I am not from a longtime military family, nor have I served in the military. My dad is a Vietnam vet, having been drafted and then serving overseas from 1970-71 in the 101st Airborne Division. Unfortunately, I know little else about his service, as he has been less than eager to speak of his time in the Army. I understand. Those who served during an unpopular war returned home from Vietnam to almost complete public disdain for their service. It has only been in the last couple years that my dad will wear a Vietnam Vet hat or mention to anyone that he served during that time. He tears up when he tells the story of the first time another vet said to him the words ‘welcome home.’
During my childhood, my dad inspired in me a passion for my country and a healthy level of patriotism. The United States certainly isn’t perfect, but it is a pretty great place. It is a place that allows freedom to speak your mind even if you disagree with the government. Sadly, in the US, many don’t realize this is not a right for citizens living in many other countries, and they take their rights for granted. I guess when you don’t know anything else, it’s hard to understand another way to do things. But I digress. My childhood was one where my dad, brother and I organized an annual 4th of July parade in our neighborhood, playing patriotic songs and wearing red, white and blue. All the neighborhood kids joined in to make the ‘float’ we tried to put together each year and had a great time walking up and down the street for our parade. We were taught to appreciate the service of those who go into the military, even if we disagree with the situation our military may find itself in due to political wrangling in Washington. I have always been someone who saw what not supporting those who served can result in. And I never wanted anyone who chose or were drafted into military service to feel ashamed of their service. It is one reason I have taken on this cause as part of my races. I want to remember those who served.
For my twelfth marathon, the Paris Marathon on April 9, 2017, I will be running to remember another Vietnam vet.
1947 – 1979
My cousin, SSG Jimmy Foster, served in the 5th Special Forces Group, MACV (Military Assistance Command Vietnam) from 1966-1970. Jimmy was a 6’ 7” tall image of a Green Beret. In Vietnam he served in the Central Highlands with the Montagnards tribesmen fighting North Vietnamese Regulars and Viet Cong. He led Presidential approved missions into Cambodia and Laos.
In one operation his unit was overrun by Viet Cong. Jimmy was struck by a rocket propelled grenade. He and other Green Berets and tribesmen held off the attack. Jimmy earned the Purple Heart and Bronze Star along with many other awards and accolades. Jimmy was an easy going person. He liked to cook his specialty: eggplant parmigiana. He succumbed to PTSD in November 1979 (before it was known as PTSD). We miss him.
Shared by Michael DeVita in memory of his cousin. Michael is a regular runner for 22 Too Many and Team RWB
Please help me remember Jimmy Foster on your next run, walk, bike ride, swim or hike.
Some statistics about Vietnam Vets and PTSD
- The number of veterans with PTSD varies by service era
- It is estimated that about 30 out of every 100 (or 30%) of Vietnam veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime
- More than 200,000 Vietnam veterans still battle PTSD according to the National Vietnam Veterans Longitudinal Study, more than 40 years after the conflict ended
- At least one-third of those veterans exhibiting symptoms of PTSD suffer from major depression as well
- About 16% of veterans in the longitudinal study reported an increase of more than 20 points on a PTSD symptom scale, while only 7.6% reported a decrease of greater than 20 points – so instead of waning, the symptoms of PTSD has gotten worse for some of these veterans who had symptoms more than 15 years ago
- The prevalence of PTSD varies by service era:
- As many as 10 percent of Gulf War (Desert Storm) veterans are affected
- 11 percent of veterans of the war in Afghanistan have suffered from PTSD
- 20 percent of Iraqi war veterans deal with PTSD
Source: Department of Veterans Affairs