I would like to thank all my readers for their support as I wrote my story. You showed compassion as well as understanding something we all find hard to let out sometimes. Without you, the reader there would have been no story. I have received some letters wanting to know some aspects of my life as well as others that were in my life. I will try to answer them.
I had a lot asking about Paul and Terri. Paul I heard moved back to live in Canada. Terri my childhood sweetheart had returned to California to be near the rest of her family. Sadly, when she moved out there I never heard from her again. Maybe she thought it was best that way. Sherri and Kay always wondered why I left it that way never finding out what happened to her. I told them as I tell you she was no longer in my heart. It happens sometimes that people once close to you just leave your heart as well as your thoughts.
My life has been filled with vicissitudes or challenges, as I like to call them now. Vietnam was a challenge that almost beat me as was losing Carrie. I faced what fate and death had dealt to me. At first, I always thought they were stacking the deck against me. It is only now that I realized I had stacked the deck against them.
I struggled with whether to write this story or not. I had fears of reliving my life all over again which ended up happening. It was frightening at first as everything came back to me as if it all happened yesterday. It also worried me in that I might have opened not only my own demons from my past but maybe other veteran’s demons as well.
I was surprised to find out from other vets through emails thanking me not hating me for opening their demons. As with us, they never really leave us. They thanked me for letting them know they were not alone in what they were dealing with. Some even thanked me for showing them a way to handle them better by not keeping them to themselves. Some sat and told their families, wives and kids just what Vietnam was and how it changed them. I would like to share some of the letters I received not only from vets but from others as well about my story with you:
“Your story is gripping and makes the reader to want to know the next chapter but I realize it comes from real life experiences. Over the past couple of months I have been reading your stories and find myself trying to control my temper a lot more and even my wife of 27 years has noticed that small things do not seem to frustrate me as much. While things still trouble me, I realize that we cannot go back or change anything that we have done in the past and can only try to make ourselves a better person each day. I only hope that your story and your life turns out to have a happy conclusion because so few of us who served so many years in the military every achieve happiness. I like so many as you are personally aware have our good and bad days.” “As you’re most recent post points out Happy's Fathers Day and for me I have to get ready for my anniversary tomorrow and really feel a special need to surprise and I look forward to your next post.”
Sometimes we cannot undo those things, which we have done. Your stories show me that I must try to control my emotions better but we both know that emotions and anger that are so vital to survival in a combat zone can cloud our judgment in the civilian world. Sorry I went on too long with this email but I wanted you to know that others, especially veterans relate to your stories all to well and while our wars may have been different, some of us still hide behind a mask.
Thanks once again MSG S
I have just finished reading chapter 11 of your story and I had no choice but to write you. This is the first story I have read by another Viet Nam Vet that has made me cry as I have reading this. I was Air Force Intelligence (Yeah, a contradiction in terms.) Detached to Thailand during 1972-74. I did not experience situations like yours but I have my own. It is sufficient to say that we all have our own demons. I am moved by your story and just wanted to tell you that. I am currently going to school for the background to become a Patients Advocate for the VA, the boys and girls coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan need a lot of help. I would like to ask permission to use part of your story to help those Veterans.
That came from gorilla52 another writer here.
I know you probably will not see or read this but I just wanted to message you anyway. I will keep this short because I know you are a busy man and you probably do not want to hear all about me. I am a teenager who fell in love with your stories. I found them online on accident and did not stop reading until the sun came up. I just wanted to say I appreciate that you told your story, and that I admire you as a person. You have made me look at things in different ways and made me respect our military more.
You have taught me some things. How to be a gentleman, what a man is, and to not take life for granted; to cherish our lives, the lives of our loved ones, and be thankful every moment we get, good or bad. You are a remarkable man. I am 15; Vietnam was way before my time. However, thank you for kicking some serious ass over there. My friends and I used to joke about Vietnam. I could not bring myself to do that when I started reading about your brother... again thank you for fighting in Vietnam.
A teenager sent me that.
First of all, I thank you for your service to our country. Secondly, I could never imagine the horrors of the Vietnam War. I was so very fortunate in having been (barely) spared that experience. So, having disclosed those facts, I hope you will accept my comments in the spirit they are intended. Your stories have touched my heart in so many ways. You have given me at least as much understanding of what you and those of my fellow GIs who were there have dealt with during and after.
