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Eagle Operation Family
Family & Friends of American PTSD Veterans
"A nation-wide collective
of individuals and families
dedicated to quality
treatment for all Veterans
and their families"



New Beginnings...Veterans Sound Off!


"Believe me, every man has his secret sorrows, which the world knows not;
and oftentimes we call a man cold, when he is only sad."

...Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

page 4




Today is Christmas. For years I hated Christmas. I saw it as a total commercial venture, where businesses, by their advertising, sought to make people feel guilty. That if they weren't spending themselves into bankruptcy, then they somehow didn't know how to show love to those close to them. I still think this goes on, I now believe we have a choice as to whether or not to believe that. Today I see Christmas more as a spiritual observance, than as a business observance. Than I started thinking about where my path of life has taken me spiritually, and even when and why the journey to find truth, my truth, also known as faith, began. I had to go back to my youth to see the beginning. I was not brought up in a religious family. I did not attend church regularly. And yet, as a youth, I had a very special relationship with God. With a child's innocence, God, mearly was. He loved me, and if I needed him to do the impossible, all I need do, was ask. And to my parents amazement, there was ample proof to my theory. Once, in the wilderness of northern Canada, in a canoe, in the middle of nowhere, I wanted frozen orange juice. It was a new thing in those days, and I loved it. The only problem was, we didn't have any. And with no stores for who knows how many miles, there was no way to get me any. So I did the only logical thing. I asked my pal, God. After a time, we came to the end of the lake, and had to portage by foot, over to the next lake to continue the trip. Along the trail, which was perhaps a mile in length, laying in the middle of the trail, was my can of frozen orange juice, still frozen I might add. My parents logically surmised, that someone had dropped it from their pack. When we got to the edge of the trail, we found another group of canoers, having their lunch. My parents enquired as to whether they might have lost the orange juice. No, they answered, they didn't have any to lose, and also added they had been there for some time, and no one else had been down the trail since they stopped to eat. And the orange juice was still frozen, which if it had been there long, it wouldn't have been. My mother put the juice in a container, mixed it with water from the lake, and I enjoyed my orange juice. I just couldn't figure out why every one thought this was such a big deal. I mean what is God for, if not to answer prayers. There are other stories, much the same, but the point I wanted to make was that as my belief in God's presence was so complete, the results were to adults anyway, amazing.

Somewhere along the way, that changed. My parents alcoholism became worse, physical abuse upon each other in my presence, and abuse to me personally, became a regular occurrence. Somewhere, God and I parted company. I don't know that I ever believed life was all an accident. But the God of love that I knew in my youth, was gone, I thought, forever.

Its now 1970. I am thousands of miles away from home, in a little known country called Vietnam. I am in combat. I travel to and from the jungle in helicopters. I will do this 32 times in the year I am there. Many of these trips will result in engaging the enemy. I develop a little habit on these flights into hell. I pray. I ask that God not let me kill anyone who doesn't need to die, not let me hesitate to kill anyone about to harm me or my men. I also ask that none of my team be killed. I don't know who I am praying to, but I figure it can't hurt. It didn't. Not one of my men is killed while he is on my team. I never have to bring in an American KIA. Some die, but after transferring to other teams. Some are wounded, but none are life threatening. A coincidence? Perhaps.

Its now January 1980. Its 10am. I am in a bar. I spend much of my time in bars. Since Vietnam, I spend most of my time in bars, or buying and selling illegal drugs. I am drunk. I have been drunk for three weeks. I realize this later, when I find that there are three weeks of my life that I can not remember. None of this is unusual. It is my life. It is the way I live it. I have tried by every means known to man to change it. I can not change it. At 10am I become aware of where I am, and what I am doing. In total dispair, I softly whisper, God, please help me. Later that day, I call Alcoholic Anonymous. The next morning, January 30th, 1980, I attend my first of thousands of AA meetings. From that day to this, I have remained clean and sober. Coincidence, Perhaps, perhaps not.

