The lyrics of the Tunnel Rats song, “You’re Not Alone” came alive as I read the story of a Vietnam Vet who shared his story of pain, and loss of hope, that almost ended in tragedy.
Reflections on “Twenty Veterans Will Commit Suicide Today, or Will They?”
If you talk to enough veterans you will soon understand that although every war is different, all veterans returning home from combat face challenges that the rest of us, the protected, will never understand. Even combat veterans from different wars can find it difficult to relate to each other.
With more than 2.7 million American servicemen serving in Vietnam in the 1960s and 70s, the Vietnam veterans who have now reached retirement age, are beginning to shed light on their war and the challenges they faced coming home, many of which they continue to face today. Of the unique challenges faced by Vietnam vets, one of the most tragic themes emerging from these warriors is that they carry intense feelings of shame, and a strong sense of being alone, which manifests itself in isolation, and too often, suicide.
War is Hell, so is the Vietnam Veteran’s Experience really Unique?
One answer lies in an important difference in the United States training and deployment policy during Vietnam:
In many ways, the word “alone” best describes the plight of the American soldiers sent overseas a half-century ago to fight in Southeast Asia. They were sent to battle alone and they came home alone where some sought solitude from society. Those factors led to the psychological health issues some Vietnam-era veterans still face today.
While some soldiers enlisted, others were drafted to serve yearlong tours. The United States also did something it had never done before, called the individual rotation policy. Unlike previous conflicts where soldiers were trained and deployed together as units, during Vietnam, troops were sent overseas one-by-one and added to existing units. There were numerous reasons for the policy, but according to Jeffrey Heider, a psychologist in Kalispell who has worked with veterans for more than 30 years, one theory was that rotating soldiers on yearlong tours would lessen their exposure to the horrors of war.
But in some ways, it may have made it worse. New soldiers were frequently outcast by the rest of the unit because of their inexperience. Heider added that after seeing friends die, some soldiers would isolate themselves.
-Justin Franz, November 4, 2015, “Alone in Vietnam”, Flathead Beacon
What Can We Do?
Listen, learn, support, and raise awareness.
Brian Scott Sherman, of Belleville, IL, shared his story of pain, and loss of hope, that almost ended in tragedy. He has one request:
I encourage sharing my testimony with as many media outlets as humanly possible, because the word has to get out that the Men and Women who have or are protecting our way of life are truly hurting and need help now NOT tomorrow, because for 22 veterans it will be too late.
Read the story of Brian Scott Sherman, of Belleville, IL, which is featured in the post, “Twenty Veterans Will Commit Suicide Today, or Will They?”
“You’re Not Alone” – Tunnel Rats Music
Son you didn’t fight alone
It’s no different now you’re home
There are others just like you
Who’ll share what you’re going through
There’s hooooooope, There’s hope
There’s hope, there’s always hope, you’re not alone.