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Overcoming PTSD: 3 Vietnam War Veterans’ Stories

AUGUST 16, 2017 | 6-minute read

Vietnam War Veterans share a common bond. They fought together and returned home to build lives, families, and communities across the country. But many faced challenges back home, and some still do today. These stories highlight how symptoms of PTSD affected three Vietnam Veterans years after the war — and how each of them found support for mental health challenges.

A U.S. Marine Corps Veteran Finds Relief After Enduring Flashbacks for Years

Standing in the pouring rain … palms sweating … as if he were engaging with the Viet Cong.

Even when he returned home, Warren, a Vietnam Veteran, couldn’t shake the traumatic memories of war. “I didn’t know what it was,” he says. “And the dreams would get worse and worse.” 

Sound familiar? Images and experiences from war can leave their mark. But while some memories are tough to move past, reaching out for support can help you learn how to manage triggers. “You let [PTSD] know: ‘Hey, I’m not afraid no more,’” he says.

After Nearly 40 Years, A U.S. Air Force Veteran Speaks Up

January 1968: the start of the Tet Offensive.

That date has stuck with Jim, an Air Force Veteran who was working security in Vietnam at the time. “Horrific things were happening — one right after the other,” he says.

And like many of his fellow Vietnam War Veterans, he didn’t experience a warm welcome when returning home from war. “It got to the point where if anybody asked me if I was in Vietnam, I would just say no,” Jim says, “because I didn’t want to hear what was going to follow if I said yes.” He put his military service behind him and tried to move on.

It wasn’t until 39 years later, after losing two battle buddies — one from a drug overdose and another by suicide, that Jim starting counseling at VA. He was diagnosed with PTSD, and he started to become more aware of the symptoms of his condition, including nightmares. “It was a relief to speak with people about this,” Jim says.

A Marine Finds Comradery With Fellow Vietnam Veterans 

“I wish I had addressed it after I came back from ’Nam.” 

Jesse served as a Marine in Vietnam from 1965 to 1968. He pushed his painful memories from the war under the rug and hid his service from friends and strangers. Marital issues, depression, and symptoms of PTSD piled up. But this Marine Veteran learned that it’s never too late to reach out for support — no matter how long it’s been since your military service ended.

We were there at different times, different battles, but we all have the same feelings.

Jesse eventually sought support from VA, where he felt comradery in sharing stories with other Vietnam Veterans during group therapy sessions. “We were there at different times, different battles, but we all have the same feelings,” says Jesse. “We’ve all endured the same trauma that has brought us to the point [where] we are today.”

Vietnam Veterans like Warren, Jim, and Jesse proudly served their country like the generations of Servicemembers before them. The memories of war left a lasting mark on many and, for these Veterans and many others, led to symptoms of PTSD. But these stories are a reminder: No matter how long ago you served or returned from Vietnam, it’s never too late to find support for PTSD.


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