Klindt's Place Personal Stories From An Old Dog

April 7, 2009

Letter to my Twin Brother

Filed under: Rollcall — admin @ 4:41 pm

To my older twin brother, Mark.

For some time now, it’s been on my mind that I’ve never personally discussed with you my feelings about your service to our country during the Vietnam war. I am deeply saddened that it’s now too late to discuss this with our dad. It’s missing that opportunity that now reinforces my desire to talk with you about my feelings.

Even though I am almost 50 years old, I am constantly learning about and reminded of the price paid for our freedom. This might sound unusual, as I too am a helicopter combat veteran. I am reminded that these events influence us, shape us, and infiltrate our very fiber. I know you had extremely painful experiences in Vietnam – being shot down several times, being injured and witnessing unimaginable horrors while flying (troop) lift, Huey Gunships, Pink Teams, and Medivac missions. I know you quietly suffered for many years afterwards. Nevertheless, somehow in my mind, I saw you as someone who went to Vietnam for a year and came home – it was over. I now realize at a deeply personal level that your experiences in “The Nam” are still part of your daily life. I know effects of Agent Orange cause daily trauma and suffering for you and your family. I was only slightly aware of the severe effects you privately endured from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Now I understand why you couldn’t go into the intensive care units with me for my late wife and our mom. You had witnessed too much.

Not only were the members of our family who went overseas affected by war but others as well. I can image that immense terror, pride and daily uncertainty our mother felt when she witnessed our father, you, and me, as well as other relatives who were sent off to WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. This was punctuated when we lost our cousin, Dan, in Vietnam in Dec 1967. I need to, and will, formally recognize mom’s involvement as a Silver Star Mother soonest. Our family’s generations of service is acknowledged and appreciated.

A very surreal image surfaces in my mind of your annual 4th of July party in Canada last year – meeting the tunnel rat who lost his arm while in a Viet Cong tunnel, and the China Beach Nurse who still is affected by the very vibrations and noise made by the rotor blade of the helicopter that flew over your island party. I am proud of your leadership efforts in the Vietnam Veterans in Canada organization. This includes the paradoxical support of protestors who went to Canada to avoid the draft, like the Native American, “Too Tall Tim.” I am truly amazed when I witness your strength, your acceptance and self-confidence – a dedicated warrior never stood taller. I am deeply impressed by your dedication, sense of service and honor. Mark… I stand straight, square shouldered, and salute you.

I regret my failure in not approaching you earlier in your life. Moreover, I regret not having this same exchange with our father, a WWII and Vietnam Combat medic. I regret not standing a little taller myself, and protecting you, him as well as others from the bureaucracy of the country you so willingly defended. I am embarrassed for the US Government bureaucracy and for their lack of support for you and other veterans of other wars. This embarrassment includes stealing the Agent Orange compensation from you, and the actions of the American border guards in Washington State/Canadian border, apparently motivated by thinking you were a deserter, tearing your vehicle apart many times as you came back to the USA to visit our family.

In an attempt to foster community service ideals and support for our vets and their families, I try to teach my son, Ginsu, the price paid by our service members and their families. On many weekends, I have taken him to the local war memorial along the Willamette river, and had him help me pick up the litter, the cigarette butts, the broken glass, remove the damage caused by vandalism, and clean the memorial and the adjoining seats. This is done quietly and without fanfare. I find it interesting as people come by and ask why we would do this – “Is it a court-directed community service?” I try to explain to my son about his grandfather, a Combat medic in two wars, who walked ashore after Normandy, and walked all the way to Czechoslovakia earning a Bronze Star along the way. His mother is Korean. I try to teach him that the warriors who served during the Korean War, in battles such as the Chosen Reservoir, directly impact who he is today. I try to explain to him the struggles of Vietnam that both of his Grandfather and we experienced. I would be proud of him to serve his country. I pray that he would never have to fight.

During this season, my prayers is that the citizens of our county publicly and privately acknowledge, not only the warriors who have fought for us, but acknowledge the wives, partners, husbands, mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters who are exposed to the effects of war. In addition, I hope more people become involved in the long-term support of our warriors. I belatedly acknowledge the lifetime of sacrifices that you and others have unselfishly given to our country and to me. Though many have not expressed their feelings, or are not able to express them, I know our family and friends feel the same way as I do. I ask your forgiveness for not earlier welcoming you and other warriors home.

“God and the Soldier,
all men adore
in time of strife,
and not before
When the danger is past,
all wrongs arighted
God is forgotten,
the Old Soldier slighted”
– an anonymous soldier under the Duke of Marlborough
circa 1705

Your twin brother, David

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