Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Vietnam Veterans

Many Vietnam veterans have experienced anxiety and other effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), both on the battlefield and upon returning home. Most soldiers who were involved in active combat situations in the war returned home with little assistance to make the transition back to civilian life. This video includes archival footage and a first-person account from an Iowa veteran of the war.

Transcript

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, plagues many veterans. Some have worked through it. Others continue to seek help. 

"You go to Vietnam, you're actually a human being. You fight for a year and you spend a year in the bush, you literally turn into an animal. You don't even realize how much you have changed until you come back. I come back, I hear car noises, I hear horns, your nerves are shot, you're not sure what's going to happen and you're scared to death of everything. You'll hear about Vietnam I want to make sure my back is covered. Well, I was always fearful what's behind me. So I acted kind of strange I think when I came home because I was just, I was plucked out of a combat and jungle environment in a fire fight and thrown on a plane and came home."

Many vets are reluctant to share details about their experiences in Vietnam. Gannon spent several years talking only with others who had been to Southeast Asia. Though he returned to America safely, his battles were far from over. He endured flashbacks, his marriage ended and was diagnosed with cancer due to exposure to Agent Orange. Seeking an escape, Gannon turned to alcohol.

"I tried to drink myself to death, ended up in the emergency room and then it was time for me to go get some help. That kind of saved my life."

Many veterans find solace at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, where they mingle with millions of visitors. But there are those who still aren't ready to view the 250 foot long monument even though they're separated by a distance of four decades.

It took 10 years after the memorial was dedicated before Gannon could walk past the 58,000 names chiseled into the black granite wall.

Excerpt from "Iowans Remember Vietnam," Iowa PBS, 2015

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