Along the Highway

He Never Left 'Nam
By Robert Cohn

Blood-spattered bodies strewn about the floor
Wailing from those not yet dead
High-pitched screams of agony begging merciful demise
Falling on deaf ears
And time goes by
Skeletal remnants
Rembrandt paintings adorn the walls that were once sky hawks crying
Merry-go-rounds of nothingness
Dope-filled minds
Cleverly plotting the remnants of a world that has passed them by
In a fancy chauffeur driven limousine
Which will never pass this way again

By T.K. Morrow

On my end was a solemn hush. When Terry Morrow finally understood that I was more than merely a stranger without a purpose, he invited me to spend a few days with him. Bidding me make myself at home, he entered the "lean-to" for the purpose of preparing dinner. Never will I forget that supper. Stewed cabbage, 7-grain bread (just baked), coffee, without cream or sugar, and guavas for dessert. After we had done full justice to the meal, we sat down under the moonlight. Terry asked if I had any cigarettes, and when I handed him a Camel Light, he lit it and seemed perfectly content.

We were seated on the porch of Terry's Town Parc apartment. I could see at a glance that the three of us were in for a long night. The retired Marine, Roland "Choo Choo" Crayger smoked his Marlboro Reds, while Terry smoked a bum-Camel Light. (I found out later that "Choo Choo" came to live with Terry only three weeks earlier after a chance encounter at the VA Hospital. "Choo Choo" was also a PTSD sufferer, but his inability to talk with a straight thought prohibited any other information). Both did so with an air of self-satisfaction (one of only a few they still knew). The hectic cough of "Choo Choo" seemed not to bother Terry. In the hallway could be heard a bevy of girls coming home from a Friday night of drinking.

Suddenly the stillness of the night was broken by a sound that sent a thrill of horror through my heart. It rose, quivered, died away, and rose again to a pitch that set the echoes ringing among the trees. It was indescribable. It combined the cry of an infant, the scream of a woman in terror, the moan of a man lost in the woods, the wail of a soul in torment. The shrill came from Terry. More than two decades later, VIETNAM was still too real to talk about. The PostTraumatic Stress Disorder was taking over.

Terry's emotions were about as constant as the blue goo inside of a heated lava lamp. The case of Miller High Life that he and "Choo Choo" had been drinking all day only heightened their response to the word VIETNAM. These two men that had combined to kill over one hundred men, women and children began crying.

Terry never left Vietnam. He may be living on U.S. soil now, but his mind is still wrapped up in the gruesome emotional torment the war caused him. Terry, like the 24 percent of Vietnam veterans who saw heavy combat, is now afflicted with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). For these veterans, the Vietnam War still rages on.

Fu Rahm Signal Betalion was attached in the Mekong Delta to protect the camp because there was so many people with top clearance and shit. And it was a very sensitive camp. At the time, it was the world's largest manual relay center, so it was a very sensitive camp with all kinds of sensitive documents. "We had standing orders that if we became completely overrun that the guys in the compound could not make it out alive," Terry said in a low pitch, almost sorrowful tone. "That made me feel real sad," Terry continued. "It made me upset because I liked those guys out there a lot. We all used to play cards and laugh and shit like that. But they still used to call us the 'killer squad.' But I hoped it never came to that. I told them that 'you can't get captured and you knew that. You signed waivers to take the fuckin job just like I signed waivers to take mine. They drafted me in this unit because you were so overrun that the ninth and the 25th could not protect you all the time. So they had assigned a whole battery for us.'"

Terry was part of the night patrol that set up all the land stations and maintained security at Fu Rahm. His shift began at 6 p.m. and ended 12 hours later. Terry's job was to man the machine gun towers and machine gun bunkers. So it was pretty tense. In the pitch black of night, you could barely see your hand in front of you. So you were always on edge. You were always waiting for "Charlie" to creep out of the woods…

"I was in the tower and, uhm, they started coming into the perimeter and they didn't have the password of the day and I don't fuckin…I just started shootin those mother fuckers. The 'Dink' Patrol, they did things haphazard, so they didn't learn the fuckin word of the day, right, they just came in, ya know, because they knew how to get through the wire and the fuckin booby traps. I was up in the tower with an M79 grenade launcher, an M16 machine gun, two pistols and my rifle. And real quick I wired in, ya know. 'This is listening post five, I have actives in my sector and I have no clearance. I have no password. I am getting ready to open fire.'"

And the signal came back:

"Do not open fire! Do not open fire! It may be friendlies!"

"I said, it MAY be friendlies my MOTHER FUCKIN ASS! I'm openin fire.







It turned out to be friendly. Not American, "Dinks," — South Vietnamese regulars.

"Yeah I lit up their ass. And then the next day I was brought before the CO (Commanding Officer) and, uhm, they said there was going to be an investigation because of my actions firing on friendlies. And I told them that if you bring these charges up you are going to look like shit, because the fuckin "Dinks" didn't give the password. They know they didn't give the password. They were coming back in, they were smokin hash and opium, they were all fucked up, havin a fuckin party, drinkin fuckin Saki wine and comin through my sector. 'When you ask me to hold the fuckin sector, I hold the fuckin sector until I can't pull the trigger anymore.'"

Charges were dropped the next day. In all, Terry had killed 53 friendlies from the lookout tower.

Combat trauma brings about long-lasting changes in brain chemistry. Hell, how could it not. Healing is psychological, social and spiritual because no medicine can cure combat PTSD. However, healing does not mean a return to the innocence that Terry had before he got on the jet to Vietnam. And healing does not mean he can return to the comfort and embrace of a family that is now afraid of him and his PTSD.

