Who is This Man Just Back From the War?


Tears of gladness, even sobs escape from too many nights alone. You’ve sent my husband back to me, his duty finally done. His child, an infant when you drafted him is now a toddler who has only known her father through the letters I read to her and pictures I showed her, pointing – “Daddy? Do you see this man? He is your Daddy. Can you say DaDa … Da Da, come on you can say it.”

Weeks go by and I find myself confused at the feelings, or maybe it’s a lack of feeling that my husband is displaying. Where is that easy laugh and that funny, crooked grin of the man-child who went to do a job you said he should be proud to do? Why do I wake to an empty bed, only to find him pacing the floor with his new companion, the bottle of whiskey? It’s never far from his reach and he chooses it over my homemade waffles in the morning and even a steak dinner with all of the trimmings in the evening?

This kind, gentle man that I married struck me across the face yesterday when he found me looking at his scrapbook of Nam, where I searched for answers that could help me bring him back.

“NEVER TOUCH MY THINGS - NEVER!!! DO YOU UNDERSTAND?”

I held my breath and my tears, sensing any sign of weakness would only fuel his anger and cried only after he stormed from the house and laid rubber for half a block on his way, no doubt, to the tavern again. These bitter tears sting even more than the millions I shed while he was gone.

What have you done with my husband? Who is this imposter that you’ve sent? My husband, my high school sweetheart, does not laugh at cruelty he sees on television. That sweet boy would be down on the floor, playing with his daughter. This man barely acknowledges me or the baby. It’s as if you’ve sent home his body, but kept his mind…

and his very soul.


WARNING - VERY GRAPHIC - WARNING


The stereo blares all hours of the day and night and he sings along at the top of his voice, sometimes screaming the lyrics and pounding the table or furniture. He has made contact with a buddy who was in Viet Nam at the same times he was. They were not stationed together but he seems to be closer than a brother and definitely closer than we are. I’ve overheard some of what they speak of from another room. I am not welcomed into their company unless they are out of food or drink. Besides, this buddy brings over pot and they smoke it right in our living room. My husband never did drugs before he went off to war. What I have over heard does not make any sense to me and is peppered with words that are foreign. Some they whisper and then laugh, spitting beer or whiskey and beat each other on the back or punch each others arms. Many nights, more than not, I find the two of them passed out on the floor or in chairs. My husband leaves our bed as empty as it was when he was in Viet Nam, doing that job you said he was privileged to do.


What am I to do? I tried talking to a couple of my girlfriends and they said I should be grateful. So many women lost their husbands over there. So many came home missing arms or legs, forever scarred by the war.


Forty years later


We buried you ten years ago this coming May. Cancer, though it started as an ocular Cancer that the surgeon who removed your eye said he has only seen six times in his life, all in Vets who had been exposed to Agent Orange. Your chances were fair if you’d give up your eye. But as Cancer does so well, it hid and spread silently and insidiously until nearly every organ in your body was being consumed.


Many years ago you sent our daughter and I home from Fort Hood, on a bus, to my Mother’s home and then you disappeared until our daughter was in her early twenties. We found you and the two of you reunited for seven years. She had her dream of having her father walk her down the aisle. Between Hospice, my husband now of twenty-six years and our daughter, when she could overcome the feelings that were tearing her apart, we took care of you and granted your wish to die at home.


I was with you the night you died. It was not a peaceful death to say the least. For seven of these ten years I have fought my own PTSD not understanding that an aorta must have burst the reason there was so much blood and why you fought and screamed for me to stand you up, “Get me UP!!! Help me STAND” Those words play over and over in my head as does the scene of the two of us slipping on the blood covered bathroom floor as I tried in vain to keep your frail body upright. It was like trying to save a drowning victim, and indeed, you were, drowning in your own blood. Finally you stopped struggling and I held your head in my lap turning it to the side, still thinking the blood could flow more easily and you would be able to breath. It continued to flow, but the same hollow look that I saw in your eyes, so many, years before when you came home from Nam was creeping in and I fairly shouted. “God loves you! We love you. I love you, old man. Don’t be afraid, you can rest now, rest now. You are going home.”


And I believe that you did that night. You went home for the first time. You never had all of those years before. The best part of you was left in the jungles of Viet Nam, on board the Huey, in your hooch, with your buddies and with every life you took and every dead body you carried in your arms. Even the United States Army couldn’t keep you from home that night in May.


Terry Michael Hart

April 19, 1945 – May 10th, 2002




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Comments 20 comments

homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 4 years ago from Texas

Wow! This was so well written. I could feel your pain. I am so very sorry for your loss. War is a horrible things for everyone involved, even those who do not realize they are involved.


Vincent Moore 4 years ago

Every word you scribe my friend is heart wrenching, graphic and so sad. My tears rolled down this poet's cheeks reading this. I am so torn by the grief in this story and to think that this happened to so many many who left full of life to fight a senseless political war to come back with their lives turned completely around.

