I have lived with this hero of mine for over 30 years. The Vietnam War left him emotionally, physically and mentally wounded. No compensable injuries could be found, but wounded just the same. Sent over as an immature young adult, given back as a hard-drinking, angry, dangerous killing machine.
When he returned, he was met with only hatred and anger for doing what he was told was his duty as a soldier over there. It then became my job to repair the nightmares, endure the interrupted sleep, ghosts that haunted his waking moments. Also to endure the bouts of melancholy, for him, the only way to hide would be immersed in hard drinking to make it through.
The times we had to hide from the enemy, because they were breaking through our perimeter, then the police would come and arrest this warrior, he would spend untold amounts of time in jail, not hospital to rid him of the demons that would never, ever go completely away.
Now approaching the age of 60, still struggling with those demons, “one-day-at-a-time” sobriety. Still nobody cares that this walking-wounded soldier still suffers! But I loved him all the same, through all of it, I remained steadfast, his wife and comrade, who would not be blown to bits by an unseen mine, nor abandon him in his time of need. No further words are necessary to honor this man. Other than, he is my warrior, my friend, and my husband. I love him forever plus one day!
Addendum written August 2016.
Forgotten Vietnam War veterans with battle scars, one more, joined his brothers after a long wait for peace.
— Bradley W. Ellien
Now I have lost my warrior, his ghosts and demons took their strikes against him, submerged him in his last battle, this time, he did not survive.
In my 37 years with my husband, there was always one person who knew where he had been, what he had done, and what it was like “over there.” A name I heard so many times, a person that I needed to make sure that we kept in touch with. That person was Bruce Sakimae (of Kauai). I knew this name as a brother to my husband, not by blood, but by circumstance.
We had the opportunity to travel to Hawaii, and made sure that we would contact this man in his native Hawaii. During this reunion of warriors, brothers and friends, it was obvious that there was a very close bond between them, not spoken about during our visit, but known nonetheless.
When the time came to honor this warrior of mine, and place him at peace, I could not put Brad to rest without offering the opportunity to this brother, to once again, be there with him, and “have his 6,” and that was Bruce Sakimae.
That evening, as we shared memories, he told me of the times when he would receive a call at 2 or 3 in the morning from this brother in arms, racked with nightmares and needing to share. He took those calls, every time, never chastising for the hour, but listened. He would just be there for him, no matter what.
When I asked Bruce to attend Brad’s services, his response? “If I’m not there, I died!”
Linda Dawes is a resident of California.