It is now November, 1991. I am beyond dispair. For three years, I have been in a constant state of depression. Deep, deep, depression. Miraculously, in the summer of 1991, it left me, but has now returned. I can't go through it again. I check my options. Drinking? Won't help. Drugs? Won't help, and besides, don't even know anybody anymore who sells them. What then. I can't stand the pain. I am so afraid, so alone. My wife and I are through, my kids don't think much of me, my girl friend has left me, I can't work. Suicide. But I don't want to die. I also don't want to live, not like this. If this is life, and it surely must be, then I choose death. But how? I don't own a gun, haven't since Vietnam. I know my temper, and know what guns do. I have medication for the depression and anxiety. It hasn't been working, but I have it. So I take it, all of it, and I wait for the end. I remember crying, for myself, for those I will hurt by leaving this way. Finally I cry out, God, if there is another path to peace, please show me, if not, I am ready to come home. Next thing I remember, my stomach is being pumped, I spend the night in a local hospital, the next day I am transferred to a psychiatric hospital, on suicide watch. There I find out that, I am on the wrong medication, and that I have ptsd. The medication is changed, I begin therapy for ptsd, and suddenly my life once more has hope. Another path has availed itself. Coincidence? I think not.

For you see, no matter how low my life became, once I reached out to whatever higher power is out there, and asked for help, and meant it, the help was forthcoming. God did not leave me. I left God. Whenever I sought his help, he answered.

One last thing. I am sober 2 weeks. It is a Saturday. Everyone in the house is taking an afternoon nap. With a one year old, when she naps, we all nap. I awaken first, and am struck with an all too familiar calling for alcohol. One that I always have answered. I dress quietly, then tiptoes downstairs, so as to make my escape before anyone knows I am gone. But I keep hearing this voice, in my head. It keeps saying, When all else fails pray. Go away. It will not. Finally, in desperation, and so that I can go to the bar with a clear conscience that AA does not work, I cry out, the bars are open an hour later on Saturday. Ok God, or whoever, if it will shut you up, I'll split the hour. You got thirty minutes, then I'm gone. Within a few minutes, my one year old daughter wakes up, comes downstairs, and crawls up in my lap. We wait out the time together. With about 2 minutes left, the phone rings. Its an old friend calling. Bill, the voice says, Where you been. Grab a couple of six packs of beer, and come over. All of a sudden its clear to me. I can have the booze, or I can have the family. Phone in one hand, daughter in the other. Choose. I chose. When I told my friend that I had joined AA, he hung up on me. Must have thought sobriety might be catching. I went to a meeting that night, and told the story of how when I prayed to God, God said back, its your decision. But let me make it very clear what the choices are. Then you choose. The old life in one hand, the new life in the other. Put one down, and embrace the other. Thank you God, for letting me make the decision. I've never had to make it again. Coincidence, not on your life. Not on my life either.



Bill Payne

as the VA turns........
Act 898,234,92    Scene 1,987,648    by K. Hickmann

After searching for only two hours for a parking space, you are standing outside a tall brick building. Looking up, you read the sign, VA Hospital, Dedicated to Serving Our Veterans.

You walk in and notice a room full of folding chairs. In each chair is seated a man. Many others are standing around those chairs. Many are sleeping; some are glancing at their watches. All are either bearded or look as though they haven't shaved in quite some time.

You walk down the hallway and notice a room full of doctors and nurses eating donuts. You see at the end of the hallway a sign that says "emergency room." Walking up to that sign, you notice a desk. Seated at that desk is a girl who is painting her nails (bright red). The sign on her desk says, "triage."

There is a couple standing in front of the desk. The woman is dressed in blue jeans and a faded blouse. You notice the dark circles under her eyes. The man standing next to the woman is dresed in camouflage. His face is painted and he reminds you of the deer hunters you saw last November. He is well armed. You notice that his right hand is holding a gun that is pointed at the woman's head.

You look at the triage person seated behind the desk painting her nails, and you hear her words,
"So, tell me, Mrs. Smith, why do you feel that your husband needs to be admitted?"


copyright by the author, 1998.
all rights reserved.





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