Relaxing on the beautiful beach of Cam Ranh Bay at the end of a year's tour in Vietnam, waiting for the plane to take me home.
Monday afternoon, I scanned the last batch of my Vietnam slides while watching and listening to the September 23 U S Senate Hearing on Agent Orange and VA Disability. All three hours. The officials did a very good job, bringing out the damages of war and conflict, the unexpected consequences of using chemicals, radiation and other environmental factors, and America's ever-present patriotism in taking care of veterans, but always with a watchful eye on costs.
As I scanned images of almost-forgotten scenes, of faces I remember but names that no longer connect, I thought of all those young men and wondered about their lives, what they did and where they lived, who they married and their children, their communities, their successes and failures. Although all of us have changed, we have a common bond that will last as long as memory, hopefully even longer.
I wish that we could all get together again, as some units do. I'd love to see every one of them. Most of all, I remember Hayes and DeFisher who came in within a few days of my arrival at Camp Evans. We worked side by side, bunked within a few feet of each other. Learned each other. Trembled in fear with each other. Tried to take care of each other. Laughed with each other. DeFisher contracted a blood disease from Agent Orange several years ago. I haven't heard from Hayes since 1969.
Vietnam was the most significant year of my life. My personal belief is that every veteran who's personal liberty was taken, safety endangered, life threatened --- everyone of them has at least a bit of PTSD with need of healing.
After several years of financial hardship trying to meet medical bills and medical insurance, I could have used more monetary support from the VA. Now Social Security and Medicare have kicked in. It looks like that I and other veterans will be seeing a few dollars before year's end, but that's not important to me any more. I know I did my best in Vietnam and I fought my dangedest with VA. Monday evening brought me a huge dose of closure. The best I've felt about my Vietnam service in four decades.
I'M A SURVIVOR!
William A. Ricks
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(I'm typing this searchable note for other Vietnam Veterans who in 1968 and 1969 who spent time in Camp Evans and Phouc Vinh Vietnam. My unit was 27th Maintenance Batallion, Headquarters Detachment, First Cavalry Division. Feel free to use my blog information and Picasa web album photos and distribute them.)