So many men lost, no longer who they once were but simply shadows that haunted them when they returned to their families shattered. War is ugly and painful for so many and this is one story that shows that pain deeply.


stars439 profile image

stars439 4 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

Being a mother,and trying to be the wife of a war veteran is beyond words. That war like all wars victimizes families. I pray to our Lord in Heaven for all the wonderful good you have done to try to keep your family happy. You are and angel on earth , and I know God will acknowledge that. God Bless You, and your precious loved ones, and your wonderful husband Gary.


epigramman profile image

epigramman 4 years ago

....oh my dear Sherry - when you write - you bless us all with your sheer talent and ability to move us, make us think and touch us with words like these - so good to see you back and your world class presentation will receive the first class treatment on my Facebook page with a direct link back here - lake erie time ontario canada 11:24pm and sending warm wishes and good energy to you


Poohgranma profile image

Poohgranma 4 years ago from On the edge Author

Colin, my friend. I came across some songs and once I heard them all of this came back, so crystal clear. I kept it short and just hit the points that I know most could relate to. There is no one but a brother of Nam who could really relate to the horror and even then, each experience was different. But as the wars before and those after, then men and women are left with the residue to digest and try to go forward with their lives. Some have been more able than others.


Poohgranma profile image

Poohgranma 4 years ago from On the edge Author

Thank-you for reading, homesteadbound. Yes, the families and loved ones of our servicemen and women become involved whether they wish to or not. There is much more information now then there was back then. The military did not even recognize (publicly) PTSD until many, many years later or do anything to help these Vets readjust, let alone their families.


Poohgranma profile image

Poohgranma 4 years ago from On the edge Author

Vincent, this story tells nothing new and is only one experience, barely touched, in the hundreds of thousands from that war and doesn't even address all of the wars since. I don't know how many times it can be said or heard, it is nothing new, but with each report it is my prayer that somehow we learn how to help our military and their families.


Poohgranma profile image

Poohgranma 4 years ago from On the edge Author

stars, you and your Mom and family experienced the horrors of another war through your father's eyes and his ramblings that would not stop and could not be forgotten. It is like ripples on a pond and takes down entire families many times. At least God showed us to use it as a lesson on how we need to be sensitive to our fellow man, not knowing their story or where life has taken them.

My wish for a blessed day for you and your lovely wife and daughter!


Melovy profile image

Melovy 4 years ago from UK

War does terrible things to people, and your story shows that so well. The Vietnam war seemed to particularly affect those who fought in it badly, as your husband’s story has been repeated in countless other men - as I’ve just noticed you’ve said yourself in the comments. But to each person affected the story is unique. You have done well to come through and to find compassion. Thank you for sharing.


Poohgranma profile image

Poohgranma 4 years ago from On the edge Author

Thank-you Melovy for reading and commenting. Yes, indeed, the repercussions of wars go far beyond the battlefields and frame the futures of all.


KatyWhoWaited profile image

KatyWhoWaited 4 years ago

I loved the last line especially! "Even the United States Army couldn’t keep you from home that night in May." The interesting thing about having had husbands and wives go to Vietnam is that we will never know what might have been if they hadn't. "Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest these - it might have been." Whittier


Poohgranma profile image

Poohgranma 4 years ago from On the edge Author

KatyWhoWaited - I am so thankful that you read this and commented, which led me to your hubs on Nam and your experiences. I've only read one, the homecoming, but I was mesmerized by your words. First, you are a talented writer and the story you tell is so familiar, after all of these years. Thank-you again for reading !


KatyWhoWaited profile image

KatyWhoWaited 4 years ago

How nice of you to click on to my hubs! Thank you sooo much for the suggestion that you sent regarding the links back. That's perfect! I truly appeciate that you passed that on; it makes much more sense than linking to the whole lot of them! After I started posting those, I took a memoir class online through writersdigest.com which was quite helpful. The instructor mentioned an important memoir to read if you're writing one, and if I find the name, I'll send it your way.


Poohgranma profile image

Poohgranma 4 years ago from On the edge Author

I'd like that, thanks so much!


stars439 profile image

stars439 4 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

A terrible war that took so much away from a good life you wished for. God Bless You.


Poohgranma profile image

Poohgranma 4 years ago from On the edge Author

There are no victors in war, not in comparison the the casualties. Thanks Le.


tonymead60 profile image

tonymead60 4 years ago from Yorkshire

Poohgran,

I came home from a different conflict and found that everything had changed, and I knew that I had. I'd grown up for one thing, I saw things others would never dream of, even in their most scary nightmare. I became a Buddist. It was so bad that it is not even mentioned in my profile.

I wish you peace.


Poohgranma profile image

Poohgranma 4 years ago from On the edge Author

I wish with all of my heart your life would have been different and you were never exposed to the things that would turn you away from God. When our two day old baby, Terry's only son, died, I threw the Bible across the room and cursed Him. My pain, compared to yours is miniscule. But I did find my way back eventually and I pray that you do too. I wish you peace also, it is possible, but the wounds have to be cleaned clear down to the source of the infection first.


tonymead60 profile image

tonymead60 4 years ago from Yorkshire

Pooh

I did not turn away from God, I just found the old Hebrew God of revenge and hate not the answer for me. I've seen an eye for an eye in action and it blinds you with fear.

with respect

Tony


Poohgranma profile image

Poohgranma 4 years ago from On the edge Author

Tony (my son's name also), I honor your choice and can not claim to know what you have seen or experienced. My personal experience is that much evil has been done in the "name of religion." The actions of some "Christians" can leave a very bitter taste in the mouths of those who want only to find peace and unconditional love. I can not even imagine being forced to serve in a conflict that condoned inhumanity based on hate and revenge. I know that evil must be stopped but I know too in wars there are those who die and suffer unspeakable horrors and are considered "acceptable losses" or "canon fodder." My prayer for you is to find the peace you seek. Respectfully, Sherry

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