He served in Vietnam for two tours and suffers from severe PTSD and has medical problems caused from Agent Orange. Garry is a sweet and awesome man that has lost a great deal in his life due to his PTSD. He's been married 4 times and they all ended because his wives became frightened of him after seeing a flashback or the result of one of his nightmares. He told me that he's learned how to control his reactions to things going on around him a great deal but there are just some things that are beyond his control and that he doesn't blame any of his ex-wives for leaving him.
We talked a great deal while we were in the shelter. The subjects circled the range of topics. But I also listened to him when he spoke of being in Vietnam. There were actually several older men that served in Vietnam that came to the shelter, either to sleep or for the hot meals the Red Cross and Salvation Army were providing during aftermath of the flooding. I already had a great deal of respect for anyone who has served but after listening to these men my respect grew so much that I don't even have a way to gauge it.
One day someone put in the movie Hamburger Hill and Garry kept saying that he shouldn't watch it but he pretty much couldn't stop himself. Though at one point the movie was paused because of dinner but then after everyone else had left or gone to bed, Garry put it back on. I think he was testing himself.
I don't really care for movies like that but I didn't leave him alone because it felt like he didn't want to be alone while he watched. He talked at points in the movie, about what was happening on the screen and what he experienced himself. When the movie was done, Garry was crying and scolding himself for knowing better than watching the movie. He talked about what it was like coming home, how he discovered that his wife was cheating on him and how his daughter was made to sleep in the car while her mother went into bars to pick up strange men and how that experience damaged his relationship with his daughter in the years to come. He also talked about the names he was called, how he and the others were spat on and looked down at. It always made me angry hearing about how men and women returning from Vietnam were treated but when I'd heard about it before it was through the television. Hearing this man, this good man, talk about it and seeing the tears really pissed me off. It makes me wish I could go back in time and just knock the crap out of those assholes.
The point where Garry really broke down was when he spoke about the first time someone told him 'thank you' for serving. He said he remembered being shocked because he was there just for a dental appointment and this man (it was the dentist) was a stranger and after hearing so many nasty things for several years the man's words came out of nowhere and shook him up. Before Garry was even finished telling me about it, I was around the table and hugged him around the back of his shoulders, saying 'I know I'm a bit late but thank you. Thank you so much.' He squeezed my arm and just nodded his head. He was able to get himself under control and I suggested going outside for a change of scenery for him and smoke for me. He laughed and we headed outside.
If I'm understanding things correctly, the US Govt is supposed to be coming to some decision soon about his PTSD and finally acknowledge that he's suffered from it for years. Garry is looking forward to it, not only for the years of back pay he'll receive (I think it dates back to the 1980's) but he'll finally be 100% covered in his benefits.
Garry had lived in a cabin on the Current River and it wasn't until last week that the water receded enough for him to even get his things. But lucky enough he was able to cut a deal with the owner of a house he was wanting to buy (he's been waiting on the financing to go through) and the man said Garry could rent the place at a price that Garry set until the financing came through.
Like I'd said, we talked a lot about our lives and one cool thing about Garry is that I found out that he sorta has a tie to my mom. He once owned a pre-Civil War Victorian house in Corning, AR where my mom was born and raised. It turns out that my grandpa (mom's dad) used to mow the lawn of that house when mom was a little girl (Garry of course didn't own it at the time since he's only a few years older than mom). Sadly the house was burned down after Garry no longer owned it.
He listened to me as well when I talked about my sister and how much I missed her and wishing my relationship with her kids was better. He laughed when I told him I used him as a way to get the kids to not cuss when they came for dinner at the shelter (I'd told them to watch their mouths because he was a Mormon preacher and a Vet and they immediately quieted down. After I told him is when I found out he was actually a preacher at one point.) When I found out the pups had died and that I didn't think it for the reason the dog catcher stated he held me when I cried. I was upset not only because of losing them but because I'd promised HH that I'd look after her puppy and to me it felt like I'd failed her again; it also didn't help that Mom and the kids thought I was being stupid for being upset.
One night I had a really bad nightmare and got up for a little bit until I could shake it off. It was 4am but Garry was awake and we chatted for a bit while I had a cup of coffee. I think that's when I started talking about my sister and telling stories about the two of us. Usually, I don't mention that I'm gay. Not in this town. And you'd think the fact that Garry's religious background would have deterred me further but I was okay with him knowing even if there was a little bit of fear. But I told him about how my sister had figured out that I was gay long before I was ready to admit it to myself and damn I was happy that he was cool about it and joked 'so I don't have a chance, do I?' When was finally felt I could go back to sleep without slipping back into that dream, it was 6am and Garry had picked up his briefcase where he keeps his bible and started reading until he could fall asleep himself. Something that he does nightly before bed.
I know I should have just stuck to Memorial Day type things for this post but I just wanted to talk about how Garry is pretty awesome and he's the first friend I've made in this town since I moved here last year.
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