A Testimony Of Answered Prayer.
The Long, Lonely Walk From Vietnam To Jesus.
Life seems to throw trial after trial at us, testing periods which can either break us or make us depending on our attitude. Most of the problems we face in life if we are truthful are of our own making, poor decisions, the tendency to blame others or the circumstances of our background as being the course of a problem instead of taking a close look at ourselves. I know that situations or hard places will arise that are not of our own making and seem to be out of our control, but again it comes back to our attitude and determination not to be defeated by the situation but to overcome it. I have only taken thirty odd years to wake up to this truth.
During my short walk with Christ I have had a number of victories over troubles that have risen up before me, but there are still areas in my life that have to be dealt with, responsibilities that we tend to put off to a later date, or an inability to face a responsibility. I have learnt that in my own streangth I can do very littel to nothing in areas that are out of my controll and there is only One that I can lean on for guidance and help. Jesus.
7. Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you.
It is not so much the battles we may or may not have been involved in during
our tour of duty in Vietnam. As a National Serviceman, I was a Sapper with 10 Troop. 17 Construction Squadron Royal Australian Engineers detachment based at Nui Dat. Feb. 1968 - 69. We were supposedly a noncombatant support and construction troop, but in the last three months of our tour a small number of us, seemingly the same ones were used to make up numbers with the other combatant units such as the Battalions some of whose members were deployed else where. The battle that I speak of is one every Vietnam Veteran has had to fight through after he came home. A battle that has lasted thirty years, the battle with;
"Post Traumatic Stress Disorder."
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
I had never heard of PTSD until a few years ago, I had always referred to these periods I was going through as the ordinaries, the only way I could describe how I physically felt. I don't think I have to explain to any Veteran, they would know. Only a Vietnam Veteran and his family would know what I am talking about.
My own experience with PTSD and how I handled it for many years.
When I first fell off my rocking horse, most guys use the term fell out of their tree. I was between twenty nine to thirty one years of age. I remember the day well. We as a family were at the beach, my son Matthew was just a baby, a robust two or three year old. Every time a wave would wash him rolling back up on the beach he would get back up, stamp his foot in the sand, just like a bull and run straight back in. We had been playing around in the surf for an hour or so when I stood up after a short body surf chasing Matthew, I seemed to be disorientated, a kind of dizziness which left me feeling physically week. I managed to walk back up the beach and sit where we had left our towels with my head in my cupped hands. It was to be the beginning of a thirty year struggle with PTSD, my first panic attack. Oh boy, what a joy!!
For almost thirty years I wanted nothing to do with anything that reminded me of Vietnam and I might add, still don't today. Anzac day marches; Television Documentaries, any thing that even mentioned the word Vietnam. We were flown home at the end of our tour landing at Sydney's Mascot International Airport at one thirty in the morning, coming home through the back door, as I look back. The protesters were either doped out of their heads or asleep that time of morning. I know that none of us cared at the time we were just so glad to be home, I still remember the cheer that broke out on that old 707 as it's wheels hit the deck. We were out of there. Nui Dat, our base camp was the closest thing I would consider to being incarcerated, the only time we got to go out the wire, we were armed to the teeth unless it was an overnighter down to Vung Tau. I also remember the empty look on the faces of the guys that came from further afield - other states. The euphoria they displayed when the plane touched down now was gone as they waited for connecting flights. Sydney was my home town I had family and friends to welcome me home. They had no one! Not even the Prime Minister!!! Would you believe, the very person who sent them there. Those of us who served together said our farewells and went our own ways.
For years I was full of bitterness, anxieties, anger, violence, unloving, uncaring, no self esteem and full of fears, panic attacks which alcohol and drug abuse would only ease for a short time. All the classic symptom's of what is now accepted as PTSD. I know what it is like to sit crumpled on the floor in the very early hours of the morning shaking with fear, sweating, heart racing, drained of physical strength, gasping for breath and I remember thinking, "A man can't feel like this and live." Trying to hide what I was experiencing from my wife and family, of course not with much success as I slowly retreated to the solitude of my home, not wanting to go out or be involved in the normal family activities with our then young children.
I remember one afternoon we as a family were attending a friends wedding, I had only been in the Church some fifteen minutes when I started tugging at my shirt collar gasping for breath, the old sweats started - accompanied with heart race and I started for the door. I just had to get out of there. My wife was having trouble understanding what was wrong with me as I didn't know myself. I must have spent months seeing doctors, undergoing every test known to the medical profession being prescribed all kinds of sedatives and antidepressants which left me half doped most of the time. All the tests proved me to be in perfect health, so it was off to Psychiatrist who knew little of the effects of that war on the men who served. The only good thing that came out of a visit to one was a sedative that seemed to keep things under control and didn't leave drowsiness. I am still on them today, when needed.
