Revisiting Vietnam American RadioWorks
  Vietnam Scrapbook

Lou Wheeland
Aurora, Colorado, USA

I am not a Vet but I am a causality of the Vietnam War. I was 19 when I met him. We married on July 31, 1971 and on August 11 he left for Vietnam. This was the beginning of the end of our marriage. I received letters about the beauty of the country, the killing and the great acid trips. He had done drugs before he left for Vietnam. After all it was the 60-70's, the era of free love, sex and rock and roll. And the era of all sorts of ways to get high.

He went to Vietnam and I went back to college in a small midwestern school. I watched TV every night to catch a glimps of him. But instead of seeing him, I did see a side of war that the American home fires had never seen before. Vietnam was the first war to be on TV each and every evening. The newscasters would report the news each evening complete with body counts By the end of the news each night I would have tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. I would hope and pray that the black bag on the screen did not hold the body of the one I loved.

Then I got a call. My husband was missing in action. No one knew where he was. His dog tags had been found in the dirt. Was this a way to tell us American that they had one of our men? Three days went by without a word from the Army. Then at 12 PM on the fourth night I received a phone call in my dorm from him. He had been shipped out after falling off an armored personal carrier and had crushed his foot. He was in San Fransico and was being shipped to Fort Reiley in a day or two. We were reunited over a hospital bed. But he was alive and home safe.

Then the real injuries started to occur. When he left for Vietnam he would smoke a little grass and maybe drop acid one a month. Now he was up to smoking more than we could afford and was not happy taking only one hit of acid at a time. If he was not high on grass, he was tripping. I had returned to school to get certified to teach high school history. I was always scared he would get arrested and what school district would hire a teacher with a husband who was dealing to pay for his high.

He was also having trouble with his foot and the Army did not have any plans to help us after discharging him. He was not given medical benefits when he left the army. So I had a husband who was now always high and did not think he could work due to his injury. We fought about his drugs, our money situation and that he had not grown up. He thought that I had gotten old at 22.

We divorced in June 1975. I was only 23 and had been put through my own hell. Not all causalities of Vietnam wore a uniform and carried a gun. The silent causalities were the women who stayed at home and fought our own battles.

Today, I am remarried, have a good husband and great kids. But on the anniversity of that first marriage, I lost those first few years of being twenty. I should have been having fun, falling in love and starting a life. Instead I experienced pain, anxiety and lost I have not ever gotten over.


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