My personal post-Vietnam journey is intertwined with my subsequent leadership positions with the Department of Veterans Affairs regionally and nationally in the treatment of war veterans with post-war psychiatric and social readjustment problems. It was not until several years after my return from Vietnam (around 1974-75) that I gradually started to become aware of the continuing and indelible influence of Vietnam on its veterans — and on myself. Then, I had the good fortune to become involved in a number of regional and national programs for Vietnam veterans at the same time that the concept of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) began to gain acceptance. Several important experiences over 20 years turned out to be stepping stones that led to my eventual decision to co-facilitate the controversial first return trip to Vietnam in 1989 by a group of veterans from the Northwest with PTSD.
In the late 60s and 70s, many Vietnam Vets were extremely distrustful of the military, of the government, even of Veteran’s Administration health care services (which they saw as the military, without the uniforms). However, the sheer number of men and women who had served in the Vietnam theater was immense — some 3.14 million 42 — and large numbers were continuing to have great difficulty adjusting to civilian life. Increasingly larger numbers of Vietnam veterans started coming to the VA for medical and psychiatric services, despite their distrust. They had no place else to go. Many, especially those who were wounded and physically disabled from the war as well as those with mental