Left adrift, say vets haunted by war
By Debra Hale-Shelton
June 17, 2018
"Had all things been normal, we would have anticipated that someone was leaving a position and we would have transitioned and have had someone in line to take that spot," she said in the interview later. "Because of the volatility and our concerns for safety, the decision had to be made to do this abruptly."
Larry Hay's Army tour in Vietnam was a half century ago, long before he married Margaret, his wife of 34 years.
The war has long ended; the trauma lingers.
"When he goes to bed at night, he goes back to hell. He goes back to Vietnam every night, and so do I," Margaret said. "We neither one get a good night sleep. ... I try to catch his nightmares."
Larry Hay enlisted in the Army in 1969. Three times, his helicopter was shot down in the jungles of Vietnam.
"At one point, he was on the flight lines where they were working on the helicopters, and one of his friends didn't get low enough," and Hay saw his friend decapitated, Margaret said.
Guard duty created more nightmares: "The Vietnamese would booby-trap the kids and tell them Americans have candy," Margaret said. "They [Americans] didn't have any choice. They had to shoot them. That really weighs on him. He absolutely loves children."
Margaret accompanies Larry to weekly support-group meetings and speaks for him when he isn't up to talking about the war.
"He has terrible nightmares ... to the point that he jerks so hard that he literally flops out of bed," Margaret said. "He's injured himself several times doing that."
Along with other Vietnam veterans suffering post-traumatic stress disorder, Hay began getting help after the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System's outpatient clinic in Conway started two therapy support groups in 2013. The Vietnam veterans nicknamed theirs the Jungle Group; the Middle East veterans called theirs the Desert Group.
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