First, I would like to say THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart to all of the Veterans, male and female, that have served this country. The sacrifice so much. The rewards they receive are inside of their souls.
My father was a veteran of World War 2. He was in the signal corp. As a legacy of that time, he taught his elementary school kids how to build wireless radios. He did that from 1957 until he retired, the 1990's. My Cousin was in the Tuskegee Airmen. William Melton was his name. He was the National Spokesman of that unit until he died. Celeste King, who was well known in Los Angeles, served with my cousin. Celeste King and my mother used to walk together to Manual Arts High School, in the early 1940's. My uncle, who grew up with me as my brother,
served in Vietnam. I could not sleep the whole time he was there.
Before this nightmare happened, I used to sit in the dark of my mother's house and listen to her.
She would not let me turn on the lights of the house. She would keep the drapes drawn and the shutters closed. I begged her to open them during the day, to let some light come in the house.
Of course, my sister was convinced it was because of cocaine paranoia that the place was so dark but it was not the case. It was my mother's house. There was nothing I could do but go along with it. She came back to life at the end, after I cleaned out the whole house. At first she did not want me to do so but I did. When I finished, she came back to life.
I listened to my mother, in the dark, as I said. She started keeping the place dark after the
Rodney King riots. She could see buildings in the distance burning to the ground. Indeed, I drove around the neihborhood and saw much of my childhood go up in smoke.
I could see that the riots had a powerful effect on her. My mother even called my sister to ask her to tell me to not leave the house.
We then had a string of wars. She would hate to hear the news and would keep the house dark.
"That is the first thing, they told us Walter, keep the house dark during times like this. We would have blackouts in case enemy planes were off coast."
My mother was talking of the time when she was still in Los Angeles before she served her country.
MY MOTHER SERVED IN THE USO.
Yes, my mother served with Bob Hope. She jumped from P38 planes to entertain the troops in Europe. She would tell me, in the dark, about the air raids in London and how they had to run for the bomb shelters.
Because of her stories, I bought this book, "Women who lived for Danger". I am on a computer where some sites are blocked. I can not give you the author's name at this time.
However, I am sure of the title.
I read that book after I started training for the triathlon. The book is about a group of women spies from the early days of the OSS. They were a remarkable bunch of women. I encourage every woman to read it. I encourage every man to read it.
I read it because I had to understand what effect the violence of the world had on her. It was clear it was having an effect on her. My sister did not know this. She thought it was I. My mother kept the place dark, again, as soon as the war in IRAQ started.
I am sitting her, with tears, knowing how these things effected her. Nobody cares. They choose the easy way. There are many women out there like my mother. The are suffering Post War Stress decades later. I saw it in my mother.
I want to wish the women and men who served this country but who were not in the military but who supported the military. You are not forgotten. I will never forget you.
My mother talked of you all of the time. I told everyone of those beautiful conversations before my mother and I were torn apart. I learned so much about things.
I learned more about life than any prep school or Ivy League University. I learned how people could be damaged and the effects do not show up for decades and no one would know. No one would know the antecedent because no one saw the manifestation of the stress. Even if they saw the manifestation, no one knew of my mother's service in the USO.
It is funny that she talked about it the last few years. I believe that service effected her more than being a foster child or growing up in the depression.
She started telling people that she was in the USO. The week before my arrest, she and I went
grocery shopping. A friend of mine took us. I used to love shopping for her but this time she went with me. She sat in the front seat and I sat in the back seat of the car. She and the man started talking. She started talking of her time in the USO. I knew that she must have alot bottled up inside of her about that time because of her behavior. She looke back at me and then to the man driving the car. "Is that Walter?" She did not recognize me. I had no idea what was to come.
Please, take care of our veterans. They deserve so much. I could not sleep when I was left behind and my uncle was in Vietnam. I used to watch Walter Cronkite, every night, to see if I could see him. I never talked to anyone about my fear of losing my uncle. I never talked to anyone at Harvard School about my uncle being in Vietnam. Interesting also because an alumnus of the School, H.R. Haldeman, was the Chief of Staff in the Nixon White House. His son was also in the class above me. It was interesting that I was so close to that power and could do nothing to bring my uncle home.
I have a sense, from that time, how families feel, at night, when they are alone and their loved ones are overseas. They do not know if they are coming home. They can not sleep at night. They do not talk to people about it.
There were lots of people, in my neighborhood, who had relatives in Vietnam. However, I could not talk to them about it. I was never in my neighborhood. I was in Studio city, or Rolling Hills.
There was not one person, who was at Harvard School for Boys, that had a relative in Vietnam.
I was the only one. Imagine that. And a key figure in the power of decision making was an alumnus of my school. Profound indeed. I would go to school and think to myself, how none of these guys know what it is like to have someone in war.
I would sit in the chapel, during those times, and I would look at the plaques of those that went to Harvard School who died in war. As you know, Harvard School was a military school from its beginning in 1903 to 1969. I wore a military uniform for three years. The military uniform was a tradition of the school. Looking at those names on the wall was a weekly ritual for me. Those names started with World War One. They ended with the Korean War.
