the encounter with the vet


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Originally uploaded by jayfherron

I had to do the routine of laundry one day this past week. Usually I manage that chore in my own area-but this day I had several things to do in the city,so I managed the wash chore into  part of that trip.

I’m not a dress up kind of guy-I’m simple with blue jeans and T-shirts. However-I never wear T-shirts with logo’s or advertisement or funny comments. Plain and straight. I do own one T-shirt  that is printed…it is a Harley-Davidson shirt from Hawaii. I bought it at a thrift store.

Because my clothes had all been shoved in the basket-the only shirt I had clean was the Harley shirt.

At the wash house the place was nicely not very crowded-but there was this one guy, a guy about my age-long hair and a rough look about him. He eye-balled me as I toted my stuff in and jammed the washers. I could even sense him looking at me then.

I chose the wash house in that area because a few blocks down the road is a small engraving shop-I walked down there while my washers were running. A few weeks ago I was given a gift of a Zippo lighter-the standard USN anchor lighter. It is exactly like the one I bought in boot camp-I’m sure just as old. I took it to have it engraved like the one I bought in 1969…USS Vulcan AR-5

When I got back to the wash house the guy was still there. My wash was done and the dryers I had to use put me in a closer vicinity to him-and then the question came….”have you ever ever been to Hawaii”? I looked at the guy and nodded my head “no”.

I really wanted to ignore this guy-but he kept on with the questions-but they turned on his assumption that I never went to Viet Nam because if I had I would have been sent to Hawaii for R and R…and he kept rambling on about how much fun it was,Hawaii and his tour in Viet Nam. He grilled me on my own military time-based on my tattoos and my confession that I’m not a biker. I answered as many as I could until they reached a point of making nothing sensible but everything confusing.

This was a tough guy-a biker looking fellow-if there is a stereotype to give him. I was subjected to his recount of nine years of military service until he was given a medical-discharge for having combat related issues. He said he was dis-abled because of PTSD….of course,then-I say I am too. Another barrage  of questions. I told him. I did not tell him what happened in barracks D….but I think instinct made him know. I told him how I wanted to be a Navy man-a full life career and explained how out of jealousy and brotherly relationships of biblical proportions intervened.

I was actually amazed at the calmness in the way the man listened to me. Up until the point I found no way out of answering his questioning and told him how I ended up in the ‘brig’ he grilled me with questions that put me in a corner. I didn’t have to answer him-but my own PTSD was jarring me to attention. The fellow could not figure out how a kid who worked in the galley and never saw the combat he saw ends up with PTSD.

I couldn’t believe it-the change in his personality and how he reacted as I spurt out my explanation sans the details of the rapes. I know somehow he was street wise enough to know I deleted some detail. When I told him he apologized to me!! He came around from where he was standing-with his hand extended. He shook my hand about six times and kept saying how sorry he was-and he called me brother…in the mission sort of way as comrade’s would!

I had been honest with him-I told him how I feel guilt from not serving my full enlisted time-and that none of the time I served was duty in Viet Nam. During our conversation I had told him about my sons,my oldest a veteran seaman of 17 plus years-my youngest served in both the Navy and National Guard-and now the Coast Guard Reserves.

My comrade said I have served my country-myself personally,and by my sons following in my steps.

I told him about the cigarette lighter-how much it meant to me,how I lost the first one,and how this one was given to me. I also told him that I ordered a ball-cap with my ships name embroidered on it,one exact replica of the hats worn by sailors on duty. I told him I was going to be going to Hawaii next month to visit the submarine my son is stationed on-and that these items would be with me,proudly.

He said “That is so cool”!!

5 Responses to “the encounter with the vet”

  1. mike e Says:

    That is one of the best stories i have ever read.

  2. Gina Walker Says:

    this brought tears to my eyes. good for you, my friend…i wish for you many more positive encounters like this one.

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