|Your typical Vietnam veteran?|
In the 1980's, society thought so.
But while this key organization reached out broadly to the public, others worked quietly in their own way. One of these "silent angels" was my old friend, "Brown Water Randy."
I met Randy in the early 1980’s, shortly after PTSD was identified but before American society knew anything about the syndrome. This was in the days when a lot of men still hid their service medals under the bed, and didn’t talk about Vietnam for fear of being branded a “baby killer.”
In the public's eye, every Vietnam vet was Rambo, who had a certain coolness, but also was very deeply disturbed and just a tad bit ridiculous.
Randy owned a shop near my house. He caught and sold his own fish. He was a friendly-gruff, in-your-face Vietnam veteran.
Unlike many other vets I encountered, Randy was proud of his military service. He displayed his flags and patches on the wall beside his cash register. He also suffered from PTSD, and he didn’t care who knew it. He laughed at the notion that he might “go Rambo” at a moment’s notice, but he openly talked about personal problems stemming from post-traumatic stress. “It’s something I have,” he said. “It’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
When I met Randy, I was editor of a small town weekly newspaper in Dixon, California. Randy knew I had served briefly in the Women’s Army Corps, and that my then-boyfriend was a closeted Vietnam vet. So Randy thought I might be interested in hearing – and writing – about his newly formed outreach group for vets with PTSD.
Randy wanted to help the vets who were not so well integrated. He wanted to raise awareness of PTSD. He also wanted to offer fellowship and support to others who struggled with trauma-induced problems.
Tomorrow: Brown Water Randy and LZ Woodland