While the losses caused by separation from loved ones and severed ties are still raw wounds to me, you have helped me look back and perhaps begin to heal from my own (trivial by comparison) emotional baggage. The fact that you are still with us today and recounting your experience says you are a survivor at many levels. Those who were fortunate enough to share your love are truly blessed. I look forward to new installments of your story even though many of your past chapter has reopened some of my emotional wounds. Thanks to you, they seem to be healing better than the first time around. I sense that this is also part of an ongoing healing process for you as well.
RA... All The Way sent that one to me.
I received this one recently from a man who I consider a friend as well as a brave, loyal and trustworthy soldier. I wanted to share it with you because he brought up a point of women in combat. While during my war in Vietnam the enemy had women in combat, our side did not. However, the times had changed and women do their brave part as well as men do.
It seems later in our lives especially for you, you have found the glue which is the bond which holds you to the ground which is Kay, Kathy and Sherrie. I really would like to hear the stories that made you a grandfather. I can only tell you I have a 22 year old and 24 soon to be 25-year-old daughter and the prospect of being a grandparent frankly makes me freak just a little. I guess you could say that it is the one thing that actually makes me afraid and I have never been afraid of anything.
I know that this may find you scratching your head but when it comes to my wife and children there is nothing that makes me so afraid. Recently I believe I started having my own small mid life crisis. For months, I told my wife that I did not like the gray in my hair and I am 49 so I had it highlighted. I would ask you before you respond to ask one of your girls to read this email. My wife is 47 and I feel it is wrong to ask or expect a woman to change her looks to make herself more attractive to a man without a man doing the same. Yes, you may call me many things but I do not believe that a woman is the only one to have to change. I am trying to put spice back in my life because I have not always been the romantic type but I have only loved one woman with all my heart and soul but sometimes I just don't know how to express that love as I like to hide behind faces which are not always my own.
I believe that if I had met someone like you in my past I would have been able to call you a friend because there is a soul which men and sometimes women share who have been in combat and seen the worst side of humanity and its no longer just men who see and experience this. Recently I went through Brooks Army Medical Facility in San Antonio and I met a young women who was in her mid 20's and Sgt J, I can honestly tell you I thought my own eyes were looking right back at me.
I know that your next chapter will be your last but if you can, could you acknowledge the many sacrifices that the women in the military have made and continue to make. Because we owe it to them to acknowledge their service, dedication and duty to something greater than themselves. Its not only because one of my best spotters was a female Marine, it is because I truly do believe that their service and contributions need and must be recognized.
The female Gunny, which I allude to, was always my friend yet she is gone now in a war that many know as Kosovo or the Balkans War. I sometimes feel regret as I hung up my responsibilities and did not continue to do what I am very best at doing or as she would always tell me, you need to start hiding from what you think you are and become what you were meant to be. It is so hard to live that life and once again step into the darkness because he who lives by the code also dies by the code.
I wish you much rest and even though your story will soon end, I wish with all my heart to know how things turned out for your family. To include Sherrie as the experiences of you, Kay, Cathy and Sherrie can show us all the true picture of bravery and that maybe our demons are not as bad as we think. Because there are others who have experienced things far greater than what many of us have on the field of battle. God sped Sgt J and may the night let you sleep well and know peace that many of us hope for and strive for yet few achieve.
To that, female Marine serving in the Balkans War may the star of Carrie watch over you and others like you. People like you now bravely face the evils in our world. Some may not understand and they question what the hell we are even doing over there in that land far from home. I say to them, “We do what is right not because they tell us too but because our hearts tell us we must.”
Those are just a few of the hundreds of emails I got from fellow veterans as well as from people just thanking me for giving them a little insight of what some of us faced. I had the support and help from my daughter Sherri, her husband Duke as well as Kay and Cathy when I took on this project of writing my story.
When I began writing this story, I felt I had to write it with the same emotions that I had felt during the events that took place in my life. However, I had not thought about the emotional and psychological effects it might bring out in me as I wrote it. As I wrote the first few chapters, my nightmares of a long ago forgotten war returned. Then as I wrote about my time with Carrie and losing her, I found myself wiping tears away after each sentence I typed. I wanted to quit writing as I figured that was the cause however, others around me would not allow this to happen.
Those being Kay, Cathy, Sherri and Duke they told me that the story needed to be shared with others who had faced the same demons and nightmares as I had if only to let them know they were not alone. At first, I refused out of the fear of what it may do to me mentally. However, the three of them reminded me that the darkness I would be walking into again was one that I had walked out of before.
