Monday, 18 July 2011

"50,000 Names" (George Jones)

Always Remembered, Lest We Forget.

The Story of a Marine Who Served in VIETNAM.

My husband finds it very hard to speak about his painful experience.
Bit by bit, I have gleaned his story...about the Vietnam War.
I feel it is only fair to him, that it be told and shared.
You see, it's not just his tale!!
It also belongs to every other young innocent who have been sent to fight for their country.
Who willingly gave away his/her youth for what they considered an honour to serve.
Only to return and be neglected and forgotten....

THIS IS HIS STORY: put together in puzzle pieces until it completed an understandable rendition.

I grew up in east TN, the eldest of two sons.
We lived on a farm and my father made his living delivering milk.
We weren't rich, but we got by.

When I was thirteen my life changed almost overnight.
My brother R aged ten, got badly burned on his legs and was put into hospital.
My father aged thirty four died from leukemia.
And my mother had a nervous breakdown and was also admitted to hospital.
I was alone at home.
 Aged fifteen.

Life didn't get easier, so I got tougher.
I rebelled and began missing school.
My mother had to go out to work.
Eventually she married again to a widower.
He and I didn't get on, so I went to live with my father's brother and his family, in the next town.
At eighteen I decided to join the Marines.
I was fit and strong, always having been a keen sportsman.

Here in Boot Camp. 

After training....
In 1969 I was sent with the 1st Marine division to An Hoa, Vietnam.

We marched from Alligator Lake up into the mountains in sweltering heat.
Agent orange had been sprayed over vegetation to kill it and assist our progress.
The going was rough and the mosquito's ravishing.

The second day of arrival on that mountain the fighting began.
I was a private firstclass rifleman.
I saw one of my friends shot in the chest on the first day by the Vietcong.

I knew it was bad because there was so much blood.
I helped to load him into the poncho to be Medi-vaced out.

I wanted to vomit when withdrawing my arms, as they were covered with his blood.
The smell, the red pouring from him. 
He was my friend and his name was Jim.

I will always remember receiving the news not long after the copter took off.
Jim had died!
It was no surprise?
There was no delay in our day, no silence in remembrance, NOTHING!
We just kept on walking to the top of the mountain.
We needed to move and not think. This was war!!  Revive and Survive.

That night gunfire was heard from across the river.
Next day I learned Giovanni Campbell and Thomas McStoots were killed in Action.

On the second day while searching for a North Vietnamese Base Camp, I was hit in the wrist by a sniper richochet bullet.
A short time after that a mortar round landed about ten feet away.
I was hit by shrapnel in the chest and stomach, POW!
A fellow marine in front of me took the brunt, much worse than me.
He survived, but he was a bad mess.
When I saw him in hospital weeks later, I didn't recognise him!!
At the time we were air lifted out to Yokosuka Japanese Hospital.

In this hospital they dressed my wounds and applied a plaster caste.
After about three days the pain was persistent, unrelenting and sending me wild.
No pain relief helped and the agony was beyond belief.
My temperature soared to over 103degrees., and I was placed in ice water for two to three hours until my temperature began to drop.
That ice water was as much torture as the pain!
I was then taken to surgery and the caste was cut down one side for removal.
My arm was so swollen it burst open.
It was then I was informed I had a staph infection and my arm needed to be amputated. 
(Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a bacterium responsible for several difficult-to-treat infections in humans) ...
I was terrified!!
My arm stank!
The pain was excruciating and I could not move my hand or fingers, it felt like I was paralysed.
A terrifying fear gripped my heart!

They couldn't take my arm, not my arm! and I told the doctor 
"No!! I won't let you take my arm!"
My weight on entry to this hospital was 205lbs.
After one month of not being able to eat due to constant nausea my weight plummeted to 125lbs.
My only sustance life line was the intravenous feedings. 

Lying on right side with
left arm showing wound.
Photo taken approximately
two weeks after admission.                     HEAD >

A Wounded Shocked Young Marine.

Photo taken the day after admission to Yokosuka Hospital in Japan.
This was before the infection set in. 
Ray recieves his Purple Heart Award for being Combat Wounded.

Photo's outside Japanese Hospital one month later.

Dressed to return to the Naval Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.
Where I was to remain a further three months.

After that I received an honourable discharge.
Visiting the Memorial Wall for Vietnam Vets in D.C. sometime in the 1980's I discovered the names of lost friends.
I found this to be very traumatic!

You don't fully realise until you see those names, how real death is....and you think and wonder!!
"How come it wasn't me?"
And the tears finally flow, and devastation sinks in.
This is hard to explain. 
I sort of lost the remainder of my feelings about myself and what I was suppose to do.
There was an emptiness inside my chest, and life became a strange existence.
There were times when, during the night, a terrible fear crept over me.
Nightmares, crazy dreams with flashing lights and loud explosions....
I'd bury my head and shake. And I'd think about soldiers dying...

