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doughishere
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This is a personal question. Serious replies only. No garbage politics.

 

 

My father is a Vietnam vet. Came home with 2 Purple Hearts (Edit: plus others) years b4 I was born. When I was young I distinctly remember asking him "did you kill anyone"? I dont remember how old I was but it was the first time I remember registering in my brain that he was a Vet and what that meant.

 

 

Should I ask that again? I dont know what to do. I wish I had a straight answer, and im pretty sure I know the answer. We dont talk about it. Anyone have anything. Any Ideas? I want a straight answer out of him but Im afraid of bringing all that up. I want to know. I want to know about it but am afraid of asking. My wishes are not all that concern me though and want to....for lack of better words.....lessen the impact on my father. He's been through enough. Although, my curiosity has me and I want to know about these things.

 

 

Edit: I would also add that in our family talking about Vietnam is semi like what they talk about in the Ken Burns documentary.....ie its like talking about an alcoholic or something. We really dont discuss it. I dont push him b/c its....well its war....is legalized murder.  I just wondering b/c hes like 60 and not dead yet but you know not exactly a spring chicken. He was US Army, drafted. Honorably discharged. Vietnam 68-71ish, not exactly sure...we dont talk about it. It was late though for sure. Ive seen the medals. 

 

Veteran (or legitimate personal experience with v's) replies would be best imo keep it away from the riff raff that has no personal experience in this. DMs are preferred and am very ok with personal email addresses as this is a boku private thing.

 

I just dont know what to do but want to know but am ok with just letting it be.

 

Edit2:I would also add that he's been an incredible father and has never laid a had on my mother and a wonderful human being.  I will never be as good as he is as a human being hes just stern when I try to pick at this a bit and I just want to try and underand. Multitudes more humble than I am. Zero violence in my growing up.

 

This is something Ive struggled with in MY relationship with him and am just looking for a new approach. And Im getting to the point that theres nothing and I should just stop. I care for him so I just want wats best for him.

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Dude, the answer is obvious: DON'T ASK. Also if you really want to know, I'll tell you: based on his ribbons he's killed someone.

 

Vietnam was a long time ago. If he would have wanted to talk about it he would have. If he didn't let it be. What does it matter anyway. He did what he did in Vietnam and then he came home and was your father. Focus on the your father thing and leave old scars alone. This is not a hard one.

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Trauma is incredibly difficult to address. In terms of wars, Vietnam was especially difficult on returning soldiers. Pushing or forcing a discussion is not going to be helpful.

 

Lc, it leaves me wanting more...its like im missing some sort of piece of the puzzle. like a giant gaping hole. i dont know maybe its just me.

 

 

like i understand its a hard kinda trauma because these guys are coerced into doing it. they dont want to but they throw a gun in your face and march you off to some foreign land when your young and dumb but its not like a car accident where it just happens....people emotionally force them to do this.

 

 

 

it been over 15 years since I asked that q. like part of me just wants him to level with me as a father-son but the other part of me knows he was 18 when it happened...im older in my life than he was when he whent over and now he mid 60s.

 

and thats part of the problem with me is that theres nothing real(or perhaps too real...probably that)...it was just a year..we dont talk about it.

 

Its hard for me because its like this giant "thing" that happened. like i will never be there. i will never experience it.

 

i dont say i wish i experienced it...the documentary has been kinda nice in a way since i get to hear about it from others....at least other guys/gals go back and visit that they reconcile it...what a mess.

 

I dont know. thats shy im reaching out. perhaps thats not even wanted. I appreciate your words.

 

 

Edit: I also want to say that my default position is not to talk about it but it is something that relates to me in a tertiary kind of way and i do believe I have some grounds to stand on when I to talk about it......probably not though....i never earned it.

 

Edit2: The other thing that makes it difficult for me is I never went into service so I feel like I have no ground to stand on in this subject matter...("feel" is a shitty word....I completely understand, 100%, that i have no ground to stand upon)  sorry I would just add that. I not mad about it I just know that Im not in a position to "demand" things here.

