The Vietnam War changed many lives; inhabitants of Vietnam, soldiers who fought the war, their families, and all who were touched by them. As a combat medic experiencing the Tet Offensive, the nineteen year old came into contact with atrocities that even the most seasoned soldier would find difficult to deal with. He had left his neighborhood of buddies who had grown up together. Although sharing the same block, youthful zeal, and love of family, the war, most of the neighborhood could not share.
The war ultimately changed the teenager’s perspective on life; having lost his best friend in the Vietnam conflict, future relationships and the outlook for the future, became bleak. Every day no longer made sense, and became a fight for survival. Returning home was no help; people in his old environment could not understand, making his homecoming to normalcy impossible; there existed the realization that a majority of the population thought the soldiers had done a terrible thing, not a heroic one. There were no accolades, only scorn.
I met my husband many years later. He could be very considerate; other times present an uncaring veneer. Alcohol was his primary lover; I became his second. He came into my life when I too, was struggling to know where I fit in the scheme of life.
As a child, I was part of a dysfunctional family; my mother was mentally ill. As a teenager, drugs became prevalent and I felt the need to help my peers. Already working a part-time job when I left school, at nineteen, I began working at a successful full-time career. My career in finance was flourishing, allowing me to travel and lead a productive life. My first marriage ended; I always believed marriage was for life. I became disillusioned with marriage when I met my current husband, the Vietnam vet.
Neither of my parents had the opportunity to attend college; my dream was to finish high school and attain a college degree. As one year slid into another, the idea became harder to grasp. Plunging into the academic world at an advanced age was difficult to explain to my friends; harder for me to have the strength needed to begin the journey. I was now living with health issues and an alcoholic husband. Each day, events would be a revelation. Would I be able to continue working, would our apartment be on fire? These were questions I was not sure I had the answers to; as some questions became a reality, education was not a consideration.
Time passed, sobriety entered our lives and we relocated. Volunteering became a stronghold, one that was fulfilling and aided in the continuation of my observance of the lives of children in need.
The thoughts of obtaining my goal of attending college became a central consideration and passion. I became a substitute teacher, a change of profession, and received my high school diploma. I am now in graduate school; a dream that seemed implausible is coming true.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.