It was 1983, and Terry was far removed from the Mekong Delta. His jungle now was a southeastern Michigan home with his wife, Joyce. Terry had become so accustomed to life in Vietnam that he did not know any other way to live. Every night before going to bed he would set booby traps in the front and backyard. And to protect his bedroom, Terry's dog, Missy, a mix of pit bull and Doberman that he got while working as a dog catcher, sat guarding the door.

"Almost everyone was afraid of me," Terry said about these Michigan days. "My wife was afraid of me. My friends or at least the people that called me their friend were afraid of me. It was my PTSD. My wife left me because every night I would set booby traps and turn them off the next morning. But one time, and I can't even really remember it, I had a flashback and to protect my wife I threw her up against the wall and told her to get down.

"Well, to make a long story short, she divorced me and took my daughter with her. I lost my senses. It wasn't me. It was my reaction to the PTSD. I felt, and still feel, like somebody who is drifting. I feel out of sync."

That night, a night like so many that Terry has, was something Terry was drawn to. It was no longer a Michigan home, he was in the Mekong Delta with "Charlie" coming up the banks. It was imagined, but to Terry it was as real as anything touchable. He was back in Vietnam.

The chopper swooped over the hot zone in Long Bihn. Under support fire, Terry ran over, dove in the open entrance, and the chopper just as quickly swooped away. He was finally getting out. All that stood between Terry and a homecoming was a 25-hour trip from Long Bihn to the California Coast and then off to Michigan.

"The 30 some odd of us had been so far removed from life in the 'States' that we did not know what to expect," Terry said through the right side of his mouth. "We thought we were coming home to open arms and maybe a red carpet, something besides what we got.

"We were rappin, goin on about what we were going to do. All of a sudden the pilot says, 'Gentlemen, if you look out of your windows you will see that we are approaching the United States of America.' I didn't know if I was goin to make it home in the jet that day because I had already been bumped off four other jets. And this was the last jet out of the country for another week or so. I didn't know how I was going to get out. I had already been there 18 days too long.

"You could hear a fuckin pin drop when the pilot said we were home. It was as if somebody had pulled a plug on the radio; it got that quiet. What you had smelled, what you had heard, lifting out, you had no time to switch off, like: that was then, this was now. It was early day; we could see the coast. And whoosh a hush. And I started cryin."

Without time to shower, the men changed on the jet from out their fatigues and into their Class-A uniforms. Unshaven, foul smelling, they "looked like combat soldiers dressed up fancy." The "30 some odd" men stood up to exit the plane, while the onboard officer collected the troops' handguns.

They no longer had any use for such inanimate objects of destruction. They were no longer under attack.

Someone should have told them that.

As the squad stepped their just polished black dress shoes on the warm California ground, they were bombarded with rotten eggs, rotten tomatoes and the violent opposition from thousands of Anti-War protesters.

They were home?

'Angry' veteran causes standoff

That is what the headline of Section B of the Star Banner read. It was Saturday, August 14, 1999, and Terry used a gun to barricade himself in his home. When I first read this, I thought it was a joke. The words made no sense. But it turned out that both the S.W.A.T. team and hostage negotiators were called in to handle the situation. After nearly five hours, the 6-foot-1 Terry surrendered to police. Not for money, a quick jet out of the country or even for a phone call. No, it was a hamburger that sealed the deal. A McDonald's hamburger wrapped up in brown microwavable paper that costs 49 cents on Sunday and usually cost 79 cents daily. (If he had only waited a day he could have held out for two hamburgers).

"He was upset, angry," said Cpl. John Ashley of the hostage negotiating team. "He is a Vietnam vet who is upset with society. He was upset with the way he had been treated, and he had family problems."

Not clinically a mental disorder, PTSD was classified until 1980, in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistics Manual. PTSD becomes a disorder when the normal, adaptive recovery process breaks down. Terry, like other PTSD afflicted veterans, suffer a variety of symptoms, including reoccurring nightmares, obtrusive images and memories that pop into consciousness, flashbacks that send the individual back to the traumatic event for minutes and sometimes days. There are also long bouts of depression and insomnia, anxiety, emotional numbness, survivor guilt, chronic irritability and seemingly senseless outbursts of rage.

Out of the 3,140,000 men who served in Vietnam, 479,000 are afflicted with PTSD. And 610 out of 7,200 women who served in Vietnam are current cases of PTSD. These men and women are in constant emotional conflict. They never know when or where PTSD will occur. More times than not, they simply cope, as Terry has done. Terry, who admitted to taking 12 varieties of medications daily sits amidst a stupor of self-remorse, self-doubt self-longing. He takes Lithium, Thioridazine and Molindone to reprieve antipsychotic notions. Amoxopine and Chlordiazepoxide to relieve depression. Large quantities of Prozac that he "ate like candy." As well as sleep inhibitors.

Mix all these drugs with a daily dose of alcohol, by the gallon, and it was easy for me to see why Terry was so on edge at times and numb to the senses other times. But all this is not entirely Terry's fault, as it were. According to the National Center for PTSD, 60 to 80 percent of Vietnam Veterans with PTSD have alcohol use disorders. As many as 10 to 50 percent of adults with alcohol use disorders and PTSD also have anxiety disorders, mood swings and disruptive behavior disorders.

VIETNAM…not just a war, a way of life.

It called out softly to me
I know I heard my name
Whispered gently
Like a soft summer's breeze
It called me closer
I couldn't stop my steps
And upon the horizon
I saw the silhouette
The sun was nearly blinding
I strained to get a closer look
It went running away
I shot it dead
Stopped HOPE in its tracks
I never played the game too well
Hope shouldn't have awakened me
I was trying to catch
I know you will understand

By T.K. Morrow

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