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Dude, the answer is obvious: DON'T ASK. Also if you really want to know, I'll tell you: based on his ribbons he's killed someone.

 

Vietnam was a long time ago. If he would have wanted to talk about it he would have. If he didn't let it be. What does it matter anyway. He did what he did in Vietnam and then he came home and was your father. Focus on the your father thing and leave old scars alone. This is not a hard one.

 

 

Thanks, rb. Appreciate the suggestions.

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This is a personal question. Serious replies only. No garbage politics.

 

 

My father is a Vietnam vet. Came home with 2 Purple Hearts (Edit: plus others) years b4 I was born. When I was young I distinctly remember asking him "did you kill anyone"? I dont remember how old I was but it was the first time I remember registering in my brain that he was a Vet and what that meant.

 

 

Should I ask that again? I dont know what to do. I wish I had a straight answer, and im pretty sure I know the answer. We dont talk about it. Anyone have anything. Any Ideas? I want a straight answer out of him but Im afraid of bringing all that up. I want to know. I want to know about it but am afraid of asking. My wishes are not all that concern me though and want to....for lack of better words.....lessen the impact on my father. He's been through enough. Although, my curiosity has me and I want to know about these things.

 

Although not a veteran, I grew up around folks who had served directly in a variety of armed conflicts (i.e. a LRRP in Vietnam, a Huey MedEvac pilot from Vietnam, a Seal XO, a captain in the South Vietnamese Navy, and family members who have served in more recent conflicts such as the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan).  These guys would routinely share stores from their wartime experience, but would never talk about the people they killed, their friends who died, or the people they saw die.  This was consistent across all generations of veterans that I knew.  For lack of a better way to put this, these stories are only shared with those in the "combat veteran club", if at all, since many of these stories are so painful.  Would you retell a story that you have spent a lifetime trying to forget?  Or retell a story that might lead others to think differently of you?  Vietnam was brutal - your father may not want to talk about some of these things, and may have spent the last 40 years trying to forget.  I wouldn't ask the question again.  If/when he is ready to talk about it, he will.

 

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I would just point out that very RARELY do we have consensus about any topic here after more than a couple posts. Something for the OP to keep in mind. This isn't that hard of a question to answer, at least from an outside perspective

 

 

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My dad was a soldier and so was his dad (4 years in the trenches in 1914-8 - fucking hell). I'm pretty sure my dad never killed anyone but I know his dad did.

 

Do not ask him whether he killed anyone. It's the wrong question. It's a selfish question, for a start: you're asking it because you want to know it not because he might want to talk about it. And second, it's a sensationalist question. My guess is, if you're honest with yourself, you want to know because somewhere deep down you might get a kick out of the answer. Don't take offence if I am wrong but I know that's how I felt when I asked my dad as a child.

 

What I would do if I was you, is simply tell him in a quiet moment that, one day, if he wants to, you'd like to talk about Vietnam. Do it quietly. Don't demand. And keep it simple. Just say that you're interested in him and his life, because he's your dad.

 

If you don't find the right moment, or if you think he would be more comfortable writing about it than talking, then write to him - paper and pen, not email. Maybe it would turn into a correspondence, and he might prefer that to talking.

 

 

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These guys would routinely share stores from their wartime experience, but would never talk about the people they killed, their friends who died, or the people they saw die.  This was consistent across all generations of veterans that I knew.  For lack of a better way to put this, these stories are only shared with those in the "combat veteran club", if at all.

 

 

Very true. "We were soldiers once, and young" is an exceptional book and the introduction discusses why vets gather in the corner of bars and say, "those were the days". It's not at all gung-ho, it's just an acceptance of the fact that sometimes you go through things that only people who were there at the time can understand, and the ties that those experiences create are incredibly powerful.

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These guys would routinely share stores from their wartime experience, but would never talk about the people they killed, their friends who died, or the people they saw die.  This was consistent across all generations of veterans that I knew.  For lack of a better way to put this, these stories are only shared with those in the "combat veteran club", if at all.

