A message from Frank Reed, a disabled Vietnam Veteran.
I am a 100% disabled Vietnam veteran. I know and understand where the Vietnam veteran comes from. I have experienced all of the feelings: anger, hate, depression, loneliness, fear, anxiety, and the ability to maintain close relationships. I have had alcohol and drug problems, suicidal thoughts, and seven visits to mental institutions.
I served as a Marine with the Kilo Company Weapons Platoon 3rd Battalion 1st Marines (1967-1968). I was given recognition for serving with distinction in combat operations against Communist Insurgent and North Vietnam Army forces in Quang Nam and Quang Tri provinces of South Vietnam; notably, the Northern banks of the Cua Viet River and the Demilitarized Zone.
Upon returning home from Vietnam, my perspective was jaded toward Americans, who collectively turned their backs on Vietnam veterans and demeaned their honorable service. My response, like many others, we raged, turned inwardly and outwardly into destructive and addictive behavior.
The Vietnam War was not as conventional a war as World War II, where the US was threatened by a uniformed and easily identifiable foe. This was not the case in Vietnam, where our foes sought to engage as a shadowy guerilla force, using hit-and-run tactics then evaporating into the landscape. There were no real lines of demarcation, and just about any area was subject to attack. Most American forces had been trained to attack in conventional warfare, in which other human beings were confronted and a plot of land is either acquired or lost in the fight. However, in Vietnam, the Vietcong rarely fought this way and much of the time relied on surprise firing devices, such as booby traps and pungi-pits to inflict injury on their enemy. An objective might be won by our troops, secured one day then abandoned for another elsewhere the next- only to be directed to retake it again later. No, this was not a conventional war. The war seemed endless, with an enemy rarely seen and no ground gained; just a constant flow of troops in and out of the country. To many, the only observable outcome was a terrible production of maimed bodies and a long line of caskets carrying the remains of the brave men who had given their full measure of devotion to their country. The frustration and rage that these combat conditions generated was widespread among American troops. At times, it manifested itself into violence and mistrust toward the Vietnamese authorities, as well as the society that sent us into Vietnam. Authorities dictated silly rules of engagement, which ultimately tied the hands of the military; limiting our ability to engage and crush enemy forces; all the while a totally biased news media misrepresented the actual events that were taking place in the war.
With no real fixed strategy to win, the war to me and other American war-fighters in Vietnam became a private world of survival; each man fighting for the men around him. I felt as though the American people had deserted us. We returned to be called “baby killers” and some even spat on us. Some veterans met an angry, screaming crowd. The media pinned us depraved, psychopathic killers. I was met with hostility from ignorant friends and family members. I felt that most of my veteran peers would rather not hear my combat experience and felt rejected. Much of what many Vietnam veterans had been through would seem like crimes to their civilian peers, but in reality, facing the enemy on the battlefield, such actions are the only means of survival. We found it difficult to forget the lack of positive support from the American people. America, it had seemed, had turned her back on us when we needed her most. Wounds I received in combat necessitated a lengthy 18-month stay in a hospital bed. I felt I had I left one war and come home and to fight another war against my own country. I fought it with anger, resentment, and hate, using drugs and alcohol as my weapons of choice.
But I loved America. I did not want to make war on her anymore. I was willing to give my life for her. Deep inside, I knew that I had to change the anger and hatred that had almost killed me. I ended up on a dirty motel bathroom floor, dying from alcohol and drug addiction. I remember waking up from my chemically induced stupor by the toilet. I gathered my strength, pulled myself to the edge of the bowl, reached in with my hands, washed my face, and then took a drink of the rancid water. I was so sick that I couldn’t get off the floor. At that point in time, I had lost it all; my family, my dignity, my self-respect, my integrity. I had fallen into the pit of self-bondage. I had hit bottom.
Lying there on the floor, I asked, if there was a God, for Him to please help me, and He did. January 7, 1987, a motel worker found me and called the ambulance, which took me to the VA hospital once again. They put me in the mental ward, once again. God answered my prayer. I have suffered all the pains of alcohol and drug addiction. I accepted the things I could not change and changed the things I could. I found I couldn’t change other people, places and things. All I can change is myself and forgive myself. That is the way it was. I got into a 12-step program of A.A., and turned my will and life over to God, as I understood Him. I believe with all of my heart that He has forgiven me for what I have said and done to the Vietnamese and American people. Therefore, I can forgive the Vietnamese and American people for what they have done to me.
My life has been forever changed. Each day is another victory and now I want to help fight to save America again by sharing my experience and hope with other combat veterans who suffer from alcohol and drug addiction. Instead of using guns, let us all unite now to help save all vets, including the men and women who are now returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan, helping them to recover: body and mind. If you or a loved one needs help, feel free to call us at 888-988-5128 or email us at email@example.com.