All three of them had a reason of their own for wanting me to write it. Kay wanted it written because of the deep love and compassion the story carried in it. Kay always thought the romance of just how Carrie and I became one was unlike any romance novel she had read. As well as bringing to light the abuse, some women face with out hope.
Cathy wanted it written because it brought to light the plight of most returning veterans from the Vietnam War, the forgotten ones who were left to deal with their troubles on their own. She wanted it written for the brave men who faced that war by themselves and returned home only to be alone with their demons. Most of us were too proud to seek help or like me just too stubborn to admit we had a problem.
Sherri wanted the story told for Carrie. The love one man gave to a woman with his very soul that she never really left him in death. How her love for him helped guide him down the road of life. How through him she touched others with the love she had for him.
Duke’s reasons was to show others not only those that followed our code in life. That no matter the despair, tragedy and anguish one might face in their life there is always hope. “A great man once told me,” “We do what is right not because they tell us too but because our hearts tell us we must.” His heart told him it needed written.
That brings me to why I wrote it. I believe it was out of Truth, Honor, Bravery and the courage to take action when others do not," "To always do what is right and just," My story had to be told and who better to tell it than the man who lived it. It may have been out of self-pity that I wrote it as well, for the world did own be something. That being to listen and feel with their hearts as well as their souls the story of others and me likes me.
I received letters about my dealing with Sherri’s ex-husband Brad over the abuse of my daughter. As to my dealing with Brad, I wanted to kill him. I sat there in that darken room thinking how easy it would be to just snap his neck and be gone. However, I wanted him to suffer I wanted to give him his own demons as he had given to my loving daughter. I wanted him to relive the nightmare of that night each time he looked at his hands. Years later in life, Sherri questioned me as to why I had not killed him. I could not give her any reason other than that. However she gave me the reason when she told me, "Daddy you couldn't your heart would not allow you too."
I received letters from some who did their killings from above or from a distance never seeing the face of their enemy. You say your combat was done at a distance while mine was up close and personal. That did not make any differences between us as for the faces we still see are the same whether up close or at a distance. Does that make us bad men? No, it makes us only men with a conscience as well as a heart.
As I was writing one of my recent chapters, I drove by a nearby church. They always post little sayings on their sign out front and the one they had up stuck in my mind it said.
"God does not judge men before they die. Why should we?"
I got letters from many veterans and they were what I had hoped to hear from a fellow veteran. That my stories made you stop and think how I can try not to improve the people around me for I fear they will never change. But to help yourself which will only help the people close to you.
I wish I could wave a magic wand and make all your nightmares go away however, you know I cannot. All I can do is tell you that you are not alone. I still have them and probably always will. I try to talk to those around me when I do. I do so not to find out the reason I have them but to try to understand them. I know why I have them and yours may be like mine that is because we do have a conscience. Our lives were filled mostly with making decisions between right and wrong. I know from the letters that all of the actions that you took through your life were because you followed the code as I did.
"Truth, Honor, Bravery and the courage to take action when others do not," "To always do what is right and just,"
I received many letters suggesting I write this up as a novel. I have been giving it some thought. My daughter has suggested we write it together. I am afraid I may have to list it as fiction as few still believe in Angels in our world. However, I might just write that novel just to have her around me.
This brings me to the matter of Angel Carrie. I received many letters wanting to know if she was real. Did she really watch over us and does she still? To my family she was and she still watches over us today. I do not know why or truly understand it myself. Maybe she was just in my mind and some how I projected her into their minds as well. If you were to ask Sherri, Duke, Kay and Cathy, they would not hesitate to tell you that she is indeed a true angel.
Angel Carrie had saved all of us during sometime in our lives. Angel Carrie has touched and left her impression on their hearts as well as in their souls by just her presence. None of them had ever met her or knew her. They only knew what she meant to me as well as what she gave to themselves as well as to me.
What do I think about whether she is real you might be asking yourself?
I will only tell you she will forever live in my heart and that I keep my thoughts to myself on that questions as well as close this Epilogue to my story. I know I hear you now I left you with another cliffhanger like in most of my chapters. Making you always wonder what was going to happen next. I will only tell you this.
“HUSH, hush you the reader or the creatures of the night will get you.”