 

 

Very true. "We were soldiers once, and young" is an exceptional book and the introduction discusses why vets gather in the corner of bars and say, "those were the days". It's not at all gung-ho, it's just an acceptance of the fact that sometimes you go through things that only people who were there at the time can understand, and the ties that those experiences create are incredibly powerful.

 

You may also want to keep in mind that many were trained as ruthless killers, they were extremely good at it, and they operated under 'lax' constraints. Hence hardly surprising if they were in a Northern Ireland, Bosnia, etc. and choose not to talk about it.

 

SD

 

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I had several vets from WW2 in my family. It was always one of those known but not spoken subjects. I don't know if it's part of the code, or just a biproduct of the experience, but I've never met a vet who openly wanted to discuss these things. And I think thats understandable.

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Dude, the answer is obvious: DON'T ASK. Also if you really want to know, I'll tell you: based on his ribbons he's killed someone.

 

Vietnam was a long time ago. If he would have wanted to talk about it he would have. If he didn't let it be. What does it matter anyway. He did what he did in Vietnam and then he came home and was your father. Focus on the your father thing and leave old scars alone. This is not a hard one.

 

This is what I think as well.  From what you've said, it doesn't sound like he wants to talk about it.  If he hadn't, he probably would have said a straight "no" when you asked him years ago. 

 

I'm as anti-war as anyone you will meet, but I don't blame the troops. He was a young man, put in a situation that was completely out of his control.  He did what he had to do in those circumstances to survive.  I know this is easier said than done, but my advice would be to try to let it go.

 

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I had several vets from WW2 in my family. It was always one of those known but not spoken subjects. I don't know if it's part of the code, or just a biproduct of the experience, but I've never met a vet who openly wanted to discuss these things. And I think thats understandable.

 

Yes - but it may not be healthy!

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With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa is an excellent and unflinching World War II memoir that goes deep into the details of the psychological cost of war on soldiers.  It was written by Eugene Sledge and was one of the books that the HBO mini-series The Pacific was based on.  The audiobook is excellent and is narrated by the actor who played Sledge in the series.

 

https://www.amazon.com/Old-Breed-At-Peleliu-Okinawa/dp/0891419195

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Lc, it leaves me wanting more...its like im missing some sort of piece of the puzzle. like a giant gaping hole. i dont know maybe its just me.

 

It's not just you. It's only natural to be curious...when I was a child I used to ask my uncle every year if he would tell me his war stories. I didn't see him for about 10 years, and then when I did I realized - damn if he wanted to tell me, he would.

 

For him, he didn't want it to be a part of his identity, or how other people viewed him, especially his family.

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I wouldn't ask him that specific question.  You can maybe just bring up the subject and see what he is willing to say.  My family who were in the wars, they said one of the things that really stood out was listening to men scream and cry for hours and hours while they were dying.  If I had just asked about whether they killed someone I would have missed out on that nugget!

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I had several vets from WW2 in my family. It was always one of those known but not spoken subjects. I don't know if it's part of the code, or just a biproduct of the experience, but I've never met a vet who openly wanted to discuss these things. And I think thats understandable.

 

Yes - but it may not be healthy!

 

That's quite a general statement that, while for some might be true, for others it may not be true at all.

 

I have someone in my extended family that thinks everyone should talk about everything all of the time, and old wounds should be constantly re-opened.  I think this type of thinking often causes way more trouble than it helps.  Bringing back old things that people have gotten over and already learned how to live with.  Sometimes people find ways of putting the past in the past, leaving it there and going on with their lives.  Drudging all that up and reliving all of it every time someone is curious or thinks they are 'helping' isn't always a good thing.  Everyone is different and some people may benefit from talking about it, but I wouldn't say that everyone would.  Sometimes it's better to not force someone to talk about something they don't want to talk about.  Often people who say that it is 'healthy' to talk about things are saying this for self-serving reasons and don't necessarily have the best interest of the other person at heart.  You always need to ask yourself if you want to talk about it for the good of the other person, or simply because you want to hear it regardless of the consequences to the other person.

