Max C. Zurcher, Minot
You want to know what PTSD is all about? It's about injustice and a burning anger in the pit of my stomach.
Vietnam vets have had to bear it alone, crushed by indifference; detained like we were at some POW camp of the soul. Many of us vets have had the door slammed shut by the Veteran's Administration that's why it's so important for the therapist to have been a combat veteran themselves in order to understand not just the special pain of being a combat veteran themselves in order to understand not just the special pain of being a combat veteran, but to be able to deal with the intensity of our pain when it comes pouring out of us. PTSD groups run by social workers in their late 30s or early 40s cannot understand the pain that Vietnam veterans suffer. When PTSD erupts into psychosis, manic violence and suicide us veterans that have been full of rage, grief and horror feel like our body is living in a parallel reality that has nothing to do with real-time experience.
PTSD is hard to treat because of the mayhem done to our basic sense of trust; and the despotic whims of VA doctors to lock up PTSD patients. That's why I've quit going to the VA hospital in Fargo; friends of mine have been locked up for several months at a time. We all share so many difficult feelings of despair when we go to the VA hospital.
While in the hospital in Japan, I helped work the wards of men stuck in a morphine stupor in horrific pain, screaming every night for their arms and legs. I came back home with a walking anthology of survivor guilt, remembering when the Viet cong came into an AmerAsian orphanage and killed more than half of the children there. Hearing a shot or backfire or the helicopters that fly over our home daily, makes me smell the dead people of Vietnam and scares me almost numb. No one takes my word about what happened to me over in Vietnam without seeing my discharge papers (DD214 and 215) and Combat Infantry Badge.
Many men who served in Vietnam dress like businessmen or attorneys and just talk about their jobs, never Vietnam; but many of them have the same memories as the rest of us they just hide them.
What can a person say to someone who has no wounds of war, scars, constant pain and suffering every day of their life? Nobody has the right to judge us because of what we did over in Vietnam. I fought my heart out for this country, feeling that I was doing the right thing. We were so ignorant, we didn't even know we were ignorant. After my unwelcome home, I no longer told anyone that I was a Vietnam veteran.
Former VA Secretary Robert Nimmo said Agent Orange is like acne and PTSD is like some kind of insurance scam. This is the kind of crap that we had to listen to whenever we went to the VA at Fargo. I had one good doctor there who tried to help me early on; his name was Dr. Akawanda. Shortly after his being helpful to me, he magically disappeared.
The first thing you are taught in the Army is that you don't exist as a person anymore. I was literally walking around in Vietnam afraid for my life every day I was there. The Vietnam code of loyalty was "Forget nothing forgive nothing" and was like an anchor around our feet.
The caring for each other at our Vet Center, the love we have for each other and for Guy, our loyal counselor, has given me a strong feeling of release from some of the demons that have haunted me since I came home. Now that we have survived two wars the war over there and the one back here we must all try and put our pieces back together again. I still feel very strongly about trying to help the new veterans anyway we can if that is in any way possible. They cannot be left to drift alone like the Vietnam veterans who were ignored for so long.