I had a thriving building business at the time, both Barb and myself were doing quite well, she had a very profitable hairdressing salon. We had what could be called a very comfortable lifestyle back in the 70's. When the PTSD hit, the business began to suffer, I would need three or four beers the in morning just to settle me down enough to get me to work, but by ten or eleven their effect would wear off and I was back in the same mess. I would have to get one of the boys to drive me home, as a result it wasn't long before I was unable to operate in any responsible capacity and the business naturally folded.
For months I just sat around the house trying to off drink the effects of PTSD, only getting myself in a deeper hole. My children grew up with a father that was a total stranger to them, they naturally thought I hated them because of the way I disassociated myself from all normal family activity and my wife was becoming very frustrated at my inability to handle the situation I had fallen into. She had to be both a father and mother to our children during their young lives. I knew deep inside that I had to get my act together, but it was hard road. I managed to get back into the building industry with the aid of sedatives. I held well paid positions in the Project Management field for over ten years, but never stayed with the one company for more than twelve months before the urge to move on would set in. Some of the companies were very good in the salary and conditions area, my wife would crack up when I would come home and tell her I had thrown the job in, but I always seemed to have another one in a matter of weeks. I was good at my work, a natural born builder you might say, but once a certain project was finished I wouldn't stay, the compulsion to move on to the next seemed greater than building a future with any of the companies I worked for.
Going back to the time I was discharged from the Army, I only stayed around Sydney long enough to get married, when Barb and I left on our honeymoon I had the tools of my trade in the back of our station wagon. It was somewhat of a suprise to my mother that I was taking them with me and of course she had to ask why. I told her then that I had no intention of ever coming back, that was thirty three years ago and we have never been back to Sydney other than a few short trips down there to see her. We were always on the move, thanks to me, living in a number of places both here in Australia and overseas, carting my family around the world most of 1986. We had settled at Tweed Heads on the New South Wales, Queensland border back in 1972 where I had built us quite a nice home, then, owing to my increasing restlessness, we spent more time tripping around from place to place, job to job. Of the twenty or so years we owned that home, almost half that time it was rented out. I am not sure but maybe it was another way of handling the ordinaries as I called them, or maybe I was just running away, or trying to escape from responsibilities, I am still not sure.
As National Service Men called into the Army we where trained for almost a year, from recruit, corps to jungle warfare at Canungra in Queensland to do one thing. Kill, and to do the job well, along with all the tactic's of the enemy we may have to face. Trained by what I still consider to be one of the best Armies in the world, of the 55,000 ( a conservative figure ) men who served over the years of Australia's involvement only 500 odd lost their lives and less than two thousand were wounded in action. Not all of us were put in the position of having to pull the trigger but all were in a situation where that possibility was always going to be present.
At the end of our two year service after being discharged, we, I suppose were expected to fit back into civilian life as if nothing had changed. But a change had taken place inside I believe of every man who went to that country. The old neighborhood, old friends no longer seemed to be a part of me, life for them had carried on as nothing had happened, but in our lives a lot of emotional strain, part of the day to day routine and a number of years later it became everdent. I remember an older man whom I worked with at one time comment; "You sure are an angry young man." He was so right I was, I think I was in more fights after that war than I had ever been involved in while in Vietnam, coming close to brushses with the law on two occasians. I am sure that is what started the restlessness in me back then, wanting to move on all the time.
For years my wife has told me that I would suffer nightmares, kicking and thrashing about in bed to the point she would have to wake me out of concern of being hit herself. Barb later said that I was a lather of sweat while going through these dreams, I personally remember none of them apart from one which I couldn't relate to Vietnam. It was as if I was bound from my shoulders to my feet in thick rope and in total darkness, I would struggle with what seemed all physical strength in that dream to break free of the ropes but with no success. I would end up waking, sitting up in bed, heart racing and covered in sweat, seemingly sapped of all physical strength. That was the end of the nights sleep, I would have to get up & go downstairs & make a cup of coffee and try to settle down. I now understand that dream was demonic bondage. I had suffered this dream for some years on a regular basis and the results where always the same. No sleep.
After I became a Christian, I related the dream to some Christian brothers at a Church prayer meeting one night. They encircled me & laid hands on me and came into agreement together, the elder of the Church commanded satan to take his hands off my life in the name of Jesus and commanded that I be set free from the bondage of this nightmare while the others prayed in tongues. From that night on- I have never suffered that dream, I indeed had been set free of it. But that was still some years down the track.
