When we came back from Vietnam – not just Shep and me, but all of us – there was no time for adjustment
to civilian life. Our fathers were welcomed home from war with a sense of “mission accomplished”, anxious to marry,
start a family and have the proverbial home with a white picket fence. Those who served in Vietnam, both in combat or in support
expected to come home in the same way. The truth is that wasn’t going to happen. Instead of welcome home parades the
streets were lined with protesters. You were advised to not wear your uniform home and if possible travel in the later hours.
It was not uncommon that the returning Vietnam veteran would be spat upon and have relentless insults and threats yelled at
him. Shep and I, and hundreds like us, came home with baggage. It was baggage never before dealt with openly. We arrived back
with a suck it up and deal attitude. Some were bothered by the protestors while others joined them. The truth is that all
of us were hardly more than kids and each in his or her own way fought the war. Whether you were humping through the jungles
of a fucked up war, marching in the streets, or trying to figure out a new life in Canada, you, your parents and so many peripheral
to you fought the same damn war. The government and the Veteran’s Administration wouldn’t acknowledge the baggage
these service men and women carried. Rather than deal with it they denied it. Today, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
is part of America’s lexicon. It is recognized (even moving from being called a syndrome to a disorder), and treated
now. That’s not to say Shep and I lingered in this shadow of war or that every returning veteran dealt with it, but
that it was ignored and buried in paperwork reflected the mood of our country. For a great number of returning veterans, often
not even knowing that they were dealing with anything, it became part of their daily routine. Shep and I had strong women.
They cared about us and all of our fragmented parts, loved us, and gently walked at our sides. Other friends stood at the
ready too, and slowly, in baby steps, we put scattered pieces back together – maybe not as they were, but together nonetheless.