My Dad, Michael J Nairne was a retired Vietnam Vet. He was there in 1967-69 as a PBR in the Mekong Delta. I never learned about Vietnam in school and it saddens me that my two boys aren’t going to learn about it either.
I can count on one hand how many times my Dad was open to talking about his time served. He was diagnosed with PTSD, however after doing some research of my own he should have been diagnosed with Chronic (complex) PTSD. Each time he spoke about the war it broke him down. He still got nervous when he heard a helicopter, and would have a recurring nightmare that my sister and I took the place of the Vietnamese children that were used for shields.
Like so many, Dad had survivor’s guilt. He also held himself to a higher standard and responsibility to live life to the fullest. Each of life’s disappointments throughout the years impacted him deeply and created more stress. To others that would be a small bump in the road. To Dad it was failure and he simply withdrew. It was a cycle that would spiral out of control at times causing sleepless nights and great heartache. My boys spent many summer days with him and knew what it meant when he would tell them that Gpa had nightmares the night before. He would be unsettled most of the day and sleep in a chair whenever he could. Yet still through the sleepless nights, he was always up before dawn. From my teenage years even through my “mom” years, I never understood why he was up so early when he didn’t have to be. I found out only after he passed that he made a promise to himself to get up before sunrise every day, and watch the sunrise for those who couldn’t any longer.
My Dad opened up a little more about his time served in Vietnam about a month before we found out he was sick.
He felt like he owed an explanation for why he wasn’t a perfect Dad when I was growing up. He apologized and asked for forgiveness. Truth of the matter is, my Dad was simply magnetic with a smile that could light a room. He was a gentle soul, never violent and taught me one of the greatest gifts- to communicate (and race fast cars). He had his own demons but looking back he wanted me to be able to do something he couldn’t. My Uncle, an Army “Tunnel Rat” who served in Vietnam after my Dad, told me something when my Dad was in the hospital that I will never forget. He said “Your Dad and I did the best we could to come home from War and lead normal lives.” My Dad had a long history of severe heart issues and on April 5, 2012 he was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia. Just two months and 2 days later on June 7, 2012, I lost my Dad to a number of complications brought on by the Leukemia and treatments he had. I know my Dad passed with a lot of healing left to do.
My hope is through Searching for Home: Coming Back from War, we can bring more awareness and respect for the Vets that have to come home and fit into society while they try to heal from War. It is not our place to try and understand the pain that they have experienced, but it is our place to let every Veteran know they are not forgotten, that when they do speak to you about their time served- it is an honor, and that we are thankful for what they have done for our country.
Guest Blogger – Cyndi Nairne is an involved single mom. She loves her two boys and dedicates herself to there future. With her dads passing several months ago she has become involved in veteran’s issues. It is her hope to make a difference in vet’s lives in memory of her father.