Last June I watched the life get sucked from someone that I loved and someone that my mother loved dearly. What we thought would be a simple visit turned into a slow, long three weeks of agony. For my mom, myself and my grandpa.
He was laying there in his bed, helpless and the life beaten out of him. He had fallen and broken his shoulder in several places, broken his hip and multiple ribs. He hadn’t fallen the same day we found him, but DAYS before. Never will I be able to unsee the sight of a once strong, compassionate and loyal man laying there slowing dying. His words were soft and sincere. He was a man who liked to tell tall tales and fabricate a story for a response. In these moments, there were no jokes, no stories and sarcasm. Sincere and past due apologies for not being the best man he could have been were the only thing he talked about.
He was a Vietnam veteran who battled with himself everyday when he came home from war. He was the type of man who would give his last dollar to a stranger and the clothes off his back to someone who had done him wrong. He could tell a story and have the whole room laughing until they had tears running down their cheeks and everyone knew that only 25 percent of that story was true. He was a hard worker who loved his family dearly.
At 65 years old, a father, grandfather, husband, Vietnam Veteran and a hard working, compassionate man, things were ended before we would have liked them to.
Looking back on it now at almost 18 years old, I could not have imagined being put into the war with little training. Right now, I am a little scared about going off to college which is not even comparable to the Vietnam War. With little to no life experience, my grandfather was put into a place where there were no enemy lines.
Years later, when he returned home with the honor of a purple heart, he not only kept quiet about his time in Vietnam, he tried to help himself in a way he thought was best. At this point in time there were no counselors or programs set in place to help returning veterans, so alcohol and pain medications seemed to numb the pain of what he saw and lived day in and day out. Despite being a family man, the alcohol and PTSD did not mix well. It made for a rough childhood for my mother and her siblings.
Due to minimal help, self medicating and never dealing with the normal everyday battles, resulted in overuse of these substances which would lead to the list of health complications he faced daily. I understand that alcohol isn’t an evil thing, it is what drives the need for alcohol.
Unfortunately, my grandfather was stuck in this vicious cycle from the young age of 18 until the day he passed away at 65. It is a shame for those who risked their lives for the good of America receive little to no help from the government even in this day in age.
Last summer at this time, I witnessed my mother and her siblings exhaust every effort to receive help for my grandfather from the Veteran’s Affairs to no avail. In the end they were faced with the heart wrenching fact that as in years past, there was still no help to be had and this frail man who had once so strongly fought for his country would be left to fight this battle alone.
Despite the lack of effort and care on behalf of Veteran’s Affairs, my grandfather spoke of the good times and told the stories that he wanted to leave behind. We often laughed at his wildly outrageous stories from eating in the mess hall in ‘nam or when that cashier was flirting with him. But most of all, he showed us the light in this dark time and there beside his bed I learned that even in darkness, you must look for the good. This great man who loved his country but his family even more did not want us to remember the pain and the sickness, but the laughter he brought to his world. You will forever be missed Papa.