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Chuck Keller

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Cowboys Are Special
by Chuck Keller   
Rated "PG13" by the Author.
Last edited: Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Posted: Tuesday, October 23, 2007

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I'm working on a book about PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). This article will be part of the introduction.

The Willie Nelson song, "My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys," has a line that haunts me as I write this book on PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). The line is: "Cowboys are special with their own kind of misery, from being alone too long." I remember singing along with that song when it was released and every time I've watched "The Electric Horseman." It is a poignant reminder that poetry and song lyrics are sometimes windows into the soul of the writer and, even more profound than that, their words can sometimes illuminate a subject or a state of mind better than any other medium.

As I've interviewed former soldiers and marines I've learned that the military has put in place a new "debriefing" system which includes a section on dealing with what they've been through psychologically. We didn't have that when I returned from Vietnam. I was a Corpsman in the United States Navy. When I returned in July, 1968, we flew directly into Norton Air Force Base in California. The TET offensive in January/February 1968 had begun to turn the tide in American support and the Pentagon was flying us into military bases then busing us to our duty stations. I think, looking back, that they knew we weren't ready to face the growing protests and angry rhetoric at public airports. Or, worse yet, they were worried that soldiers, sailors and marines returning from an environment like Vietnam, would overreact and give the media more ammunition to use to turn the tide with the viewing public.

I do know this: I was bused to Long Beach Naval Station and given some trivial tasks to perform while I awaited discharge. It took a couple of weeks to process paperwork, then I was turned loose on society. I've always known that Vietnam changed me but I honestly didn't realize how much until the events of the past 5 years brought memories and pain flooding back. I heard my parents tell others, "He's so different since he got back."

For the first couple of years I held down job after job and drank too much. I bought a little trailer from my dad which was 8' by 26' and that was "Home" for a time. I dreamed of finding a hundred acres of land in the mountains of Northern Nevada and putting the trailer in the center so nobody could get to me unless I could see them coming. That's why those lyrics hit me so hard. That's why I have to wipe tears away almost every time I sing along. I withdrew into myself. Unless you've been where I've been, you probably can't understand that statement.

Relationships have always been temporary things in my mind. Oh, don't get me wrong... I've put up a good front. Another song comes to mind: "Tears Of A Clown." Smokey Robinson's lyrics hit home too. But deep inside where NOBODY else has been or even seen, there's a "special kind of misery" that burns and screams and eats away at the essence of humanity. That's why those who suffer from PTSD don't talk about "things." They/We don't want to open that festering wound that never heals. They/We don't want to be vulnerable or show "weakness."

Funny, I've always been a strong man, physically. Hard work as a child and young man gave me the stamina and stubborn determination to overcome any physical impediment. I always enjoyed moving objects nobody could move or doing tasks everyone else thought impossible. But, looking back, it was all part of the psychological "Death Wish" I've hidden so deeply inside. Taking risks has been my M.O. It's amazing that I'm alive to write this. Many who have lived with this aren't alive or are so deeply depressed that they wish they weren't.

People have loved me. But I've never felt that I deserved that kind of happiness so I've always done everything I could to drive away those who wanted to be close to me. In the words of the Simon & Garfunkel song: "I Am A Rock!" Yeah, right.

I'm going to post a series of articles on this subject for the next couple of weeks. They will deal with what others have told me about their PTSD experiences and how lives have been changed because of the kinds of feelings I've expressed above. I just wanted to lay a little groundwork so those who wish to share my journey through this mine field of human emotion will know that I DO know a little about the subject from personal experience.

To paraphrase an old saying: For those who haven't experienced PTSD, no explanation is possible. For those who have experienced this, no explanation is necessary.

Reader Reviews for "Cowboys Are Special"

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Reviewed by C N 5/27/2008
The resultant sense of acute alienation is a monster, for those who suffer from PTSD. This is a powerful article.
Reviewed by Steffan Piper 10/28/2007
All the best with this project. Looking forward to reading your work on this. A tough subject on all sides.
Reviewed by Karen Vanderlaan 10/23/2007
an intelligent and well writtewn article-my dad was a navy man as well-thank you for all you did-
Reviewed by Karla Dorman, The StormSpinner 10/23/2007

Thank you for your service; welcome home, sailor, welcome home. :)

War changes people. What they see over and over and over again is bound to crop up in all aspects of life and relationships.

I want a copy of this book when available.

(((HUGS))) and love, Karla.

Books by
Chuck Keller

Against The Wind

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