Sixteen years ago we bought our small motel, at first as an investment, being in the building industry the years I had, I always found real estate to be one of the safer investments. The time came when I found myself unable to operate successfully in the industry, like so many Veterans becoming unreliable as I would spend days at home fighting the effects of PTSD. I toweled the job and told Barb we were going up to Boyne to work the place ourselves, we had a number of people manage the motel for us for two years, but the time had come to move on. As usual Barb cracked up again, she had a well paid job that she enjoyed and didn't want to leave the Tweed, the company I was working for at the time had to be the best of all of them in the pay and conditions area, Barb just couldn't understand why I had toweled yet another good job, though I knew why as she now does.
The sixteen years we have owned our property it would be the longest period of time I have stayed in one place. When we first moved to the Boyne, I brought all the problems I carried with me, but at least when I was having a bad day I could tell my wife that I had to go up the house and lie down. Barb still didn't understand why I was acting the way I was nor did I still at the time. Here at least, I could please myself if I had to disappear and not try to force myself to please others.
About nine years ago, come this January, as a result of the cocktail of alcohol and drugs I was pouring into my body along with the constant struggle to try in my own strength to fight off the effects of PTSD, the violence I felt and displayed at times came to a head.
It got so bad that I was looking down the path of losing all that I had, wife, home, family and business. A local Doctor I had been seeing for a little over seven years, a man I thought I could trust told my wife that I should be put in a mental institution. But praise God for a good wife, she stood by me even at my lowest ebb. I read on another Veterans site of those years, he called them the lost years, how true! He was not as fortunate as I, having lost his wife and family as so many have done. I can understand the wives as I know what I was like to live with. All they wanted was a loving husband and father, but instead they ended up with a drunken, violent man with irrational behavior who would disassociate himself from nearly all forms of normal family life.
I often wonder where I could have been today if I had never been to that war. I know that there is no future in looking at the past as it has gone and can never be rewritten. We only have the future to look forward to.
11. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
12. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.
Praise God at the time I knew where to turn. Because of my Catholic background I knew that God cared and that He was the only answer to what I was going through. I found myself in a small Pentecostal Christian Outreach Church, the Pastor prayed with me and lead me in the sinners prayer. Jesus didn't care how I came as long as I came. I was now His, washed clean by His Blood. The Spotless Blood Of The Lamb Of God.
14. In whom we have redemption through His Blood, The forgiveness of sins.
13. For I did not come to call the righteous, but the sinners to repentance.
Am I out of the woods yet, I guess I would have to say not completely. But I know now that I will be, it's His promise to me. And I am learning to stand on His promises. After I became a believer on the name of Jesus, I noticed the violence and anger that I displayed seemed to be brought under control along with a few other faults. My marriage was saved and my children slowly got to know the father that for a lot of years was not in touch with their day to day needs. Things that would arise sending me off into a violent rage seemed now to pass over in a very short time. A comfort of common sense seemed to prevail, well almost always! Guess I am still human.
This year I went to Brisbane to be assessed by the Department of Veterans Affairs for PTSD treatment. They strongly recommended that I attend their courses in stress management. It seemed a lot of the things I had hidden deep down inside came to the surface during their lengthy investigation, bringing back a lot of unpleasant memories of things that I had seen in Vietnam and had done years after. While in Brisbane at the hospital where the assessment took place and the courses are held, I looked around at the wrecked lives that were once young fit men called to duty. I don't know as to whether I could sit through the group meetings with counsellors for any length of time. Most, as I looked into their faces had lost everything down to a decent set of cloths to wear.
I was never so happy at the end of that day to climb on the plane that brought me home. Why I allowed myself to be talked into going down to Brisbane for the assessment I will never know. I felt I was handling things quite well and I know that from the time I became a Christian that man can only do so much for man. It has also proven to be one of the most emotionally draining years I have experienced. I personally know of only one Counsellor who can turn back the clock.
1. And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:
2. And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord;
29.This also cometh forth from the Lord of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working.
Jesus the wounderful counsellor.
I was attending a night praise and worship service at the local Assemblies Of God Church two weeks ago, the Church had a guest speaker, a South African Evangelist - Pastor. He was now living in Australia in the Toowoomba region of Southern Queensland, an area known as the Australian Bible belt. I had never met nor heard of him before that night, but I found a man on fire for God. At the end of the service he asked if any of us needed pray to come forward.
I was having one of those rough days, I couldn't even stand for very long to join in the worship songs without having to sit head in cupped hands. I went forward at the end of the meeting for prayer. As he came down the line eventually to me, he took both my hands in his and I immediately felt a sense of ease. It was his first words that got my whole attention, after asking my name he said; "Bob I see in you hundreds of fishing stories, boy we have got to get together." Living on the coast all my life and loving boating, being out on that South Pacific as I have done I could tell many fishing stories. He continued; "Bob Jesus has got His finger on the hands of the clock of your life and He is turning the hands back twenty years, so relax brother and let Him finish the work he has started in you".
