These families, too, lost loved ones forever.
I am classified as a Vietnam-era vet but I spent my entire time stationed in Germany. Intellectually, I know I served during this time. I volunteered. I know I could have ended up there, but I hold in the deepest respect those that were on the frontlines. They are, to me, the true veterans of the Vietnam era. Although many in my cavalry unit did tours in Vietnam, if one Staff Sergeant had not shared this experience with me, I never would have fully understood what he survived.
I hadn’t known him that long but I knew he was different. He never seemed fully engaged: never talking, never joking, never cursing and swearing, and absolutely, never laughing. At times he was completely gone, lost in an internal world no one was allowed to enter—a place where no human could walk with him. His desk was just across the office from me. Sometimes I would see his shoulders slump and his eyes glaze over. One day I summoned the courage to ask, “Sergeant, are you okay?”
He got up and grabbed his hat to go outside, but as he was walking by my desk he stopped to sit. His eyes never left the door though, looking through it to a place beyond.