A friend, himself a Vietnam combat veteran, gave me a copy of Achilles In Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character, by Jonathan Shay, MD, PhD. Published in 1994, Shay transposes Homer’s Iliad with the combat experiences of Vietnam veterans still suffering after more than twenty years after the war. Taken from the testimony of these traumatized vets it is written as much by them as by Shay.
Though I am only a couple of chapters into it, I find it invaluable in understanding my own son, his heartache, his anger and his isolation. This passage probably exemplifies what it must be like for all combat veterans.
I had just come back [from Vietnam], and my first wife’s parents gave a dinner for me and my parents and her brothers and their wives. And after dinner we were all sitting in the living room and her father said, “So, tell us what it was like.” And I started to tell them, and I told them. And do you know within five minutes the room was empty. They was all gone, except my wife. After that I didn’t tell anybody I had been in Vietnam.
For anyone dealing with a veteran, particularly a combat veteran, I urge you to read this book. Everyone should know what war does to our children.