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Getting Out of the Jungle

By Harry Kieninger

Harry Kieninger, author of "When Can We Come Home: Understanding the Viet Nam Vet," served for six months as a combat medic at Cu Chi. He offers his advice and experience about how to come home.
This is to all my veteran friends who have been away from Vietnam in body but still have the war inside them: who still have the feelings of aversion, bitterness, and the lost feeling of despair that will not go away.

I was a combat medic in ‘Nam. I have PTSD and I still fight the war every day. Someone please convince me that it has been over 30 years now as seems like I was there about two weeks ago.

It hurts way down deep.

I know because I have felt the pain.

It hurts so much that we sometimes hide, and cry, and hurt, and hope the medications will kick in soon so we can survive.

When someone wants to help we reject them because we honestly feel there is no hope ever. You see I understand you because I am you. I am just in a different body.

There is some hope; there is a light that still shines but we must believe it's there and walk towards it.

At first you may feel nothing at all, it may take a month, or six months before you feel the inward lift of hope inside of you.

I began this journey about one year ago and it wasn't easy,

I found and then lost myself at least 20 times.

The important thing is the fact I wouldn't give up.

I fell many times but I got back up.

It was just like being in ‘Nam; wipe the blood off your eyes and press on.

The emotional effect of war caused us to bury ourselves and hide ourselves from ourselves.

So now we think that sweet, honest beautiful young man who went to ‘Nam is dead and shall never be seen or heard again.

Healing started for me when a person told me must get in touch with Creation.

At first I thought they really didn't know much about the real truth and the curse that war puts inside a person, but I kept in touch and tried some of the ideas.

I began to develop a relationship with Creation.

I looked at grass and trees and flowers.

After about three months of this, I actually developed a personal relationship with a tree in my own back yard. Her name is Miss Tree.

It seems so foolish at first but I knew I had found hope and was now walking out of the jungle of hopelessness.

I would sit on the ground and feel the realness of the grass. Then I noticed that out of all the blades of grass there weren’t two of them that were alike.

It is the truth, and it is happening to me.

There is hope. I was at the point of suicide when I started, believing in nothing and no one.

I took a handsaw and began clearing an area behind my house filled with vines, bushes and trees.

I knew it was right.

You will feel what I felt if you will only start you will find you are worth something; that you have a vital place in life; that you are loved.

You will begin to feel that love, as you slowly walk from the jungle you have been in for much too long.

I wrote this to you because I love you and my hope is that you will love you too.

You have nothing to lose but the pain, the sorrow, and the hurt way down deep inside you. Getting out of that emotional jungle begins with the first step.

I hope you will take it.

       Harry Kieninger
       Combat Medic -25/27
       Cu- Chi, South Vietnam.


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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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