How can one not forget the day they arrived home from a war they were so naïve about . Until it scarred them for life ? The immediate thought after flying on a “Army” bird from Cam Ranh Bay airbase (it started here and ended here) to McChord AFB. I was one of five Air Force airmen and the only one coming home early !
I will always remember that night I boarded , Airman Schroeder escorted me to the “freedom bird” it was clear and peaceful as was the morning I stepped off the plane at McChord AFB, the day was filled with sunshine and peaceful. Quite the transaction from the 14 hours previous.
Then I boarded a plane to San Francisco International Airport,the day was also filled with the sunshine and peace…
Taking a taxi to my parents house in Hayward, California. I knocked on the door and no answered. I let myself in… walking down the hallway. I could hear my parents talking. My mother walked from their bedroom to the hallway. She said Ray (Dad) Marks here ! She nearly fainted ! He was putting on his shoes and said some profanity in a good way !
I was glad to be home… now the new chapters in my life and Pleiku airbase were yet to unfold. My sisters Linda and Anita were only eight and nine years old,. My brother Greg was at school as they were.
Little did I know of the struggles with finding peace would not come easy. After seven years in the Air Force it was time. To make my own way in life on my terms. It was the least I could for me. It would not be easy with a job waiting for me, because there was none. That was my choosing to live in Alaska and did so with employment with the Fluor Alaska and the TransAlaska Pipeline. Then moving on to work with BP Alaska, were I found a place; about harboring my PTSD in denial.
Life was good, but the ghosts of the war lingered on as they do to this day. Being one not to sit on their hands, returned to study in Seattle at North Seattle Community College,during 1984. Then it became more complicated with ownership and loss of a home and a condo due to bad real estate market like so many experienced in 2008.
Bankruptcy was my option in 1987 and filed Chapter 7. Starting over penniless and broke. Yet somehow the fast lane living was over. It was time to make my way again, working for a fraction of my oilfield wages. However while at community college, my priorities had changed to surviving with office jobs and finding what computers were about.
There in the fog of uncertainty was a glimmer of a new future. This was the chance to make a new effort to raise above the nightmares of what I saw, experienced that spring and summer of 1970.
It would take time to fathom what I could possibly do and so I went forward after a relationship of five years came to an end and the possibility of marriage. The ugliness of wrestling with my demons of the Central Highlands was coming out of Pandora’s Box.
Yet, I found my footing and dedicated the next five years from 1990 of returning to my studies part time at night, making new friends. Then was blessed by a friend, Joan Oldfield who secured a contract job at Microsoft for the Windows 95 rollout. This was the leap of faith into the internet and my life forever was changed for the better. Thank You Joan.
At the same time I meet a counselor at Seattle, King County Veterans office (1990) and started to address the nightmares and demons of my experience of the Vietnam war.
I continued work as a Jr. Web developer starting in early 1996 with Van Waters and Rogers, Pest Web team until September, 1998. Then continued with various freelance projects until the dot com bust.Due to high unemployment as a result moved back to California, and found work with a temporary agency until late 2004 utilizing my Adobe Acrobat skills.
Somehow the PTSD would linger and regardless of lifestyles changes for the better. This was the struggle that never goes away.
My parents were getting older, and this required my presence as their caregiver until 2011. I miss them dearly and though life is not always a bowl of cherries. I Love them as I do my sisters. In October,2007 I became aware of the 25th Anniversary, Vietnam Veterans Memorial and decided to make a documentary film. I would travel to various military reunions talking about the film is about all Vietnam veterans.
April, 2014, the Denver VA, National Creative Arts Festival – awarded First Place, Multimedia category for “A Weekend to Remember, 25th Anniversary Vietnam Veterans Memorial.” Through out this time I learn we can make choices… with that there is Hope and there is Love !