Most of you know my dad was a door-gunner in Vietnam. He lost his best friend. He saw things he’s never talked about. He came home and did the best he could. He and mom met at the E, J, &  E Railroad. Got married in April of 1971, had me in March of 1972.

Most of my memories are blurry. I remember in 5th grade, Mrs. Kaczmarek made us write a dictionary on our choice of topics. I chose “Car Parts” so that I could spend time with my dad hearing what an alternator does and putting it into my dictionary. I also remember Mrs. Kaczmarek chastised me for not picking a “girl” topic.  That was also the year I was running a relay race and I blacked out and ran into a cement wall like a football player doing drills on the field.  I broke my right clavicle.

The summer of 1987 is the one I remember most vividly though. I think it was summer.  It was 1987 for sure. And dad had watched Platoon and started having flashbacks.  He’d wake us up screaming, “INCOMING!!!” and he’d be huddled between his bed and the wall. Shaking. Screaming. Always screaming.

I’m not prepared to tell the whole story right now.  Dad had a nervous breakdown. It was bad. I was the target of his anger.

Years and years later, in 2007, I attended a conference and listened to a man I’d never heard of tell a story so eerily similar to my own, that I cried and had flashbacks the entire time he spoke.  Jane was there with me, listening to him tell his story and she was crying, too, because she’d been through it with me.  After composing myself the only thing I could say to Gary Braunbeck was, “It wasn’t WWII, it was Vietnam and it wasn’t a gun, it was a crossbow.”  All I remember is him saying, “I’m so sorry. So sorry.” and hugging me. Forever maybe. It was a really long time.  He was the only one I’d ever met like me.

I received Gary’s new book and was reading it last night. The story was in there. The same one that gave me flashbacks at the conference. Only this time, there was a lot more detail.

I had a hard time sleeping last night.

I had a hard time concentrating today.

I tried to fill my head with things other than the past.

But my brain leaks and my memory leaks and my eyes leak tears.

So I do things, like planning out Zane’s lessons, and mapping goals for ccPublishing, and I watch shows like Jesse Ventura’s Conspiracy Theory about the assassination of JFK because if I can focus on something else, anything else, then I don’t have to go there.

I’m tired and planning to go to bed early. I check Facebook and my dear friend Alexis has posted pictures and I look at them, not knowing what effect they’d have on me.

She’s in Vietnam. These are the Chu Chi Tunnels. All photos posted with permission of Alexis.

I am pretty sure I was having some PTSD symptoms. My chest tightened. My muscles clenched. My breathing was labored, my heart raced. I commented on her Facebook page, “Wow. Gives me a little ptsd though, seriously. My dad was there and had big-time, full blown ptsd (is medicated for it now and has been for years) but going through the pictures made me realize just how badly I was affected by it.”

As I was typing, I got a text. It was from my brother. It said, “I just had a strong presence…I’m to tell you I love you!!!”

“What??? I mean, I love you, too, but what happened??”

“Not sure. I was outside with Layla {his dog, like his kid} Layla was looking up in the darkness and I asked if grandma {my mom} was talking and I felt something…and when I came inside something told me to tell you mom loves you.”

and all i can do is cry

it feels like a dream, like i need to interpret it

but i don’t think it is

11 thoughts on “Incoming”

  1. I’ve had a few experiences where people have shown up with the right words at the right time.

    I can’t explain it either except that God can’t be everywhere at once so he uses us to do it for Him.

    Best wishes for the coming nights. I know it can’t be easy.

  2. Here on Kim’s recommendation. Oh hon, just…hugs to you. I can’t begin to imagine. Deep breaths and hugs to you and your family.

  3. Mich,

    I’m sorry you this come back today. I was running my mouth via e-mail and didn’t know what you were feeling. I feel like a jerk. I deal with the realities of PTSD all the time just from our current wars. But I suffered with it myself because of my past which you know a bit of.

    I’m glad your brother called you. If you want any tips on books for dealing with the response you had, I have at least one that might help. Maybe three.

    Love you. And I’ll be praying for you.

  4. Oh wow Michelle. I don’t know why the Lord allowed those things to come back to you, but I guarantee you that your brother heard directly from the Lord. He knows what we need, right when we need them. No interpretation needed. The whys will fall into place soon enough. I will be praying for you!

  5. God takes care of us. He’s taking care of you. And you need to figure out what you can do (or should do, if anything) to help, Maybe it’s time?
    PS. I never realized PTSD could be contagious, but it makes sense. I’m sorry for your dad, and for you.

    • Not so much contagious, but I think I have PTSD from the abuse. I was always the target of his anger and always getting beat for it. I think my mind had created an emotional response to HIS triggers because his triggers meant I was going to get beat. Y’know?

      I didn’t really know I had issues until recently. I didn’t have these issues until right now, actually.

  6. Incredible. What a great post, thanks for your honesty and thanks for sharing the photos. It seems nobody can talk much about the tunnels. My heart aches for everyone touched by that horrifying experience. I can’t imagine experiencing those tunnels.


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