I wouldn't have known their pain if I hadn't been raped.
Like every other student in my junior high school, I'd learned some of the facts about the war that wasn't quite an official war. Despite news coverage, what happened half a world away had never had a deep impact on me.
Then because of my restlessness and my need to avoid my ex-boyfriend, I went walking whenever I could and when summer break began between junior high and high school, I soon bumped into others who seemed to be just as restless. Without knowing why, I found kindred spirits in many newly returned veterans. Their anxiety and distrust of authority equaled or exceeded my own. Their need to self-medicate also equaled my own.
They weren't all harmless even to my standards at the time, but many of them helped me lose that feeling that I was the only one on the outs with everything that had once seemed right and normal. I still wonder about some of those ex-soldiers. Have they found peace or has Vietnam scarred them in ways they still don't understand?
On that evening three years ago, I began to wonder what would happen to a family that had been broken by Vietnam if a member of their next generation went to Iraq. That curiosity turned into my latest completed manuscript, HOME FREE. Even if this story never gets published, I'm glad I wrote it. In fiction at least I found some answers to my nagging questions.
It was the least I could do when it was one of those veterans who helped me pull myself out of my self-destructive spiral and who may have prevented me from doing something that could have ended or greatly shortened my life. I didn't know how to say it at the time, but thanks. You'll always have a special place in my heart.