Lately I have become acutely aware of PTSD from which many American Warriors suffer. PTSD is an acronym for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Not all battle wounds are visible but they are all real. I did not serve, but I have always been a fan of all who do serve. People wear shirts of their favorite teams; I wear PT shirts I buy from the surplus stores. I never want anyone to think I served, but to know of my appreciations of those who do.

My first encounter with PTSD was about 35 years ago when I was working for a Tow Boat company. My job was to support the boats with anything they needed from engine repair to crew changes. I was in Corpus Christi, Texas working a crew change. I had brought the relief crew and was driving back with the boat’s Captain who was rotating off. The drive back to the shop was about 4 hours. I knew this guy was a veteran of the Vietnam War; in fact he was an Army Sniper. When we first got on the road, knowing this was going to be a long drive, I thought I would start some small talk by asking, “You were in Vietnam, weren’t you?” He did not respond, in fact, I could sense he mentally withdrew. I noticed he reached down to the floor of the truck to pick up a piece of small rope and kept his hands busy by working the rope into a shape. After almost of hour of quiet and working with the rope, he pulled his lighter out of his top pocket and melted the ends of the nylon rope so it would not become untied. Then he un-expectantly said, “52”. This caught me off guard since he had been so quiet and I was focused on driving. I asked, “52 what?” “That’s how many confirmed kills I had in Vietnam”. I responded, “Ok”. He turned to look out of the window and said, “Isn’t that what you wanted to know?” I said, “Not really, I just wanted to know what it was like over there”. He turned to look at me and asked “Why?” I said, “I have several friends come back from Vietnam and they were not the same guys I knew. I just wanted to know what it was like”. He said, “You really want to know what it was like?” I said, “Sure, what was it like?”

For the next hour and half he talked non-stop about the good times, the bad times the boring times and the terrifying times. When he started to talk, I knew better than to say anything, but only to listen while he poured out his heart. He told me of the friends he had there, the ones who came home, the ones who died and the ones who became mental vegetables. At one point he started crying to the point where he could not control it. I really did not know what to say or do, but since I was driving the truck I just stayed quiet while he worked through it.

After he regained his composure, he handed me the rope thing he made. It was a miniature boat bumper. A boat bumper is what you put between the boat and the dock or another vessel like a barge to prevent damage. To this day, I still have that small boat bumper as a reminder that sometimes the most important thing you can do for someone is to just listen.