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War Dad

On April 14, 2011, in Personal Stories, by admin

JuJu Sands, daughter of a Vietnam Veteran –

The word “difficult” is not big enough to describe how tough it is to divulge my deepest pain. If my book wasn’t going to help thousands of women and girls that are affected by soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, I would have never told my story. When my “WAR DAD” came back from Vietnam, he was violent, angry, volatile, psychotic, a drug addict, a woman beater, a womanizer, a criminal, and a danger to me, himself, and, most of all, society. It’s ironic how we never hear about this stuff on the evening news.

My dad grew up in a blue-collar area of East Los Angeles. It seemed that many boys in his area were drafted. And I grew up with the daughters. Many girls witnessed divorce, physical abuse, drug addiction and sometimes fell into it themselves. The effects of war can live on through generations if someone does not halt the effects. The war, drugs, and heroin took my dad away. Although my father returned alive, he was a casualty of the war. The life we would have had was gone.

After my parents divorced my dad was given supervised visitation.  I remember the night we weren’t supervised. It was the night that could have ruined my life. While visiting with my grandparents my dad showed up and took me from their home to the neighborhood bar down the street “Art’s Bar.” I knew I was too young to be at a bar establishment, much less sitting at the bar. To keep my dad calm, I asked for a nickel so I could play a song on the jukebox. I chose “Angel Baby” by Rosie and The Originals and I played it repeatedly. A man was sitting at the bar with us. He said to my PTSD suffering War Dad, “She’s been playing that song a lot. Can she play another song?” In a split second my dad was in a mad rage. Is this the rage that comes from going to war? “I’ll pick another song,” I said. But it was too late-my dad got up from the bar and began arguing with this man. “Stop!” I screamed as I tugged on his arm. I begged him, but he had that look in his eyes, and I knew he was at that point of no return. I was crying and shaking uncontrollably. They pushed through the wooden swinging doors and began to physically fight out on the sidewalk. This poor stranger had no idea who my dad was. My dad had fought in the Vietnam War. He knew how to kill! He was on drugs and alcohol. Both backed away from each other. They were in that wrestler’s stance with both arms out to the side. They were circling each other. I noticed that my dad had a fork in his hand. I was screaming and crying out for my dad to stop, but it was too late. He went toward the man and pushed the fork into the man’s body. He stabbed him. I took off running, crying hysterically and I couldn’t breathe. I wanted to faint. I knew I had to mentally overpower what had just happened and convince myself that it was all going to be fine. I was too young to be going through that kind of trauma. After years and numerous violent situations and dangerous nights, I built the courage to cutoff my relationship with my dad. I wanted a better life and I was going to get it.

After years I located my dad again. I was working in an office in downtown Los Angeles. I was faxed a Coroner’s report. They found my WAR DAD in an alley, flies nesting in his nose and ears. His body decomposing as his right hand clutched a bottle of wine. He’d been dead for three days. According to the report, he died of liver failure and was labeled “a known local transient.”

I accept the fact that all the horror my dad created could have transpired because of what he experienced in Vietnam. It was too much for him to cope with, and he lost it. I couldn’t possibly begin to comprehend the terror, fear, and pain the soldiers must have felt fighting that guerrilla war.

A special place in my heart is grateful to this man, my dad, who sacrificed his life not only for me, but for you and our country.

To all the children of war, to all the Veterans who are currently suffering the effects of war I say this, “Don’t look back, move forward, get help, don’t suffer in silence, there is hope and most of all there is a God and because of His love I am here today writing this for you to read.

 

JuJu Sands, daughter of a Vietnam Veteran and author of “War Dad”
http://www.jujusands.com

 

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