By Jade Stone, Military Mama
I’ve been writing this blog for a couple of weeks now and it occurs to me that as a reader, it’s often difficult to understand a writer’s perspective unless you know a little about where the writer has come from and what experiences have sculpted that person into what he or she is today. So, that said, here’s a little about me. Disclaimer-the following are memories of a very small child collected with a slight dusting of time and as a result the details have become a bit foggy(or froggy, as my 4 year old would say!).
My dad was a quiet, insightful, and intelligent man who had one tour of Vietnam under his belt as part of the infantry with the first Cav when he married my mom. She never knew him as “normal” nonetheless; she fell in love with this young soldier as a pen pal through a friend and married him at the ripe age of 17. He was a gunner on a helicopter so it’s no surprise that the first tour left him shaken and most certainly riddled with PTSD which is a whole other batch of tales! He was told that he would certainly lose his mind should he return for a second tour.
Being the stubborn man that he was, nothing would stand in his way of fighting next to “his brothers”. Unfortunately, as expected, he began losing his sanity upon returning from round two. Sadly two tours just weren’t enough. As a soldier, Dad was hardwired to believe he wasn’t done until he had avenged the lives of the dear friends he had lost to the Viet Cong and so he ducked the detainment of the doctors and went back for a third tour. If there was anything left of his shell-shocked, Agent Orange-dusted mind, it wasn’t much. Somehow, he beat the odds and came home in one piece. At least his body did. I was conceived shortly after his third tour and began life in WOMAC Army hospital in Fort Bragg, NC, home to so many brave men and women. These are the humble beginnings of my life as I know it today.
Now, the next few years are fuzzy to me however. I’m sure my mom can see some of those days as if they were yesterday. Some of them I’m sure were great but there was a lot of heartache and turmoil involved in watching a loved one spiral into insanity through the misty jungle that was his mind.
I know that mom spent lots of time at the hospital, just like any new mother, with monthly checkups for me and the occasional cold/flu spell. Over that time, she became friends with one of the nurses there who was actually in the delivery room with her. Come to find out he held me before she did! This gentleman had also served three tours in Vietnam but as a medic with the 173rd and if I’m not mistaken, he and dad knew each other somehow, through the military of course. Interestingly, he managed to keep the majority of his sanity. His name was Lynn and he often worked in the emergency room and saw mom and I come through. It wasn’t long before they became friends. He understood what my dad was going through and was a friend to my mom when she needed one most. She was struggling to deal with the flashbacks, and strange stories dad had begun to tell. She remembers some of his night terrors so vividly and yet one stands out among the rest.
One night she was awakened by a tightening around her throat. As she opened her eyes, the image of my father standing over her with his hands around her throat materialized before her. All she could hear was “You Damned Gook”!!! He nearly killed her that night and would have had no clue what happened the next morning. She never slept in the same room again but rather locked herself in another room at night, especially after I came along. Lynn knew this behavior all too well and tried his best to help her cope. Little did we know that this was the beginning of Lynn’s thread through our story.
As for me, Dad couldn’t handle the sound of a person crying or screaming. Unfortunately for me, as a baby, my fussy time was 8 p.m. every night. It sent him reeling into a particular memory of his first tour. He was new in country and was hiding in the bushes when he heard this screaming noise charging at them through the dense foliage. Fear and anticipation over took him and when the object emerged he opened fire. As the smoke settled, he realized he had just killed a screaming, frightened, pregnant woman…yes, he relived this nightmare every time I cried. He never forgave himself for that. To cope, he would simply place me in a dark room and walk away which was the safer alternative. You see, we had a beautiful German shepherd named Smokey that barked at anything suspicious and then one day he disappeared. I’ll let you guess what his fate became…So to escape, mom would take me to the mall every night to walk around until it was time for me to go to bed around 9 or so. She quickly became tired and increasingly more nervous about our safety, and for good reason.
Sometime shortly after the age of two, my grandparents, whom I came to love and adore, arrived on the doorstep of our small home under the cedar trees and politely informed my mom that if she wanted to live in this madness she could; however, their grandbaby would not! And thus moved me to what would soon become “home” in Springfield, MO. It was only a matter of weeks before mom followed suit with divorce papers in hand. Dad loved us very much but his mind just couldn’t handle the people in his life because it was too busy dealing with the demons that chased him in his head. It had to have been hard for her to leave the love of her life and yet she knew for our safety, it was a must. So, all 4 of us resided in a small rock house on Park Street for a few months until mom could get back on her feet. Soon, the day came that the divorce was settled. However, even that day proved to be bittersweet for her. Unbeknownst to me, it was also the day she found out I would have a little brother soon.
As for the time between that day and the day my little brother was born, I remember living in a small little white house with old wood floors, and a TV set up in such a way you could watch it from the bed in the other room. It was here that I can remember eating saltine crackers in bed with mom watching Johnny Carson and thinking this was the greatest place on earth. I also thought that hot dogs and eggs were what everyone ate in the morning and that Grandma’s house was like going to heaven because there was nothing but love and all the most amazing food anyone could possibly want to eat!
Though I couldn’t help but wonder where all the big green men had gone (uniformed soldiers) I loved the new colorful world I’d landed in. It was just me and mom to face the world around us with my Grandparents by our side. As far as I knew, it would be smooth sailing from there on out…and then came baby brother. To be continued….
Jade is one of our newest mom bloggers at nwaMotherlode. She welcomes your comments here as well as any suggestions you may have for her future posts. You may also e-mail her at akajadestone [AT] yahoo [DOT] com. To read previous Military Mama posts, CLICK HERE.