When I got out of the Army in March of 1971, I threw away my uniforms and medals.
Then, I disappeared into the hinterlands of America for three years. I was angry a lot. Got into fights too easily. I was constantly looking over my shoulder in anticipation of something bad happening.
Fell in love and got married in August 1974. My wife soon found that she'd married a flawed man. A tortured soul. My nightmares haunted my wife's nights as she tried to comfort me when I woke screaming gibberish.
No one talked about Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) back in those days. My wife and children, as they came along, learned to walk on eggshells when I was around.
Fast forward to the early 1990s when I was diagnosed with PTSD by the Veterans Administration. Got counseling. I was no longer able to work at my job as a newspaper editor and was awarded a 100% disability pension by the VA.
Today I still struggle with PTSD. I have discovered how to take care of myself, and to avoid situations that could trigger my temper, or fear.
Yet, there's still a certain time of the year (late April, May, and early June) when I'm most vulnerable. The doctors call this time an Anniversary date.
It's usually associated with dramatic circumstances. In my case, surviving an ambush and seeing my best friend killed at the same time while we were in Cambodia.
I wish I could convey the horror of nightmares and daymares assaulting my senses for days, and sometimes weeks on end.
I can only tell you the brain is a mystery. My anniversary date is upon me now...
Every hour is a challenge. Every noise a reason for an increased heartbeat. Darkness tries to wrap me up in a cocoon of misery.
During this hell-spawned anniversary, the ghosts of war follow me throughout the day. Sometimes I see them, and can't make them go away. And, I die a little bit.
My redemption however is never far away because I have someone who loves me each and every day. My wife Shirley.
She shields me from the darkness whenever it gets too near. She is my loving companion throughout the year; for 41 years now.
With love, anything can be overcome. Even PTSD.
Time for me to walk on down the road...