Whether it was a holdover from Vietnam, believing that “I could be dead tomorrow, so live it up today” or my feelings of guilt and anger, drinking was the only interest I had from the moment I got home. I felt guilty for surviving the war and for having left some friends behind. My anger was directed towards my contemporaries on the block. I viewed them as children who had no understanding of the daily sacrifices being made across the world and knew nothing of the struggle for life itself. I spent a lot of time physically present with family and acquaintances, but mentally and emotionally still living in Vietnam. The world that I returned to was unfamiliar to me and the only connection I felt to anyone was through drinking.
My drinking became so obvious to my parents that my father, who had a drinking problem himself, asked my mother, “Don’t you think your son is drinking too much?” This was after he warned her, prior to me coming home, “When David returns from overseas, his behavior might seem strange. Don’t bother him about anything.” My mother told me that story years later. She never did approach me about my drinking while I was home on leave.
I didn’t realize until recently how much the mothers of sons in Vietnam sacrificed and suffered, many of them in silence and without recognition. In fact, when Jimmy Sampson returned from Vietnam, he went to see David Jolley’s mother to talk with her about her son’s death. Finding that experience so difficult, Sampson chose not to speak in person with David’s wife. The reactions of both my mother and David’s mother remind me that, although many veterans wear a purple heart on their chest, most military mothers have a heart of gold in theirs.