Memorial Day

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In many cases, death is preferred to a life filled with unrelenting PTSD.  A person can suffer from PTSD after only one horrific life changing event, but a Viet Nam Vet may have suffered hundreds of these types of days during his/her one-year tour.

I only know one person from Greenville who died in our war with Viet Nam.  And he died after he got home.  Some say it was suicide but only he knows for sure.

Furthermore, I don’t know anyone, personally, from Greenville who died in Kuwait, Iraq, or Afghanistan.  I know people who died in these wars, but they were not Greenville-born and bred.

To everyone in/from Greenville who has lost a loved one, in any war, I am sorry for your loss, deeply so.  I lost a loved one to a different type of war so part of me may be able to empathize with your loss.  But I don’t know that for sure, so again I say I’m sorry for your bereavement.

As fortune dictated, I was able to break free from ‘The Man’ (when I entered retirement) a long time ago.  This in turn freed me up to do philanthropy of various sorts.  One of my philanthropic endeavors led me to direct a program at the Dayton, V.A. Center.

I ran a dorm with 50+ veteran residents.  The job of my staff was to help these guys find jobs and homes.  Our success rate was abysmal.  Ninety-five-plus percent of our vets were/are ‘institutionalized’ psychologically by the time they reached me.  They were never going to ‘get better.’  Their lives are over.  Period.  End of story.  Adding to my dismay, vets started killing themselves on my watch in my building.  I bailed on the job.  It depressed me so.  Suicide hit too close to home since I lost my 21-year-old son Eric to suicide, 17 years ago. While working at the V.A. campus I may have helped one or two guys, but who really knows?

I know this might sound odd but I’m going to write my own obituary. Any soul who has experienced protracted combat can attest to the notion that ongoing continuous warfare kills you slowly, one day at a time.

Alan Jay Clark is survived by his father, Blaine Clark, his mother, Eleanor, and his younger sister, Elaine.  His remains are scattered across the mountainous regions of Southeast Asia.  Alan died in the service of his country.  He served his country and performed his job to the utmost of his ability.  Airman First Class, Alan Jay Clark, has been promoted, posthumously, to the rank of Sergeant.  May he live on in his loved one’s memory forever?

But wait a minute – I’m not dead yet. However, the Alan Clark that went to Nam died and was replaced by a different version of himself.  Alan, version II, came back from the war, and he looked just like version I.  But he was completely friggin (this is a PG site, I know) broken.  And it took every ounce of his energy to ‘appear’ normal in everyday activities.  Suicidal thoughts followed him everywhere.  They were his most constant companion for nearly four years.  War completely obliterates ideas of rainbows and puppies.  But somehow, he kept getting up every day and trying to live a predictable and routine life.  And eventually, a miracle happened, and he started to feel better, although the happy go lucky version of Alan never returned, fully.  I don’t know why I got better; I just did.  And I don’t know why some vets never heal and there is evidence of that fact living under bridges and sleeping in parks.  They are legions in number.

This post is written on behalf of all the vets out there who don’t express their inner fears to others.  I get that.  There are stories I can never tell anyone, as well.  This post has also been written for the surviving family members of the lost souls who were killed while serving their country.

I know your pain, this Memorial Day.  And I love you for it.  God, I love you for it because I know what you have sacrificed for this country. And may you one day find the peace that you seek in honor of your lost loved one.