High fevers can also trigger flashbacks. During a bad bout of flu, H’s temperature soared to 105 degrees, and he went back to the hospital where he was treated for peritonitis after being shot. Sometimes medical treatment in Vietnam had to be improvised. H was placed in a tub of ice, which burned like fire but did lower his temperature. Now, in the present, he looked at me with beseeching eyes and begged me not to put him in the ice. I promised I wouldn’t.
Hyper-Vigilance: Once Learned, Never Forgotten
Hyper-vigilance, or hyper-alertness, is also common. People who have been through hell are sure it still lies in wait for them. H always sits with his back to the wall. To me this has become normal, and when we’re out I automatically give him a corner seat where he can view the door.
He learned from combat that everything can be dangerous. The VC put crushed glass in popsicles. They also attached explosives to youngsters and set them in the street, knowing the Americans wouldn’t run over a child. When the American picked up the child, the explosion killed them both.
H knows danger is always there. That may be why he won’t open presents. I have to give them to him unwrapped.
Silence is Not Golden
H hears the slightest sound and cannot rest until he has identified the source. A helicopter overhead will send him to the door to verify its location. He can tell what type of copter it is by its sound.
At the same time, he cannot tolerate silence and immediately turns on the TV when he goes to his room. I asked about this once, and he explained that when the jungle got quiet, that meant danger.
Guilt—Exactly the Way Freud Predicted
A pervasive feeling of guilt haunts many veterans—guilt for things they did, guilt for having survived when others didn’t. The eternal question “Why me?” is always there and can never be answered.
H was once driving in a truck convoy. He was scheduled to drive the first truck and his friend, K, would drive the second. For some reason, at the last minute, they swapped places. That change put K in the first truck and H in the second. It was the first truck that hit the explosive, and H had to pick up the pieces that were left of K.
When a replica of the Wall came to Nashville, he wanted to look up K’s name, at least part of him did. Another part of his mind couldn’t tolerate reliving his friend’s death. So, he did what Freud said he would do. He blanked K’s name, a psychological strategy which kept him from finding it and having to face the fear, grief, and guilt again. I remember him standing by the wall, beating it with his fists until I finally reminded him of the name he wanted to both remember and forget.
Once Learned, Never Forgotten
During our marriage, I’ve seen H act with stunning coolness in several dangerous situations. One involved a car accident with a passenger pinned in a burning car. He pulled her out and away from danger. However, afterward, he drove for hours to relieve the stress of remembering other rescues he’d made. If you keep moving, the enemy is less likely to find you.
And then there was the icy night a car went off the road and we saw a body lying in our front yard. H went to see if help was needed. He was armed, of course. Both men were drunk, and he saw that one had a gun. He came inside to call 911, warning the police to approach silently and telling the operator about the gun.
A single car arrived silently. The policeman was handcuffing the driver when H, who can size up a situation in a microsecond and had already stationed himself on the other side of the car where he could see the second occupant, saw the second man reach in his jacket. H told him not to even try it. “If he doesn’t shoot you, I will,” H warned the man, who turned out to be a fleeing felon from another state. I hope he never has to use a weapon in defense again, but I know he would have done whatever was necessary to protect that policeman.
Don’t Go the Same Way Twice
H will never return by the same route he took to get somewhere. This frustrated me when we went to a new store that I wanted to return to. I wasn’t familiar with the neighborhood and hoped to pass through it a second time. “Why can’t you go home the way you came?” I asked. He was silent for a moment and then explained. “If you go the same way twice, you get ambushed.”
It will come as no surprise that my husband and I don’t sleep in the same room. He’s afraid he’ll have a nightmare or flashback and hurt me. We love each other dearly, but there are things we can’t do. What I regret the most is that I can never awaken him with a kiss. He’s done this to me many times, and I know how sweet it is. However, I’ll never be able to return the favor.
Understanding the Rules
I can never touch him unexpectedly; he must always know I’m there. There can be no surprise hugs, no approaching him from any direction except the front, where he can see me. These are just the rules. Over the years, they’ve become second nature to me.
