Thurman P. Woodfork


I wonder how many Vietnam vets there are like me who seem to have escaped the mental trauma of having served in that nastiness. True, I was a technician who remained in the relative safety of a camp but still, something feels amiss: why don’t I feel more than I do about Vietnam? It’s not that I want to feel unhappy; it’s just that I can’t help feeling a little guilty at times for having seemingly returned relatively unscathed.

When I consider that it was certainly like no other period in my life, surely I should feel something more about it, some deeper emotions, or, at least remember more about it than I do. I’ve never had a flashback, hell I never even have any dreams about the place that I know of, but that’s not strange, because I don’t seem to dream about anything anymore.

Well, the truth is that I do dream, it’s simply that I never recall what the dreams are about. And I usually dream in color, which should at least make the dreams more vivid and memorable. When I consciously think of Vietnam, it’s without rancor or hatred. I bear the Vietnamese no malice, although some of them did most assiduously try to shorten my time here on Planet Earth.

Even so, I’m more likely to recall something that was amusing rather than something ominous. I seem to remember more about the much more tranquil parts of my military career than I do about the turbulence of that year I spent at war. It doesn’t seem logical.

In Vietnam, I was much more aware of my surroundings; my senses were more sharply tuned, surely I should remember more of what they recorded, but I do not. I can watch a movie or read books about Vietnam without any emotional involvement, but I have not been in a movie theater since I left the Philippine Islands in 1969. My tour of duty in Vietnam was over in 1967.

I remember the pain when my brother died – the person I loved most in the world. He was nineteen and I was seventeen. Forty years passed before I wept for him. Maybe, once again, I’ve just buried the unwelcome thoughts somewhere in my subconscious mind. Perhaps I just have four more years to wait before Vietnam begins to rise up. I don’t think so, though. I didn’t love Vietnam.

The Wall at Sunset: Photograph ©Copyright 2001 by Thurman P. Woodfork
The Wall at Sunset: Photograph ©Copyright 2001 by Thurman P. Woodfork