Although I did not realize it at the time, the four years following my return from Vietnam in 1969, my early readjustment from war to civilian life, reflected my altered relationship with my country. I was “not a Vietnam vet.”
For several years, I did not think much about the fact that I was a Vietnam veteran. I was not ashamed; I didn’t have negative feelings about being identified as a Vietnam veteran; nor was I consciously attempting to deny my status to myself or to anyone else. Overall, I felt good about what I did during my Vietnam tour, and I still was under the belief that we had been doing the right thing in Vietnam. I was just moving along in my life. However, I did have issues regarding my Vietnam tour. When I rotated from Vietnam back Stateside, to the Valley Forge Army General Hospital, I had four months left of my two-year active duty commitment. VFGH had a large amputee ward filled with Vietnam veterans; however, as the chief social worker on the psychiatric ward, I don’t think I ever even visited the amputees — a sign of avoiding my Vietnam?
As my time at VFGH was drawing to an end, I came to a startling realization: I felt extremely uncomfortable being back in the United States. The country seemed foreign to me. What had been important to me before the war, and continued to be important to others, seemed inconsequential: sports, politics and current affairs, “settling down” and establishing myself in a community.