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By Patrick Shine

Patrick Shine shares his thoughts with us concerning serving in Vietnam, the Brotherhood of All Soldiers, and the value of sharing time and memories with comrades in arms at reunions.
They still boggle the mind, never leaving either my consciousness or subconscious. I many not reflect on the war hourly, but it is most certainly several times each day, much to my wife’s dismay, and there ain’t nothing I can do about it.

But actually, all things considered, and after years of struggling introspection, I am thankful for both my return and my involvement in the war. Of course, it would have been better if the was had never happened, yet it has left me with so many things: thoughts, degrees of resolve in times of stress, love and an appreciation of so many different subjects, that I do not believe I would possess otherwise.

“Taking things for granted” is a very human characteristic, but one that I hold with disdain and eschew if I become aware of it.
After years of guilt and feelings of hopelessness, I drew upon my personal, inner fortitude that I had discovered on a jungle floor – and once I regained that, I never have let it go.

We are all brothers, regardless of which war we were involved in. I have often fantasized that I could sit down with a grunt from a Roman legion and share some common ground. Combat sucks unimaginably, no matter the era or tools of fighting. Thus, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has not surprisingly been around for thousands of years, which makes it all the more interesting that in ’74 the doctor at the VA Hospital did not understand what I was telling them; that one of them even said, “Very interesting – I’m having trouble pigeon-holing you.”

The terrorist fighters overseas now need our total respect and support. The best thing we can do for them is to write them
letters of support. Mail, any kind, is a fighting man’s life support. I can only imagine how wonderful it would have been back then to have received encouraging news from home.

One of the best decisions I ever made, although it took me 27 years to come to it, was to attend a reunion with my Charlie
Company buddies in St. Louis in ’95. To be reunited with some of my brothers-in-combat was surreal. It helped me to realize the love that so many of us have been fortunate enough to discover in a peaceful situation, instead of the daily horror what we all lived in for those terrible months back in ’67 and ’68. There are still plenty of guys who have turned their backs on these reunions, and I am concerned for them, because I was like that for a few years. But the healing began almost immediately after my first day in St. Louis, and has progressed steadily ever since. I feel that now it has gotten as good as it is going to get, for a combat veteran never truly heals completely, and he probably shouldn’t. For if the solider who fought the battles becomes fully healed, he has forgotten too much of what he has seen, done, and endured. It becomes our mantra, our load, our burden to remember - not only what we did but most importantly – our fallen comrades.

It is true that this country needs a collective healing. I have seen signs of it just the last very few years. And while it is well-
received by myself and other vets, it has been such a long time coming that many of us hardened to such an extent that the only people whose feelings we cared about was our combat brothers. Although I still have some of that don’t-give-a damn attitude, it warms me measurably to learn of and hear the words of people who do care about what we went through. Your platoon does become your family, as does you company, though more so the platoon. The reunions remind us of that.

Patrick Shine 25th Division, 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry

A note from Remy:

Our Veterans are part of another family and that is a national one: that is true no matter the war, the time, or the place. The

door must be kept open, just as our hearts must be opened, to provide the proper Welcome Home.


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This item is part of historian, author, editor, and educator Remy Benoit's ongoing weblog for Veterans, writers, students, and others who believe in learning from and making history; including thousands of articles and posts and the free writing seminar, Using History for Healing and Writing.

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