My heart was pounding as I flew into Essendon Airport in the dark of night. Jenny shouted, ‘Darling!’ as she ran across the tarmac. She was hotly followed by a burly MP.
We went to meet Jenny’s work mates after a couple of days. I remember them asking, ‘Did you kill anybody?’ The only thing I killed was my innocence. I left a pacifist and returned as a confused young soldier.
‘That wasn’t a war,’ said the salty old WWII bloke at the RSL when I tried to join.
‘Stick your RSL,’ I said and never darkened the RSL’s doorstep for over 30 years.
After being employed by eight different employers in 18 months, my mother-in-law said I would make nothing of my life. Little did I know that the PTSD had started spreading like a cancer inside me.
I so wanted to visit my mate Terry’s mum and dad. I wanted to tell them I was on ‘Horseshoe Hill’ where he died a hero. I never got around to it. It burns in my heart to this day. I met Terry’s brother in 2010, but his parents had died years before.
Jenny stuck by me. She could see this 21-year old boy she had known had changed ‘big time.’ I was uncooperative, impatient, very short tempered.
I was confused as to why I felt the way I did. This wasn’t my normal personality. What had gone wrong? If I felt like this, surely other returning soldiers felt the same way.
‘What about professional help?’ my brother said. I admired him, trusted his words. ‘Professional help?’ I said. ‘Why? Nothing wrong with me. It’ll be okay, don’t worry.’
I was wrong.
Vietnam was something I never talked about to anybody. Not even my wife. It was 12 months I tried to block from my memory. But I didn’t do a very good job. The nightmares and night-sweats were a regular thing for over 40 years, until I received professional help.
The war changed me and my ideas of the world to the core.