Vietnam Vets -- Where Are They Now?

We are entering the era where WWII vets are dying off like flies. It’s too bad – some of them are still left, but we’ll soon reach a point where they are as vanishingly rare as WWI or Spanish American vets were in the day (I still remember on the 50th anniversary of D-Day that some WWII vets were still fit enough to jump out of airplanes – that won’t be happening again, I fear).

So – given that Vietnam and its allegedly-traumatic sequelae was a big part of my cultural backstory and college curriculum – how is the VN military generation aging/faring? Is the whole PTSD thing shaken out (obviously a fraught/stupid question)? How are Vietnam vets aging? What are their big ongoing concerns/issues?

One specifically Vietnam-related issue was exposure to Agent Orange. There are still ongoing lawsuits over that.

Every war would have had PTSD victims; they simply weren’t called that until relatively recently. Some wars are perhaps even more associated with it than Vietnam: The First World War had massive numbers of ‘shell shock’ cases, who were often shot as cowards. WWII had ‘combat fatigue’ and I think we at least recognized it as a disease by that point. I have no doubt the Civil War produced cases, but I also have no idea what the reaction to the condition was.

My Dad was a crew chief on a marine transport helicopter. He is doing great for his age, despite his two tours of duty. There are a lot of men doing just fine. I’m not sure what you are getting out of this.

One died two years ago…in Iraq. :frowning:

I don’t think “combat fatigue” was taken all that seriously; the Wikipedia article about Charles Kuhl indicates that Gen. Patton and at least one division commander, Gen. Clarence Heubner, refused to see it as more than “malingering”. (The article does note that there were calls for Patton’s resignation over the matter, and that Eisenhower forced him to apologize.)

However, it’s only been relatively recently that the military/VA have come to see PTSD as the serious problem it is, but the military culture has a long way to go before it will truly accept that servicemembers with PTSD really do need help; there is no “man up and deal.”

Civil War --> Irritable Heart
WWI --> Effort Syndrome
WW2 --> Combat Stress Reaction
Vietnam --> PTSD

My SO is a Viet vet, was badly shot up while a Marine, then the military sent him to college where he got three degrees, had a sucessful career in the Air Force as a pilot, then his own engineering firm. Now he’s a consultant and lobbyist, has some health issues still from his wounds, but few other issues except for the hating fireworks thing.

My boss’s husband just had a second reunion for his old Marine unit which had a lot of guys earn the Purple Heart on their worst day. He’s a retired cop, and most of the other guys seem to have had sucessful lives as well. No one has gone off to live in the woods or ended up in jail. Most of them are near retirement. The ones I’ve met seem like a nice bunch of average guys.

For the most part, Vietnam vets are hitting retirement age these days- some already have, some aren’t quite there yet.

My father, who while not a Vietnam vet, was in the Air Force from 1969-1973, and he’s 66.

You probably just don’t know who is and who is not a Vietnam vet; out of my friends’ fathers as a kid, we had 2 honest-to-God combat vets, and another couple whose fathers were too old, and my dad, who was in the AF in San Antonio during the war.

You’d have never known who the combat vets were if you didn’t already know.

My dad’s a combat vet from '69-'71. He signed up just before he got drafted.

I have no doubt he’s got PTSD but he’s been self-medicating with alcohol and cigarettes all this time.

He retired pretty early at 58 due to a problem with his back. Now he’s enjoying being a grandpa.

Dad had to have spinal surgery from a shattered vertebrae from an ejection seat about two years back. He stuck it out for 30+ years. (USAF, around Cam Rahn Bay)

He’s mostly over the war. Mostly. Sometimes things can get him badly. Last year, it got him by surprise when Mom was away in Florida.

I’m aging just fine, thank you. No PTSD, no other mental scars that are obvious, no physical damage. Did my year, put it behind me. But I was fortunate not to be out in the shit with the ground pounders. I was at a rear eschelon base where, while we took rocket and mortar rounds periodically, we were not having to do any jungle fighting or go on patrols. Yes, I was a REMF, and happy to have been.

Both my brothers are fine, thank you. One just moved to Houston and travels the world, as he is a highly respected geological engineer. The other retired due to vision problems, but putters around the house.
And now for a puzzler: my dad was also a Vietnam vet, who has passed due to diabetes. How did I end up with a dad and two brothers that were all Vietnam vets? Adoption can screw up your timelines.

I’m still here. No PTSD in evidence, but it’s early yet.

Draftee and the entire two years including time spent in Vietnam as an aviation mechanic were traumatizing for me. Came back under a utter black cloud of total fear and social withdrawal among other chronic illness’s including loss of sexual potency as well Libido. One of my brothers a Vietnam Veteran didn’t even live to see age 60, died in 2001 at age 59, one of my younger brothers a Vietnam Era Veteran died in 2008 just one day before seeing his 60th birthday both of whom were straight.

Non Compensated Gay Vietnam Veteran.

Technically, I’m a Vietnam Era vet since I enlisted in '73, but the closest I got to the action was serving in a training squadron in San Diego. My brother was too young to have been drafted, and I have only one male cousin old enough to have served - he was USAF and did a year there. I’m not sure where, but he seems to be as normal as anyone in the family, which probably isn’t saying a lot.

I know I served with a bunch of people who did time over there, including Giles Norrington who was a POW for 5 years. One thing that struck me about him was his sunny outlook about pretty much everything. I guess when you’ve been a guest of the North Vietnamese for so long, most of life’s annoyances are petty by comparison.

I can’t think of a single vet I knew who went over the edge because of the war, but it’s not like I met a whole lot of them.

Right here. Tet survivor, no less. Also a survivor from the incompetence of the US leadership. Domino effect, my ass.

I’ve seen times when I was extremely close to going over the edge but never did. As one has already stated the first 5 and in my case 7 years were the worst. Literally lived under the fear of Judgement Day at any second. Came out to a North Little Rock VA psychologist in 1982 and from that moment on all doors through the VA were slammed shut and firmly locked to me. It was a deciding factor in a non service connected pension being terminated. I’m currently out of the state of Arkansas and working with counselors, VA doctors, a VA Social Worker and service reps in another state, so can’t say what it will be like now that DADT is history (which I personally campaigned for the repeal of) and gays are now allowed to serve openly in the military and even allowed to wear their uniforms in Pride events and parades. Guess only time will tell.

I do however avoid contact with society and veterans, unless it’s absolutely required.

And in Korea, AKA The Forgotten War (which yams! seems to have forgotten :wink: ) , it was called ‘war neurosis’.

My father is in So. California, two tours. Undergoing treatment for thyroid problems, overall ok though.