Vietnam was not a Harvard School war. However, there was one Harvard School Alumnus who did go to Vietnam. I do know of a few others. But this one everyone who reads this should know. His name was Gray Davis. He was the governor of California before Arnold.
My uncle came back from Vietnam one night. It was a night when I was playing a basketball game in the "Barn", the nick name of the Harvard School gym. I was on the court and I was standing next to the half court line, I remember. In fact I was standing next to Pam Archer, who was sitting in the bleachers. The referee was just about to hand me the ball when my uncle walked through the doors with my father. "HE IS OK", I thought to myself. He was home.
I played so great that night. I realized I never fully concentrated on a game until that night. I always had him on my mind. I never studied fully because I always had him on my mind.
He was not ok, however. His post war stress would come up years later. He re enlisted in the marines after his Vietnam years in the navy. He loves his country. He served his country.
I lost a part of him through that service.
My mother served her country. She was not ok when she returned. It never showed until we were alone. I could always see it. I always knew from where her paranoia came.
"Walter, they tell us to keep the lights out in war times." I would look at her, a love so deep I never knew I could love my mother more. I found out I was wrong. I loved her more as I recognized the sacrificed she made trying to bring joy in the lives of service men who did not know if they were going to see the land of the United States again.
It is not true that it did not show until we were alone. It showed all of the time. I just did not learn about it until the expansive conversations that we had when we were alone. I knew it had an effect on her decades ago. However, when retired and began to work through her demons as I did with mine, it was clear how traumatized she was and did not even know it.
Even if she did, would there have been help for her? Would anyone know where her fears came. She never talked about the USO days until she was in her late 70's. She was a woman as well. I understand that Military women in those days were not officially considered in the military.
My mom lost a part of herself in that war. I gained a part of her because of that War. I regained a precious part of her.
Military men and women, supportive services of men and women, lose much of themselves in these wars. I was lucky to have the opportunity to have my mother's soul that was harmed come to life for me in another time of war. Most men and women do not have that opportunity to share parts of themselves with their relatives that they lost previously.
My uncle disappeared for ten years. I found him in 1984. I cried like a baby when I found him. He promised me he would never disappear again. He could not keep that promise. I have not seen or heard of him for at least ten years. He was my mother's youngest brother. He was the one who she raised in the house with me.
My mother deserves more. Maybe at that time, no one knew the effect being in combat zones would have on dancers. There are many who have been harmed that need help just like my mother needed help. Maybe they would have realized that she was harmed in the past and that past harm is impacting present. Maybe they would have realized that she did not recognize me when she was in the car. Maybe they would have known that her yelling was as a result of her being raped in the past. Maybe someone would have had the experience to ask questions.
Maybe, if that were the case my mother would not have to be separated from her son.
Maybe there are a great many veterans and veterans of supportive services that experienced the same thing as my mother. Maybe there are alot of family members, like me who could not sleep when there loved ones were away. Maybe there are alot who cant sleep today, like me, because they are not with a family member because no one understood enough to ask questions.
We do not ask enough questions in this world. We always have the answers. We tend to have answers to things about which we know nothing.
I pray that we ask questions for the sake of our veterans and those that support them. I pray that every day we have someone nearby who can talk to a service man that walked through two mine fields and survived the experience. I pray that we have someone who can talk to a woman nurse who had to so up the stumps that remained from limbs that were amputated.
I pray that we have someone who is sharp enough to realize that what is not seen in these men and women does not mean that something is not there. It was there in my mom. Nobody wanted to see it. They were inclined to see the obvious.
It is Veteran's Day. Never forget them. Never stop trying to understand them. When we understand them, we understand ourselves. When we ignore them, we ignore ourselves.
How can we ignore the men and women who gave so much to our country? I do not understand that. A couple of years ago, they honored the veterans of World War 2.
They made a big deal of it. They interviewed alot of men. They talked about the horrors of war. Many talked about those times for the first time. In fact, that was when my mom started talking to me about the bombing of London. However, a week or two after the celebration of those soldiers, many World War @ Veterans could not get into VA hospitals. Our President said that the government will honor its contracts with the Veterans. Well, those contracts were not enough. Redo them.
No man or woman, who ever served this country, particularly in a combat zone, should ever have to worry about medical care or psychological care the rest of their lives. They deserve at least that. Don Garza feels guilty because he had a PSTD moment. He should not feel guilty. The powers that be should feel guilty.
When we neglect our Veterans, we neglect ourselves. There are many Vietnam Veterans that are walking around Skid Row. Too many. I am not talking about the ones that have housing. I am talking about the ones that are on the street, wandering around in a daze. What about them. What about those that were in Desert Storm or Somalia.
When we igore our Veterans, we ignore ourselves. They are a vital part of the American Psyche and a mirror into our souls.
Take care Veterans, I love you. Mom. I love you.