Abandoned by the Corps
I have been in prison for nearly thirty-five years. I am writing in response to Kathy Dobie’s wonderful article “Denial in the Corps” [Feb. 18]. I am a decorated veteran of the Marine Corps who served in Vietnam in 1965 and ’66, forced to retire by wounds received in action.
When I first came to prison, in 1973, there were several other Vietnam veterans with “problems.” At the time PTSD was not part of the American lexicon, but we all knew where our problems stemmed from, and it did not require a name. No one kills another human being without killing a large part of themselves… and it does not go away.
I am told that one out of six veterans ended up in prison within their first year after returning from the war, and none received any sort of treatment other than talks with one another in support of what we were feeling. The PTSD level today is going to be far worse because of the type of warfare and the multiple deployments. When they come to prison–and they will–there is no treatment for them still.
It is not unusual for me to sit down and read your publication cover to cover in one sitting. But the story about Lance Cpl. James Jenkins, and his photo, made my eyes sting with memories, things I’ve seen. It hit me where it should hit everyone–where we really live, in our hearts. Staring out the window at the trailing woodsmoke from my warm stove, I watch as it is lifted by a gentle wind. Somewhere in that wind is Corporal Jenkins, his breath along with so many others, the same we all breathe. I was once a corpsman. I, too, have been drunk and crazy in Oceanside. Bad drunk and mad crazy. This story about Jenkins, James or Jimmy, I know how it ends. I know the CO’s words and the sickening sound of his “manly man” voice, too. Nothing’s changed after thirty-seven years. Even so, I read on. Even so, it takes me two days to get through “Denial in the Corps.” The Nation shows the truth where other journalists fear consequences of a complicit corporatocracy. The Nation and only a handful of others seem to give a damn about Jenkins. Real people, real blood, real life and the horrifying reality of how little our elected officials know about real death.