". but I am ashamed to wear it...DAMN VIETNAM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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