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By Southern Utah Vets Aid

I was talking on the phone to one of my old buddies from Vietnam the other day who lives in Arkansas.  He sounded happy, but  he said he wasn’t.  My friend was  diagnosed with PTSD before it became so popular as it is today.  And, the diagnosis is warranted.  I know this guy pretty damned good and I am confident that whatever he’s getting from the VA in compensation for PTSD, it’s for valid reasons; he isn’t cheating the system!

A reunion of our combat company is coming up in October, 2012.  We have been having these reunions every other year since the year 2000.  I attended the one in 2010 but none of the others, mostly because I didn’t get the word that there was anyone from our old unit setting them up.  That’s not to say I would have gone for sure to earlier reunions, because I have my own reasons for staying away from such get togethers.  I’m going this year again, because when I went the last time it wasn’t as weird or bad as I thought it might be.

My friend, on the other hand, is still not ready.  Actually, he and I and another former Marine from the 5th Regiment went to Washington DC back in the 70’s to a reunion.  That was sort of an intense event for me, partly because I didn’t know a soul there except for the other 2 guys who went with me.  Our old company commander was there, but we didn’t get into any long discussions about much of anything since we didn’t know each other that well back in Nam.  So, the three of us basically hung out in DC, mostly NOT attending the planned events but rather we got drunk a lot and related within our little ‘trio’.  I’ll bet we didn’t spend more than a few hours with the larger group during the entire 4 days.

Many years have gone by since then, and my friend from Arkansas is aware of the Echo Company reunion coming up in October.  He’s been on the website that talks about the reunion and where tons of photos are posted from reunions past.  To look at those pictures and read about the fun itinerary that the planners set up, you would think that it would not only be really great to attend but that in some respects it could even be a ‘healing’ experience.  When I brought this up to my buddy from Arkansas he argued that he did not look at it that way.  so, I asked what he meant.

“Well,” he said, “When I look at those pictures and the Marines from Echo Company I notice something that I have not been able to do for a long, long time.”

“What’s that?” I asked him.

“They all have smiles on their faces in the photos, and I’m not able to do that,” he replied.

Thinking about that statement makes me sad today.  PTSD comes in all sorts of packages and ‘degrees’.  When I said my friend from Arkansas has it bad I meant it.  Heck, I’ve got it, too.  But, even I can eek out a smile every once in awhile.  But according to this friend of mine, he can’t.  And, that’s too bad.  I’m not judging him by the way, because I love the guy and I’d give him my right arm for God sake!  I can’t give him his smile back, though.  That’s something he’ll have to work on.

So,  just a bit of advice to any of you veterans reading this who may have a stiff case of PTSD going on:  Every day, find at least 1 thing to smile about.  I don’t give a crap what it is — your kids or grand kids, a dog, a joke, something you see on TV, what the hell ever!  Smile about something!  Anything!

Now, this isn’t going to get you to jump up and send in your reservation for the next reunion you all are putting together.  But, it’s a start, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll feel better about yourself and about life in general.  Remember that what you did in the service of your country makes you a great American Hero.  And, being a Marine or a Soldier, or an Airman or a Seaman, is something to be proud of.  Don’t hide it behind a frown.  Smile, Brother, Smile!



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