Brothers and Others

"Brothers and Others"

By Michael "V-man" Viehman
When I was in Vietnam, I didn't know shit. Not much has changed, I guess. I wasn't a grunt. In country, my brothers taught me an' covered my ass. If not for them, you wouldn't be subjected to me now. That's how it was. We looked out for one another. Oh hell, there were exceptions, of course. But, mostly, we were bros. Still are. There's differences. My war - wasn't your war - wasn't somebody else's war. Two vvets in the same MOS, in the same unit, at the same time had completely different experiences. The common denominator for all seems to be that we were there. That's what makes us brothers. You ain't got to be John Wayne to be my brother. I wasn't. But I didn't escape unscathed, and I know you didn't either - not if you were there. I'm glad to meet you. Honored, in fact.

We haven't quit bein' brothers just because we got back to CONUS. I had simply not addressed any of my shit from Vietnam, although it was eating the hell out of me. I was slowly/quickly dying from it when my wife subscribed to a list about the war where guys an' others were talking away about their experiences and all kinds of other stuff. - I wouldn't look at it. - So that sneaky shit ol' lady of mine started slidin' in with little bits printed off. Funny stuff, mostly. It sounded like the guys I knew in Vietnam. Intrigued, after a while, I would peek over her shoulder. It DID sound like the guys from Vietnam. Far out. Then she asked a question about a 'yard bracelet and was steered to a man named MIKE MCCOMBS (Green Beanie).

(To see Mike's story The A Shau, click Here)

I was ready to kill her for initiating contact. Kinda like a lone sniper with no cover attacking an NVA batallion. Shit. I sure as hell wasn't ready to talk to anybody. I would tell her what to say, and she would, in my opinion, screw it up. I became more angry. Fukit. My first post concerning the war was to Mike. To make a long story short, he saved my ass. Just like my bros in Vietnam. I was one messed up dood - not the fantastically cool and together fellow you 'see' now. He made it possible for me to finally get the balls to post to the group. I owe my wife. I owe McMike. I owe that group. I was honored to eat a meal with him at Nam Viet in Washington DC this past Vets Day. I say eat rather than dine as it was a bit raucous with that Seal Team at the other table. The evening was over too soon. Thank you Mike for your help and, more importantly, your friendship.

There is another man besides Mike McCombs to whom I owe so much. His name is TOM EDMONDS.

(To see Tom's story on the funeral of Lewis Pulmer, Jr , click Here)

Sometimes he is affectionately known as Terminator. With such a SUNNY disposition, I never could understand why that was. My friendship with Term grew slowly over the ether. He, like McMike (McCombs), is a man of understanding. In a rougher package, perhaps.

Term has a saying that he uses often. It turned out to be a large part of my salvation. It's "Write or die, mutherfucker, write or die." His writing, along with the work of Mike McCombs, had already touched me so very deeply and set in motion the slow process of my healing and returning from Vietnam after all these years. Mike advised me to write it out. Tom advised me to write it out. I advise YOU to write it out. Tom told me that if I can get it down on paper, then I will own it instead if it owning me. He was right. That rough, gruff son-of-a-bitch had a heart in there. Oh, I don't think he likes people to see it, but it's there. It's there when he speaks of his wife or daughter - or when he helps a fellow vet. Tom took me to the Wall in the dark of night before Vets Day, people. There were others, too, including my wife, but it was Terminator who held me up. I'm gonna write about that. I have to. Thanks Term.

Remember Nam Viet in DC? It was full of people who have helped me. Quite a few were vvets. Quite a few weren't. It was like my life lately. Quite a few people have been interacting and helping me dig out of the pit of PTSD. Hell, I knew shit bothered me; but I always figured I had no right to have any PTSD since I wasn't a grunt or nuthin'. I was wrong. Some people think only another vvet can understand or help. Bullshit. Oh, I guess there are some things that you have to have experienced to FEEL what it's like - but I know that others can HELP me no matter if they've been there or not. They have already. Hell, I've met people with experiences that enable them to understand quite a bit of what I feel. These are people who have never been in the service. Some of 'em have been GIRLS. (My wife hates when I do that.) Don't discount the 'others' 'cause they ain't been there. They have a contribution to make to our healing, also. It's just up to us to find it.

Listen, 'Nam vets out there. Vietnam sucked. PTSD sucks. Comin' home REALLY sucked. There is no gravity - the world sucks. Sounds pretty negative, don't it? It is. It's time to come home. I'm tired. It's been a long time. I/we've got to learn to trust again. It's hard. I thought I never could trust again after my County told me to go to a war for it and the people of the Country shit on me when I came back.

Slick Willie went to Oxford an' I/we went to hell. Shit. He couldn't even smoke dope right - or so he says. I got my lottery number (356, I think) right after I got my orders for Vietnam. Jesus, I've always been a stupid shit - never planned anything in my life. Maybe I'm just jealous of Willie. Actually, I think that what scares me about him is that I also want people to like me and am indecisive. I don't guess either of us is the 'best' choice for CIC. Well, he don't matter right now - we do. We have to get better. With the help of each other and others, we will. Never, ever let a brother down. If you know one who needs help - HELP HIM or get him help. We went over alone - we came home alone. Now we must be ONE - together.

Thank you Michele, I love you. (Thanks for stickin' with me for all these years - I know it hasn't been the smoothest ride.) Thank you Mike McCombs and Tom Edmonds. You were right - writing works, and it don't matter if it's good writing or not. I'm glad it doesn't matter. Thank you Jim Kelley for keepin' after my ass to put sumthin' on this WWW. Thank you Bill McBride for your creation of this Home Page and for having me. I'm always glad to be had. Finally, thank you all you others, veterans or not, who have read my stuff in the past and helped me. Thanks also for your comments regarding my writing as well as the 'talks' we have had regarding the war, nature, and other important topics like gerbils and duct tape. You've all been instrumental in the first few, halting steps I have taken on the road to recovery from 'my' Vietnam.

I finally feel hope. I never thought I would have that feeling again. It's like a small, small flame flickering in the dark - but it's there. It will take the same protection to keep it from dying out and the same nurturing to make it grow - but it IS there. These people and so many others have helped me. I've got a long way to go - but I have started my journey back home. One step at a time. The trail back home is booby-trapped, also. Sometimes, I think, more so than the jungle ones.

If I had to figure out what has given me the most comfort, it would be the realization that ---> I am not alone. What little strength I have comes from that. After 24 years I realize - I am not alone. There are others who feel exactly the same as we do. WE are not alone. If you haven't already, it's time to start your journey back home. Your brothers will help. Others will help. Before I started, I never believed that it was possible. It was a forgotten dream. Unattainable - so why sweat it? I was wrong. I've never been so happy to be wrong (and I'm not unacquainted with the experience). It's not easy. That figures. It wasn't easy gettin' this far from 'home' was it? Two thoughts for you:



Copyright 1994 By Michael "V-man" Viehman, All Rights Reserved