American flags

Originally uploaded by jayfherron

Every time I visit my friend he points to the letter of commendation from President Richard M.Nixon….my friends gravely voice speaks his request each time I come through the door…”hey,read my commendation for valor”!! “The President of the United States gave it to me himself”!

I’ve seen it and read it more times than I can count.

I can’t reveal too much about my friend-he wouldn’t like it that I mentioned him here-more because of pride than embarrassed to be mention on the same page as a MST (military sexual trauma) survivor.

I look more at my friends wounds-more obvious than mine,more in the open in view,more legitimate…if wounds from battle can be thought of as such. A great part of his right  leg is gone-a gash the size of a football sinks into his thigh-a part of the foot amputated by the force of the blast of the landmine. A decorated Purple Heart recipient who continued to serve for 30 years. I look at his citation, reading the information of how his platoon stayed on the battle for a rotten turf of ground. Addicted to morphine to ease the pain of nearly 50 surgeries and the bulk of other pain meds to carry him through each day is enough to stun a cow-my friend fairly much sits in his small room and chain smokes non-filters.

I can’t say his is the life I would want to live. His confinement is similar to mine-although I have more open air freedom living in these woods. His space is a three bedroom house in a gated community-a sign in the yards proclaiming the months best yard award. The yards a mere strip of lawn front and back…my place one could ride a motor cross bike from each end-fast! And…there are the pain drugs-his pain so intense that the usual recommended dosages are not even printed on the label,just take as needed!

He told me some about the blast-he lay waiting for help for almost 28 hours before any came.

I have only mentioned my military service-and barracks D once to him. He asked-I told him,he responded with silence…I think the usual disbelief was behind his quiet response.

I feel ashamed when in his room. I can and do go freely day by day. I wake early before dawn to enjoy the birth of each morning-my friend can hardly get up before noon because of the med’s keeping him going all night through. He drives a nice car-one for a great road trip,one any would envy. It sits most days-unless he has a visit to the VA.

I feel ashamed every time I enter the VA Hospital. The obvious-the veterans,all the time the Viet Nam vets are adorned with something to identify their time of service to the United States-jackets with emblems of duty,caps with flags and embroidered with the divisions they served with. I can’t ever wear one of those caps because I did not earn the right.

I think I visit with my veteran friend because he accepts me and hasn’t judged me as a failure who let his brothers in service down. My friend seems more concerned that I keep beating him at darts more than my own military service. It is me that has the hard time-in awe each time I read the words President Nixon signed to my friend…saying he is a hero.

2 Responses to “citations”

  1. Joan Says:

    Dearest Jay,

    I want you to know that you are a hero to me. I mean that…those aren’t just words. Your willingness to speak out, to lead others, to be that light in the wilderness that so many of us survivors feel. That makes you a hero – you are leading from the front, exposing yourself to the fears and dangers so that you can lead others in safety, always taking care of those of us “behind you.” You are a hero in everyway and you have been a God-Sent to me.

    At the same time, I feel the same way. I often feel that I am wasting my therapists time…there are others more worthy, more in need. I didn’t wear military shirts to other VA appointments…I don’t want the other patients to look at me like a veteran. Some days all I feel is shame because I didn’t get to serve in combat, didn’t get to finish my tour, didn’t get to retire – like I left all of that behind and slipped out in the dark of the night like a coward. Even though I was given no choice…I was discharged.

    Sometimes I want to put on a t-shirt that says…”Yeah, I’m an MST survivor and PTSD sucks!” How does one even begin to acknowledge that?

    I keep you in my daily prayers, my friend. A hero is someone who has “courage under fire” – you are truly a hero and you have more courage than most people I have ever met.



  2. jayherron Says:

    Joan…your prayers (especially daily) are where the power and strength comes from! Our Father has no concerns what place your prayer closet is-Our Father only has joy when ever we are in our prayer closet-speaking to Our Father.
    I am blessed that you pray for me-very truly blessed.

    You are a hero too…if hero’s we must be!
    In Isaiah Our Father teaches us that we who wait for Him will mount up with wings as eagles-and renew our strength. Praise you for being one of those wings!

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