 

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I had several vets from WW2 in my family. It was always one of those known but not spoken subjects. I don't know if it's part of the code, or just a biproduct of the experience, but I've never met a vet who openly wanted to discuss these things. And I think thats understandable.

Yep.  My grandfather was in the navy in WWII and rarely ever mentioned it. I was by far the closest to him and was treated more like a son than grandson. The only thing I remember was him sitting on the front porch on Canada Day when the fireworks were going off in the neighbourhood. He hated one sound in particular because whichever firework it was sounded like the bombs overhead during the war. He would just sit there looking off into the night and I always knew what was going through his mind but never once asked him.

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I disagree with the others to just let it go.  But I also agree that the tone and what you ask are more important that did you kill anyone.

 

Both of my Grandfathers were in WWII and one also went in Korea.  He was a Marine Pilot in the Pacific and was proud of his service.  The other was an Engineer and did not come ashore on D-Day but a few days later and in the European theater.  He was anti-war.  I grew up and couldn't understand why he didn't want to talk about it when the other did.

 

I eventually got both of them to open up as part of a larger context of who they were.  Most people do not want to share things that they are not proud of and for many Vietnam vets they were treated very poorly when they came home (by the media, people on the street, even family) so they may view what they did as not honorable or something to be proud of. 

 

What worked for me is when I was going to be married.  I asked him for some advice and if he had anything that I could show at the wedding.  We had a table of family pictures.  Asking about those family pictures was the best thing I could have ever done.  He started to tell me about how he got married but more about how my Grandmother and him met (he was remarried).  He told me stories of dating other women, including some women that a mother would not be proud of.  That led to stories of his youth, the fact that his parents were rich and then lost it the great depression as his dad was a developer.  That first discussion led to hours of other discussions and stories of youth, his first jobs, etc and he learned about me beyond the typical grandfather/grandson relationship.  Eventually I asked him about his service.  Nothing else. The stories were of boot camp, the hurry up and wait.  Some stories of friends lost.  Never about killing.  I got to really understand my Grandfather at a level that my Dad never did of his Dad nor that I have of my Dad (and never will).  I think some of that is due the relationship of Grandparent/Child vs Parent/Child but its also that I never pushed and he told me what he wanted to tell me.  Several months later I came to visit and he had a box of stuff that he had from his service and he gave them to me.  I was surprised and some of the items made sense based on what he told me, and several did not because he never told me the story with why he kept some of the items. 

 

The story you want is not if he killed anyone.  The story is what did he do, see, experience during his entire life.  Someday I hope I will have these conversations with my sons and grandchildren when they are old enough to not just see me as their father but as a person who has stories, however inconsequential.  Good luck. 

 

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There has been a colonial war in my country in the 60-70s. No one I know answers that question. The most answer like I ever heard was "we were young and they washed our heads, we didn't know what we were doing there". I also heard "I was not on the front line" (that is a semi negation; the fact you weren't on the front line doesn't mean that you never had to actually use your gun...read below)

 

Knowing the answer won't help you in anything, but you can be sure that  the answer is something that troubles him: either because he did or because he simply doesn't know (quite common, 20 people shoot a machine gun simultaneously, 10 people are found dead: it might well have been 1 guy killing 10 or 10 killing 10; either way nobody knows the answer and at least 10 didn't kill anyone, but they cannot be sure).

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I'm as anti-war as anyone you will meet, but I don't blame the troops. He was a young man, put in a situation that was completely out of his control.  He did what he had to do in those circumstances to survive. 

 

"He's the one who gives his body as the weapon for the war and without him all this killing can't go on." - Donovan - Universal soldier

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I'm as anti-war as anyone you will meet, but I don't blame the troops. He was a young man, put in a situation that was completely out of his control.  He did what he had to do in those circumstances to survive. 

 

"He's the one who gives his body as the weapon for the war and without him all this killing can't go on." - Donovan - Universal soldier

 

How’s that analysis work when there is a draft?

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