For Vietnam War Veterans, psychological recovery was likely just as difficult of a process, if not more so, than physical recovery. Post traumatic stress disorder is common amongst veterans, but particularly for those who suffered injuries during a war. However, without actually being in the war, it can be difficult to understand what these soldiers went through that could have caused such severe stress. That is why this database article I found that tells about how a veteran named Allen Clark who lost his legs was effected, how he recovered from this tragedy from a psychological standpoint, and what he does to help others who suffered the same as him is so helpful toward my research.
The US Army Captain, Allen Clark, was near the Cambodian and Laotian borders when a mortar strike began to reign down. He states that a shell landed a mere 18 inches away behind. Fragments and shrapnel flung into his lower legs. He lost his left leg below his knee that same day and his right about ten days later. It was a whole eight months later, after a long recovery, that Clark was finally forced to face the reality of returning home to a completely different life. As a result, Clark suffered a heavy emotional breakdown due to post traumatic stress.
One of the biggest difficulties for returning soldiers dealing with PTSD is that nobody really, truly understands unless they’ve been there. That is how Allen Clark plays such a helpful role towards those who are in a similar boat as he once was. He reaches out to these unfortunate veterans by urging them not to repress these feelings, which is a “warrior’s natural instinct” as he puts it, but rather to let them out. After years of hopelessness, he is now a successful business man. Of course the things that happen in war are not forgotten, nor could they be, but he leads by example to veterans all over on how to move forward from the days that haunt them. I believe this article really emphasizes how much more of a lasting struggle it is for injured veterans to recovery psychologically from PTSD than it is physically from the wounds, giving me a better understanding of the emotions that returning soldiers had to cope with.
Immediately following the war, along with veterans who suffered from PTSD in general, there was an overall lack of empathy toward those who suffered serious physical impairments. Because nobody really understood what they went through or how it effected them, veterans would often develop a sense of rejection from society. Additionally, those who were unfortunate to receive amputations of one or more limbs or became paraplegic now also became dependent upon others for daily life. Likewise, those who the burden of having to care for these injured veterans were their families. As described in the song “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town”, you can see how this might have caused wives to lose interest in their husbands, and more so how this this impacts these amputees and paraplegics who are mistreated and misunderstood by society.
In one of my sources that I found particularly interesting from New Jersey Times, there is an existing program dedicated towards amputee war veterans. The Annual Next Step Golf Clinic gives these veterans an opportunity to place side by side with professional golfers as a method of physical and psychological therapy. This program also provides a very good environment for these veterans as they’re surrounded with those who experiences very similar tragedies in their life. One of the veterans from Marlton, Walt Martinez states, “I try to soak up everything the pros point out, and being out here with the veterans, I don’t need to explain anything to them because they understand me.”
These people are hugely impacted by these programs to help them cope with their physical and psychological injuries. That is why this article influenced me to take a route in my paper to try to actually understand the struggles endured by Vietnam War amputees who were neglected by society after returning home from the war. Additionally, I am going to further research the types of programs that might have existed or lacked during this period of time to help rehabilitate returning veterans in the 1960s.
For this week’s post, I wanted to look up any information I could find about the men in the photo. I also looked to see if any of them are alive today, and it seems that there are at least two men in the photograph that are alive today. One is Marine Gunnery Sgt. Jeremiah “Gunny” Purdie, and the other is Navy corpsman Ron “Doc” Cook who served as a medic for Kilo Company, 3rd battalion, 4th regiment of the Marine Corps. Sgt. Purdie is the African American man in the center of the “reaching out” Photo and Ron Cook is the man on the far left of the photo.
Most of the information I found came from an article titled One Instant of Chaos in Vietnam from the Cincinnati Enquirer, in which Ron Cook was interviewed about the events that took place surrounding the capture of the “reaching out” photo. Today Cook is the father of two adult children, and is a funeral director and county coroner. When asked if he could recognize any of the men in the photo, Cook was only able to recognize himself and Sgt. Purdie. As for Sgt. Purdie, he has written an autobiography titled The Journey That Brought Me to Glory: The Black Boy, the Marine, and the Christian. In this autobiography Purdie shares his experiences as a young child and as a Marine, as well as his faith. Purdie believes, as worded in the article, “God moved in every aspect of his life as he faced tough choices and challenges of pursuing and fulfilling a life well lived.” Today Sgt. Purdie lives in North Carolina aith his wife Virginia.
