Fridley, Mn, USA
I applied for an NROTC scholarship while in High School on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana in the Fall of 1965. I was awarded the scholarship and received 4 years of free education at the University of Idaho. One of my summer cruises was on an oiler that spent a few weeks in the Gulf of Tonkin, refueling the carrier America and other ships. I was commissioned in May of 1970, and trained as a Naval Flight Officer in Pensacola, Florida. While in training, I read as much as I could about our involvement in Vietnam, and decided that it was wrong. I chose VP11, a P-3 Orion squadron based in Brunswick, Me, because it had older equipment and had never been deployed to the Pacific. I arrived in Brunswick in May of 1972, and in July the Captain announced that we would be deployed to the Phillipines and fly off the Vietnamese coast and report on Communist boats infiltrating the south. After a weekend of soul-searching, I informed the Captain that I was refusing to fly any longer because of my opposition to the war. After a few months of delays, I was sent from ground duty in the Phillipines to a naval base in Rota, Spain about the Spring of 1973. During the Winter of 1974-75 I became psychotic and was diagnosed with severe paranoid schizophrenia. One of the reasons for my breakdown was my ambivalence over my decision about Vietnam. I was hospitalized from January to April 1975, and disability discharged to a Veteran's Hospital on April 30, 1975, the same day as the fall of Saigon.
During the last 25 years I have largely recovered from the illness, I am married, a father, a homeowner, and have been employed for 20 years. I have been a volunteer advocate for the mentally ill since about 1984. It is not knowable if I would have become ill anyway, but even if it was part of the cause, I still believe that I did the right thing back in 1972.