This morning I received a phone call from Greg, a Vietnam vet who worked in a mortuary function. Greg, who is reading Shade It Black, was kind enough to chat with me about his wartime experiences and his transition back to civilian life. The mortuary work then was much like it is now, but different in some respects as well. The same is true for the transition home. The process is the same, but different. Once home, Greg couldn’t travel more than 15-20 miles from home without experiencing serious panic attacks. Only drinking beer, smoking pot, and fishing gave him a respite from the now inordinate pressures of everyday life. When Greg finally went to the VA for help –some 15 years after returning home, they told him his problems had nothing to do with his Vietnam service. Much later he met another Vietnam vet, a counselor and a Marine, who helped Greg to understand that while he had come home physically 23 years earlier, he had not yet come home emotionally. He immediately saw the truth in that statement and reached for the box of Kleenex that had been given him at the start of the counseling session, when he wondered to himself, “What am I supposed to do with these?” Jess, Greg said, has written his story and he wants to tell her so. And he soon will.
Have you or a relative worked in a mortuary affairs platoon during wartime? If so, will you consider contacting me? JohnHearn@mail.sunyjcc.edu.