But other people don’t always understand them or how important they are. When H was in the hospital, I gave his nurses careful instructions about never startling him or touching him unless he was conscious. The nurses on his floor were cooperative, wonderful, and there were no problems.
Unfortunately, he was moved to another floor one night after I had left the hospital, and the precaution got lost in medical dataland. A new, unprepared nurse came into his room with her instrument cart and put her hand on his wrist while he dozed. He bolted up in bed screaming, “No!” The terrified nurse stumbled over her cart as she went to get a larger male assistant. When they came back H was shaking so badly the bed rattled. It hurts when I can’t protect him.
Some of H’s stores, of course, are comical. Whoever believes people aren’t capable of laughing in even the darkest times doesn’t know human nature.
His tales, I love them and often beg for a retelling. He’s happy to tell me about Mickey, the baby mongoose he found and kept until it was mature enough to return to the jungle. Mickey liked to stay in his shirt pocket, ducking out of sight when there was shooting.
I know about PupPup, the stray puppy who found his way into H’s camp and stayed, spending the night under H’s bed. A few years ago H saw a mixed breed dog at an adoption event who had a strong resemblance to PupPup. Of course, we brought him home.
I even know about Billy, a young Vietnamese orphan he found. Apparently Billy’s parents had been killed by the Viet Cong and he attached himself to H, sleeping across his feet at night. H wanted to adopt Billy and bring him back to the U.S., but the military wouldn’t allow it. Before leaving Vietnam, H took Billy to an orphanage, gave the priest there a large sum of money, and told him to care for Billy and get him out of the country if it started falling apart. I still wonder where he got so much money, but I don’t ask.
There was also a hilarious incident involving a tiger, which I can’t relate because this is a G-rated site.
Hear a Lot in a Few Words
I’m very aware that I know only a few of my husband’s experiences. The really bad things he keeps to himself. Hints of what I don’t know sometimes slip out, like the time we were at a military collectors show and he saw a North Vietnamese helmet. H picked it up, remarking, “The last time I saw one of these was through my sniper scope.” I’ve become good at reading between the lines.
Why I Wrote This
This article began because someone asked a good question—how is autism related to prepping? I’m the over-analytical person who took the question and, having applied it first to autism, decided preppers should know at least a little about a completely different kind of psychological difference. So, why I wrote this was to educate and prepare the prepping community.
If SHTF, Some of the Most Valuable May Have PTSD
If a SHTF event ever happens, we will find ourselves dealing with a wide variety of people. Some of the most valuable may be those who are so different the “normal” prepper will be at a loss in dealing with them. I want the prepping community to know PTSD exists and what it means.
Military Personnel Now Serving Will Need Understanding, Love, and Compassion
Thousands of military personnel are now serving our country in hostile environments across the world. They are having the experiences that will someday haunt them in dreams and flashbacks. They will need all the understanding, love, and compassion we can give them. Furthermore, I don’t trust the government or the medical establishment to provide our veterans with the care they’ve earned.
On the Church Steps
One beautiful November day, I was at the Veteran’s Day parade. Bands were playing, children were scrambling for candy, and I sat on the front steps of a Gothic church near an older woman. We exchanged a few words about the weather and music. When she asked, I told her my husband was with the Vietnam veterans. I asked if she had someone in the parade. “Yes, my husband is with the World War II group,” she answered. Loud seconds passed before I found the courage to ask softly, “Does he still have nightmares?” She gave me a long, knowing look. “Yes,” she replied.
SurvivalBlog Writing Contest
This has been part two of a two part entry for Round 77 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:
- A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
- A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,095 value),
- A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
- DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper. These have hammer forged, chrome-lined barrels and a hard case, to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel. This can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools. It also provides a compact carry capability in a hard case or in 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
- Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
- A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
- Two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value), and
- American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses.
- A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
- A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
- A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
- A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
- A Three-Day Deluxe Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $190 value),
- A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by PrepperPress.com,
- RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site.
- A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
- A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
- Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
- Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
- Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances, and
- Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value).
Round 77 ends on July 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.