War is hell
Happy Memorial Day, Cousin Jimmy — You Should Still Be Here
I posted before about my cousin Jimmy — our family’s contribution to the Vietnam War. The problem is that the older I get, the more I understand what we really lost as a family. I did not understand back then why all the adults in our family were so angry about the condition Jimmy was left in after the war, but I do now.
Jimmy, aka JC, went to war as a young man with a future. He had a home, a fiancé, and a small but healthy hardware business. He was drafted because his number came up. He went off to Vietnam.
My cousin came back a broken man. He lost the business, the home, and the girl, in that order. He became mentally ill and remained that way until he died, a functional alcoholic. A functioning alcoholic is sober enough to live in the normal world enough of the time to take care of themselves. The rest of the time, they drink as much as they can of anything they can find.
The family was angry because we lost an entire branch of the family when we lost Jimmy.
Instead of him marrying and producing children, Jimmy died childless. He never added that sharp mind and giving heart of his to the human gene pool.
Instead of his business becoming a guiding light for the younger children in our family, Jimmy became an example of how not to live.
Instead of him becoming a pillar of the community and helping others, Jimmy needed tremendous amounts of assistance for the rest of his life.
Veteran Affairs was of no help to Jimmy once he started drinking. They knew he was broken. He had a terrible mental illness. He drank to escape the memories of the war.
Mom told us that Jimmy was traumatized. One of his friends died in his arms. JC refused to relinquish the man’s body, defending it from his comrades for many days.