I know this man was given a word of knowledge and not speaking out of his own spirit but by the Holy Spirit. I am not well known in that Church, being a motelier I don't get to go as often as I would love to. He prayed over me, anointed my head with oil and I went down slain in the spirit. I went home that night one hundred percent better that when I arrived. Holy is the Name of Jesus.
25. And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you.
36. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
To any Veteran who may get to read this page and has suffered the effects of that war as I have done. I know that there are still many of us out there who have suffered and still are plagued with that spirit of depression, and not just Veteran's but anyone who is suffering from PTSD as I know there are many who do so for different reasons. I invite you to ask Jesus to come into your life, to be the Lord of your life, He is so much bigger than your present situation. I know if I had not done so I possibly would not be sitting here today writing this page. He is not a God of religion but One of intimite relationship who cares so much for you that He paid the price for our sin's and suffering on that cross .
I promise you, you will have nothing to lose but your problems. I know He has been the strength that has seen me through many dark hours, still is today and always will be. He will do the same for you. Just silently ask Him into your life.
The sinners prayer which I prefer to call the prayer of invitation.
Inviting Jesus into your life as your only true Lord and Saviour.
Lord Jesus I believe that you died for my sins, paid the price for me that I so deserved, I believe that you rose again and are seated on the right hand of the Majesty on high and in the not to distant future You are coming back for me.
I ask you to forgive me of my sins, to come into my heart, be that light in my life that guides and strengthens me in the newness of life that is You, that I may be that fitting vessel to serve You as my Lord and Saviour. Amen.
It dose not have to be a long religious type prayer just one from the heart as it is the heart the He looks on, not what you may have done or where your at. It is just you as you are that He wants to raise up and seat with Him in heavenly places. Perfect liberty and peace of mind.
28: Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
As I have said you have nothing to lose by it, but every thing worth having to gain both here now and eternally. I know and can testify without any hesitation that He has been and still is the strength within me that has seen me through many dark hours, and always will be. Praise Him.
The Common Symptoms Of PTSD.
Reliving the event through recurring nightmares or other intrusive images that can occur at any time. Veterans who suffer from PTSD also have extreme emotional or physical reactions such as chills, heart palpitations, panic attacks, numbness in the extremities, arms and legs also abnormal sweating in these areas, shortness of breath and an inability to move from what may be felt a secure place.
A strong tendency to avoiding reminders of the event, including places, people, thoughts or other activities associated with the Vietnam conflict. PTSD sufferers feel emotionally detached, withdraw from friends and family, and lose interest in everyday activities.
Always on guard or being hyper sensitive at all times, including feeling irritability or sudden anger, having difficulty sleeping or concentrating, or being overly alert or easily startled. PTSD suffers may have low self-esteem or relationship problems or may seem disconnected from their lives. Other problems that may mask or intensify symptoms include:- Psychiatric problems such as depression, disassociation, losing conscious awareness of the “here and now”. Memory loss and an inability to concentrate on a given task for any length of time.
A self-destructive behavior including: - Alcohol or drug dependency, both prescription and non prescription drugs, and suicidal impulses brought about by an inability to deal with the debilitating effects of PSTD.
Other high-risk behavior that may be life-endangering, such as fast or reckless driving, or in my case an inability to drive for any length of time in the confined space of a vehicle without the onset of a panic attack.
Physical complaints, any or all of which may be accompanied by depression, including: - Chronic pain with no medical basis, stress related conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia, stomach pain or other digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome or alternating bouts of diarrhea and constipation. Eating disorders, breathing problems, headaches, muscle cramps or aches such as lower back pain, cardiovascular problems and the one that seems to effect many - Sleep disorders.
Some become workaholics as I have been told by a Psychologist who has treated many Veterans, a great man with understanding. Most are forced to opt out of the work scene, not being able to face people at times and becoming unreliable.
I do not know how much blame for what has happened to most Vietnam Vet's can be directed at the defoliants agent orange, white and blue not being a Biochemist. The symptoms of PTSD seem to follow the same pattern in every Veteran I have spoken to over recent years and we have had quite a number pass through our small motel. My wife tells me now she can always pick a Veteran, I guess living with one has taught her well. I know much debate has been waged on the subject in this country from the various web sites I have been into, but I guess its one I will have to leave to the experts. As our Lord and Saviour said.
26. Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known.
26th. September. 2002.
"Give Thanks." Midi.com