We spent this week talking with new veterans about their civilian lives now that they’re back from war.
Readers sent us dozens of e-mails and letters about the series. Some were veterans sharing their stories. Some wanted to show support.
Others asked for help. Here’s a sampling.
“My husband and I have been married almost five years, and only the last two have we actually spent together under the same roof. It was hard for him coming back from Iraq, and I don’t think that people realize that. It’s been three years since he’s been back, and he still has the side effects, but we’re making do, and every day is a step in the right direction. Thanks for letting me realize there are people out there just like us.”Jessica J. Rhein Wichita
“When I returned from Desert Storm, we flew from Saudi Arabia to Ireland to Germany, then to Bangor, Maine, to rest for the night before we flew back home to San Diego. When we arrived at Bangor there were people lined up cheering and clapping, and we did not even know any of them. I was given an American flag by a young lady, and she signed it ‘Welcome Home.’ I still have that flag. These people did not know us, but they took time to come to the airport. It was a great homecoming.”Ralph Garcia Jr. BM1 U.S. Navy (Ret.)
“My buddy and I were delivered to our unit in the bush, south of Danang. They looked exhausted and their clothing was filthy, but their weapons were spotless and close at hand. My new platoon sergeant gave us a talk. ‘Forget all that (stuff) they taught you in training. You new guys will be assigned to an Old Timer. Do what they do and you’ll be all right.’ Ten months of hard training declared useless in one sentence.
“The second night we had moved to a night ambush site when shots rang out maybe 100 meters away.
“I leaned toward my Old Timer and said, ‘Aren’t we going to shoot back?’ He said, ‘Shut up.’ We never fired a shot despite occasional gunfire all night long. The Old Timers slept peacefully while we took turns standing watch.
“Next day I was told, ‘That was just one Charlie sent out to wander around shooting to see if we would shoot back and give away our position.’
“Six months later my buddy was gone, and I was an Old Timer with filthy clothes and clean weapons.”Misty Cloud on KansasCity.com
“I was in two armed conflicts, Grenada and Desert Shield/Storm. I was wounded in the 1983 and prayed I didn’t get hit again in 1991. I was more scared of the U.S. military wounding or killing me more than the enemy.”MOS on KansasCity.com
“I went to Iraq in the early days of the war in 2003. I am very familiar with soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder. I was diagnosed with PTSD in 2004, and in 2005 I was delivered from it. There are many combat veterans, not only from this war but also past wars, who come home to try to live a normal life, but unfortunately that is not the case. They are in desperate need for help and have lost hope on healing from this disorder. There are many ways we can help, and one of the most important ones is by giving veterans all our support.”Pedro Sotelo Point Man Ministries of KC
“When I returned from Vietnam and started school after the war I expected anything from indifference to open hostility on campus. Mostly I found indifference and ignorance. What I did not expect was the disdain I got from WWII and Korean War vets. Some of the older vets called us losers and assumed we were all drug users. I tried to join an American Legion and was met with open skepticism.”Pointman on KansasCity.com.
“These days the only aspect of being a veteran that drives me crazy is when I see people, liberal or conservatives, hide behind our service in order to pimp their own personal beliefs. If you think Party X or Politician Y (or University Q, strangely enough) is the greatest thing since sliced bread, that’s fine. It’s also fine if you get mad when people badmouth your team or guy. What’s not fine is telling the people they don’t ‘support the troops’ if they don’t support your political party. That is intellectual cowardice at its finest. At any rate, thanks toThe Star
and the veterans involved for devoting so much time to this issue.”RLTW on KansasCity.com
“One thing is certain after every war. As the war recedes into the past, people and Congress and the president will forget. Vet programs will be underfunded or unfunded. You’ll have to fight for everything that was promised you before and during the war. People will be sympathetic but passive. You’ll have to do it all yourself.”Boyo on KansasCity.com