It was an early June day in 1971. Dad died in 1960 when I was but a boy of 11.
In May of 1971, I finished up my second tour of duty in Vietnam with the Green Berets, 5th Special Forces Group. I was 22 then, going on 60. This is not a story of Vietnam so much but how my Dad rescued me from thoughts of suicide. Stay with me as this story has a happy ending.
Fresh home from the war, my war, as most people who have served have tattooed to their soul who have experienced man’s inhumanity to man up close and personal. I joined the military in 1968, gung ho to save the world from communism. I was an innocent, a person whose life was pretty simple up to those Vietnam days. Post-Vietnam, I returned to my small-town life in upstate New York a changed person.
I was hardened by the things that I saw and things that I did and things that kept me awake at night. I wanted to be a kid again, and have the experiences of the jungle sucked from my brain. I felt like my insides were trying to run away from my body. Anxiety, and what is now better known at PTSD gave me panic attacks. I had disturbing thoughts and feelings and nightmares.
Before Vietnam, I was all over the God thing. I believed in all the stories of the bible and all the wonders of Jesus that the nuns and priests brainwashed into us Catholic school kids. For me, I attended Catholic school my entire life, so I was on board with God and heaven and hell and purgatory, venial sins and mortal sins, and what life was supposed to be about.
Except life away from the good ‘ol U.S of A. did not fit the mold. So, the day came when I was going to stop running from the ghosts that haunted me every day. I decided to go to St. Bonaventure Cemetery and tell Dad I was done with it all. Life, as I could see it at that time, was too much. I just wanted the pain to stop. I found his grave and sat with my guitar. And I talked to him. I poured out my pain and sorrow and fears and dread. I prayed that if there was a God, that it was time to prove it because I did not want to live any more.
Miraculously, a peace came over me. It was almost like a movie flashing through my brain. All the good memories, the pre-war memories, flooded my body and took away my thoughts of suicide. Dad was there and he saved me. Dad and God. Maybe Dad was God and God was Dad. All I know is that having a place to go where I knew my Dad was at gave me physical, mental, and emotional strength to look for the good in life.
I have always been grateful that Mom laid him to rest at a cemetery as it offered a place for me to go to, and to contemplate life. I truly believe that everyone should have that same feeling of being able to visit those people that were important to us in life. I don’t get back to New York much lately, but it gives me peace just to know that Dad is there when I need him. Even today, from many miles away from his grave, I can transport my being to his gravesite and hear him and God whisper of the glories of life and afterlife. And what is that worth in silver and gold?
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