Veteran’s PTSD



POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER, OR PTSD, IS SOMETHING VETERANS NOW KNOW TO WATCH FOR. BUT DURING THE VIETNAM WAR ERA VETERANS DIDN'T HAVE A LOT OF PLACES TO RETURN TO HELP. PRODUCER AND PHOTOGRAPHER TALKED TO A VET WHO COPES WITH PTSD THROUGH WRITING.

IT WAS ANOTHER HOT DAY IN VIETNAM AND I WAS HANGING ON THE FENCE WITH MY HEAD DROPPED TO THE CHAIN. THE ROCK I THROUGH AT THE POW MISSED BUT THE ACT STUNG LIKE A KILLER BEE. LIKE A TIME MACHINE IN A MOVIE SCRIPT.

MOMENT GARY CLEMMONS REMEMBERS.

THE DOOR JAM WAS TOO HOT TO REST YOUR ARM ON.

Reporter: IT IS THE VISUAL FILM THAT RUNS THROUGH HIS MIND OF HIS TIME IN VIETNAM.

I CAME INTO THE NORTHERN PORTION OF THE VIETNAM WITH PRETTY HEAVY FIGHTING. JUST TURNED 19.

Reporter: CLEMMONS SPENT 13 MONTHS OF HIS LIFE IN VIETNAM BUT THOSE DAYS CROWD HIS MEMORY COMING BACK TO LIFE IN UNEXPECTED MOMENTS. HE LEFT VIETNAM WITH AN INVISIBLE SCAR.

THE FIRST TIME WHEN I WENT TO THE VA AND I SAID I NEED SOME HELP. I AM NOT DOING REAL WELL. BOTH CLERKS LOOKED AT ME AND SAID WHERE? I SAID I DIDN'T GET HIT BUT IT IS NOT RIGHT.

Reporter: CLEMMONS HAS PTSD. BUT WHEN HE FIRST ARRIVED HOME FROM VIETNAM THERE WASN'T ANY HELP FOR VETERANS LIKE HIM. LIKE SO MANY VETERANS HE FOUND WAYS TO COPE ON HIS OWN. SOME METHODS WERE DESTRUCTIVES BUT OTHERS WERE PRACTICALLY SALVATION.

I WAS ABLE TO HIDE MIND THE LIGHTS AND FOUND ACCEPTANCE ON SAGE. DIDN'T HAVE TO TALK ABOUT THE WAR, GREW MY HAIR LONG.

Reporter: HE MADE A SUCCESSFUL SIDE CAREER IN MUSIC. BUT AFTER THREE FAILED MARRIAGES HE FOUND HIMSELF AT THE VIETNAM WALL IN WASHINGTON, D.C. BARELY ABLE TO BREATHE. HIS FOURTH WIFE MADE HIM REALIZE HE COULD NOT ESCAPE THOSE MOMENTS.

SHE SAID YOU NEED HELP AND NEED TO GET IT NOW.

Reporter: CLEMMONS ENDED UP AT THE VA HOSPITAL AND STARTED WORK FIGURING OUT HOW THOSE MOMENTS PLAYED OUT IN THE REST OF HIS LIFE.

ONCE THE COUNSELOR STARTED HEARING MY STORIES HE SAID YOU NEED TO WRITE DOWN THESE STORIES AND GET THEM OUT.

Reporter: HE DID.

HE HIT THE THROTTLE LIKE THE AUTHORITY OF A MAN WHO KNEW.

Reporter: THE MOMENTS TURNED INTO PARAGRAPHS. THEN CHAPTERS.

SOMETHING WAS WRONG. IT WOULD NOT TAKE ALONG TO BE CHALLENGED.

Reporter: AND AVENCH -- EVENTUALLY A BOOK.

I WOULD LIKE VETERANS TO READ THIS BOOK AND SAY AT THE LAST PAGE OF CLOSING SAYING IF WE CAN DO IT I CAN DO.

Reporter: HE TAKES THE MESSAGE ON THE ROAD. HE AND HIS SERVICE DOG VISIT VET EVENTS, HE DOES READINGS AND GIVES AWAY AS MANY BOOKS AS HE CAN BECAUSE THERE IS ONE THING HE KNOWS.

THE MEMORIES OF WAR DON'T GO AWAY. THEY LAY DORMANT FOR YEARS AND COME BACK WITH A VENGEANCE.

Reporter: HE STILL WRITES, STILL PLAYS MUSIC AND HAS LEARNED TO ASK FOR HELP. HE HAS FOUND HIS WAY THROUGH THE MEMORIES.

IT MUST HAVE BEEN THE SOUND OF CHOPPERS AS THEY BANKED BACK TOWARD THE NORTH BUT THE MEMORIES OF THOSE AND OTHER SOUNDS FADED. THE SOUND CAME FROM THE AGONY OF THE WOUNDED AND THE SHOUTED ORDERS OF THE ASSEMBLED TEAM TO GET THE WOUNDED TO THE TENTS.

A NUMBER OF BOOK READINGS ARE SCHEDULED. TO CHECK OUT MORE CHECK OUT THE WEBSITE WARANDMEMORIES.COM. A DOOR TO DOOR EFFORT TO GET DROPOUTS ENROLLED BACK IN SCHOOL. THAT IS ON THE NEXT ARIZONA HORIZON. THAT IS IT FOR NOW. I AM TED SIMONS. THANK YOU FOR JOINING US. YOU HAVE A GREAT EVENING.

ARIZONA HORIZON IS MADE POSSIBLE BY THE CONTRIBUTIONS FROM THE MEMBERS OF ARIZONA PBS. THANK YOU. CLOSED CAPTION PRODUCTIONS WWW.CCPRODUCTIONS.COM 844-335-0911

See how one veteran of the Vietnam War used writing to help him get through PTSD at a time when treatment for the disorder was not widely available.

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