In 1965, the Marine Corps did a great job of preparing me for jungle warfare. In 1968, I returned to the states full of bewildering feelings such as survivor’s guilt, and an insatiable appetite for endorphin flow. In 1968, there was no such thing as post traumatic stress disorder. Some called it battle fatigue, but the term generally was reserved for WWII veterans who fought in a real war.
In 1980 I discovered the Vet Center in West Los Angeles; a place where clinical psychologists helped Vietnam war veterans understand things like intrusive thoughts and feelings. Two years of good counseling saved my marriage, and, in turn, literally saved my life.
Now it is the year 2015, and I am returning to the local Vet Center in Modesto, California. I have been working on a new book entitled, “Wings of Valor.” As much as anything else, it is a project that revives memories of my experiences as a combat aircrew member with a helicopter squadron in South Vietnam. The downside is that working on the book has caused unpleasant dreams, intrusive thoughts, and survivor’s guilt to resurface.
The main thing a combat veteran suffering from PTSD must learn is that there is no cure. It is a condition I will carry with me throughout the remainder of my lifetime. But there is hope by means of good therapy. Learning how to cope with the condition is a good thing. Knowing you are not insane is a good thing. Believing you can take the pain and live a meaningful life is a blessing.
While this all may seem sad and unfortunate, my PTSD counseling has taught me that writing this book is good for my mental health. Keeping feelings bottled up inside can have devastating effects on me and my family. So, I simply set my emotional pressure relief valve at 1,500 PSI, and continue on my merry way. My book will be on my editors desk by March of 2016. Then I can reset my pressure relief valve back to 1,000 PSI.