I didn't want to be with people, I felt safer on my own.
I was the Only Person I trusted!  except for my dog..
It was hard to settle to everyday life.
I married and divorced in five years.
One son was born.
I married again, that lasted six months. Following this I lived in a travel trailer for ten years.

Finally I bought a house.

During a medical examination while working for T.V.A. in 2004 it was discovered that I have a heart condition. It is known as Atrial Fibrillation.
I began seeing a doctor at the V.A. hospital for this.
I met my now wife and soon after married in 2004.
From then on she took care of my health.
She questioned the V.A. doctor about the help I could receive for my heart.. ( what help is there)??
Not satisfied with the answers, she arranged for me to see a private cardiologist.
A Catheter Ablation was successfully performed on my heart in 2005.
Following this my heart regained strength and went from being slow beats to a normal beat range.
I have since gone back into A.F. and on occasions I still suffer heart pain.
But my heart is not as bad as it used to.
NOTE: Atrial fibrillation (AF or A-fib) is the most common cardiac arrhythmia
(abnormal heart rhythm), and involves the two upper chambers of the heart.
It's name comes from the fibrillating,
(i.e., quivering) of the heart muscles of the atria, instead of a coordinated contraction.
There are many causes for this condition.
* One of these is from Infection.

My wife is a Registered Nurse and recognised my severe depression.
This was becoming worse and to the point where I was drinking to excess in my loneliness before I met her.
After meeting her I continued to drink, although not as much as I had.

We married in September 2004, in Tennessee.

 My wife can continue from here as she can describe it better than I can.

Ray is a country boy, a gentle kind-hearted soul with a love for animals, children and older folk.
Probably because he feels accepted and safe with them. 
Watching and assessing Ray I could see:
His affect was flat and blunted, with hardly any expression and he could not seem to smile..
There was no reaction or emotion.
His mood was always low, he tried to socialise but after a short time only wanted to go home.
He went to bed late and slept fretfully for a couple of hours, then got up to go onto the computer.
(He still does this.)
Life was an existence, not a joy or a pleasure.
Even with so called friends, he was quiet and did not interact well.
(He can still be like this, however, not as much when with other veterans.)
He was suspicious and hypervigilant.
(He still is)
He was labile with mood swings from calm and quiet to irritable, violent and aggressive.
(This still happens).
He isolated and won't answer when spoken to.
(He still does this.)
He could sometimes be inappropriate in speech and actions.
(This still happens).
Had several tasks pending at once and needed encouragement to follow through.
(Still does).
Impaired memory.
(Still has.)
The first time I met his family and grandchildren I wanted to take photos.
I placed the children beside him and sat his grandson on his lap.
Most grandparents will hug the children to them, Ray didn't.

The V.A. had never evaluated Raymond for depression or trauma.
(As the daughter of a returned soldier, I found this difficult to comprehend.)
 I got him his first appointment with them to be evaluated.

He was seen by a couple of psychiatrists.
The last one being Dr Elizabeth Ann Ahmad at Mountain Home, Johnson City, TN.

She diagnosed him using the DSM-IV  Axis 1 as suffering from P.T.S.D.
She recommended Ray sit for the Becks Depression Evaluation and an appointment was made for late 2007.
Due to the fact we had decided to re-locate and move back to Queensland, Australia, the Evaluation was completed instead on the 5th July 2007.
Raymonds scores were:
Becks Depression Evaluation = 33, consistant with severe depresion.
Mississippi Scale for Combat Related P.T.S.D. = 119, exceeding the cut off score of 107.

Leaving the U.S.A. to live in Australia I precured Raymond's medical notes from the V.A. Hospital at Mountain Home.
My reason for doing this was to be able to pass them on for continious care with doctors in Australia.
Since coming to live here Raymond see's Dr Chris Martin, a Psychiartist located at Buderim, Queensland on a regular basis at his Gympie offices.
He is evaluated and maintained on specific medications under his diagnosis of P.T.S.D.

The Social Security in the U.S.A. also requested Raymond see a Psychiatrist of their choosing here in Australia.
His name was Dr Chris Cantor of Noosa, Queensland.
His diagnoses was also, Chronic Post Traumatic STress Disorder, Combat related.

Three Psychiarists have assessed and diagnosed my husband Raymond with a Mental Illness Disability.
Under the Mental Health Act only one Psychiatrist is required!

For four years, the V.A have been denying the fact that Ray has Chronic P.T.S.D. even though there is evidence proof.
As Raymonds wife, I would like them to live with him for a time, and see how it is for themselves.
It is no picnic.
I am Raymond's carer as well as his wife, he depends on me for almost everything.
Without me he would no longer be able to live alone.
Bills, hygiene, medications,and a proper diet would be forgotten.

We attend church every Sunday.... Ray often sleeps throughout the service.
When I look at photos of a young man, hardly more than a child, who went to war and returned half a person....
When I understand what he has suffered in the years following!
I know, he has not been sufficiently rewarded for his valor!
A country may be quick to send their men to fight, BUT, they are very slow in rewarding them.
My husband Raymond Isaac Lindsey today, with the animals he so loves. (This is a wallaby)