As for other men in the photo, the only source I could find that would identify one of them was an article on Wikipedia. The Man escorting Sgt. Purdie was identified as Darrell Hinde, but I did several searches for him and couldn’t find anything. I haven’t been able to find any sources that could identify the Marine covered in mud that’s leaning against the log.
How did the protest finally end? Did the protestors just walk away peacefully? Most protestors were not very peaceful about their leaving the protest. At 11:30 p.m. the protestors were given a thirty minute warning letting them know that their two day permit expired at midnight and if they chose to stay they would be arrested and sent to jail. The protestors responded in “Hell no we won’t go!” The protestors were then warned again two more times before 11:58 p.m. Two minutes before midnight the protestors were given one last warning.The protestors were even offered public transportation payed for by the justice department. Only 34 of the 208 protestors chose to leave on the buses and avoid arrest.
Right at midnight, closed army trucks that would hold 34 people a piece backed up to the Pentagon. The loading started at 12:05 and was completely done by 12:08. The loading went more peacefully than the protest did. Some of the protestors were carried on to the trucks, but most walked. Some of the protestors even helped others get into the trucks.
A person would think that after two days of protesting they would be exhausted and ready to go home. A large chunk of these protestors still left at this time chose to stand their ground, protest until the very end, and face jail time and fines. I guess to some people it is more important to prove they are fighting for something. I think some people took it a little too far however. People who protested how Jan Rose Kasmir did seemed to prove their point in a much easier and powerful way, rather than spending many hours being uncomfortable, along with spending 30 days in jail with fines to pay later. It was not like this protest was actually going to end the war, it was just letting the government know the people of America were not happy with this horrific war.
For this week, I decided to write about connections between race relations and the “Reaching Out” photo. It seems from what I have read, that even though Truman desegregated the U.S. military with executive order 9981 almost 20 years prior to when this photo was taken (www.ourdocuments.gov), a desegregated military still seemed like a new thing to most people in the U.S. because the military was pretty much the only thing that would have been desegregated in the south. Racial tensions were at an all-time high during the Vietnam War because of the discrimination and injustice against black soldiers in the military (ic.galegroup.com). The Civil Rights Movement was also at its peak around the time this photo was taken, which fueled racial tensions overseas even more as black soldiers heard about the movement happening back home in the U.S. You could see how in this context a photo of a black soldier and a white soldier that shows so much battlefield camaraderie would have been quite a shock to readers in the U.S. at the time. This is especially true when you consider that the photo wasn’t published until 1971, just a few years after the civil rights movement ended in the late sixties.
The implications of this photo today show us how the desegregation of the military was one of the first steps toward racial progress in the U.S. Even though there was still a lot of racial tension in the military at the time this photo was taken, we can look back and see those tensions as growing pains. What this picture did was show the possibility of black and white soldiers being able to fight alongside one another effectively, which is an idea that I don’t think many of us struggle with imagining today because we see pictures like the “Reaching Out” photo. However, at the time this would have been hard for people to imagine that cooperation like this could occur between black people and white people.
I am doing the research on the circumstances and background that leg to the historical moment captured by the photo. I have been looking up how this even got captured on the film, and why it wasn’t published in the magazine with all of the other pictures in the LIFE magazine. I also found that this picture is called “South of DMZ.” I also found what looks like the original picture. The reason why this photograph was taken was because it was photographed for an essay that was run in the October 28, 1966 issue of the LIFE Magazine. Other photos that Larry Burrows took at the time when Reaching Out was taken were published in the October 28, 1966 edition; however Reaching Out was not published at that time, it was not published until five years later, in February 1971, that LIFE ran Reaching Out for the first time. This picture was taken at a medical station, where the wounded man was being treated before air flight. I am still researching and trying to figure out why it wasn’t published with all the other pictures, but there was one picture that was very similar to the “Reaching Out” photo. If I had to guess on why it wasn’t posted, I would say because it looks very tragic and messy. They might have not wanted people to see how bad the war really was over there.
http://timelifeblog.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/post_117498218.jpg (Link to original photo)