This was to be another chapter to my life story "Swinging in the Neighborhood" however I decided to make it a whole new story instead."
“The Judgment of SGT. J”: A Short Introduction
I would like to thank everyone for your emails thanking me for sharing my life story “Swinging in the Neighborhood” with you all. In telling my story I never thought I would get the response I did; especially from fellow vets. It was just not from Vietnam veterans but from vets who had served recently in Iraq, Afghanistan and some places I did not even know we were involved.
Most were thanking me for showing them that there were others like themselves. They thought they alone walked this earth with their demons. They did not realize that many of us have been into the darkness. Most had kept their demons hidden from those around them. Most could only blame the demons on love lost or friends that were no longer friends.
A lot took my advice of talking to a loved one or just talking to a fellow vet. They found as I had long ago that talking about your demons that you carry; lessen the load of the extra baggage we returned home with after the war. It always brought a smile to my face and filled my heart with warmth when they would tell me in their emails.
“Thanks to your story Sgt. J I am dealing with my demons.” “My wife has noticed I deal with everyday stress better and she now understands why I had trouble dealing with them in the first place.” “Sgt. J you have shown me there is hope for me after all.” “I have drove two wives away because of my demons and was about to lose my third, thanks Sgt. J for showing me the way out of the darkness and into my wife‘s arms again.” Those were just a few bits of the many emails I received from you my readers.
I had more than a few vet’s wives email me thanking me for finally getting their husbands to tell them about the demons they had brought back with them. Their husbands never shared that part of their life with them and after hearing, what some had been through. It gave them an understanding of why that the man they fell in love with was no longer with them.
In almost all the emails I received most wanted to know two things. One was just how that family of mine is doing. The second was when you are going to write again. I had the support of my family when I wrote my life story as they thought it would be good therapy.
I did not know that I was about to place myself on an emotional roller coaster in writing of my life. I relived every single chapter I wrote. I relived that damn Vietnam War which I do every day anyways. I felt the pain, the despair of losing loved ones as well as the suffering some endured in my story. I even felt each kiss and the strokes of Carrie’s hand to my face as I wrote my story.
Due to some recent events in my life, I feel it is my duty to add to my life story. I was not going to do this however, the family I hold dear and near to my heart encouraged me as well as prodded me to write once more. The main driving force has been my lovely daughter Sherri.
“Daddy you have to write about what happened,” Sherri said to me. “You owe it not only to your readers but to yourself as well,” she added.
I was unsure of whether to write of the recent events in my life. Mainly because the recent events had caused me to question myself on most of the decisions, I had made during my life. I agreed to write again but only if my family would help me with my project.
There will be chapters with them telling of past events they shared or endured with me. I am doing so I can see if my decisions I had chosen in my life were the right ones or had I caused more harm than good. It is not easy to question ones self without knowing just how the person you may have touched feels as well.
Let me introduce you the quest writers who will be telling their story of my invasion into there lives. I am married to two lovely women Kay and Cathy. Kay is my legal wife while Cathy is my given wife as Kay rather gave her to me. Sherri is Kay’s daughter who I adopted years ago and she has only ever known me as daddy. To me she will always be my little princess who I love and adore as if she was my own.
Sherri is married to Duke a decorated war veteran like myself. They have a sweet daughter by the name of Michelle who is now 11 going on 16. While she calls me “PAPA”, my family and friends call me John. You my readers know me as SGT. J.
Kay, Cathy and Sherri have decided to be our guest writers as long as I help them. My granddaughter Michelle will not be writing because as a family we have hidden most from her. She only knows her “PAPA,” has the one who spoils her. Duke is undecided as of now but he may join us when and if the time is right. His reasoning to me was as follow:
“I can not speak evil against one like myself, a army ranger, for we are brothers. For any who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the code and judges the code. For if you judge the code, you are not a doer of the code but a judge.”
“There is but one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. So who am I to judge you?
I believe the boy has been hanging around me for too long. If you were a new reader of this story, then you would be doing yourself a favor in reading my other story “Swinging in the Neighborhood” from the beginning in order to understand me as well as others in my story. There are 31 Chapters to that story so I decided to write a new story entitled, “The Judgment of Sgt. J.”
My story is one of war, romance, sex, pain, despair, and of the tragedies, my family or I have faced. Mine is a story filled with ghosts from the past as well as an angel that guides my soul. You may find yourself shaking your head in disgust over a chapter or you may find yourself in tears feeling the emotion as well as the hurt and despair I type with to you. I pull no punches or whitewash over any event in my life as I write.
For I write the only way I know and that is from my heart. The emotions I feel when I write I try to have you experience as well. I do this not because I want you to feel my anguish, the pain, the hurt someone or I face in my story. I do it because you must experience it in order to understand it. In doing so, you may find that you even understand yourself a little better. I look in my mirror every day and I see myself. Whom do you see?
I am not looking for you to feel sorry for me nor do you owe me anything. I do not write out of self-pity for myself. I accepted the hand Fate dealt to me when I played cards with him and the Grime Reaper during Vietnam. I write this way only because like many other men I live by the code.
“What code is that?” You ask.
"Truth, Honor, Bravery and the courage to take action when others do not," "To always do what is right and just," “To never give up hope,” I say to you as my lips tremble.
I have followed and lived by that code going on 44 years now. Since 1969 back when I was a mere boy from the neighborhood fighting in a land they called Vietnam. I went to that war because a girl had broken my heart. I also unknowing broke another girl’s heart when I ran off to that damn war.
That girls name was Carrie I knew not of her feelings for me for I was too blind to have seen them. She had written me letters during my two years in that hellhole. I never read any of them until I was on my way home from my first tour. If I had only read them before I might not have signed up for the second one. I fell in love with her and wanted to make her my wife. However, I was afraid I would only make her a widow.
I returned to that land they called Vietnam a changed person. My first tour had turned me from a mere boy into a man. Some would even say a deranged man as the monster within me controlled most of my actions during that time keeping me safe. During my second tour in Vietnam, I was at odds with the monster within me as well as myself. The monster wanted to play war while all I wanted to do was to be home with Carrie in my arms.
With the sound of “CLICK Snap,” my war was over. Four men walked that jungle this night only one would walk out of it. Someone in our scouting patrol had stepped on a mine. Three brave men lost their lives that night while another walked under the jungle canopy that night mortally wounded. I should not have even been able to move let alone walk. Something inside me took over and I had but one purpose that night which was to make it back home to Carrie.
I awoke some months later from a coma in a hospital in Japan. Carrie was there waiting for me to return from the dead. However, I returned a broken man; shrapnel littered my chest, my back and legs. The doctors told Carrie and me there was a piece of shrapnel near my spine that had caused most of the damage. There was also a small piece near my heart.
“We can not remove the one near his heart and for right now it is causing him no problems and would probably kill him if we did remove it,” The doctor said. “The one at his spine we can remove but there is a chance he would be paralyzed for life in doing so,” he added.
I had him operate on me not to make me complete again. I was hoping I would die during this operation thus joining the souls of the men I lost in Vietnam. I wanted my war to be finally over however it was to become only the beginning.
I survived the operation and I would have to find another way to join my fallen comrades. I faced a major struggle in my recovery. I did not want to live and deal with what lies ahead of me which was months of therapy to regain the use of my legs and my arm. If not for Carrie being at my side, I would not be writing this today.
I tried to send her away as I was unsure if I would ever walk again. I became helpless when she was with me. I had her hand me something that I could have easily reached for with my working arm. I tried to convince her I was no longer that man she had fallen in love with years ago.
Carrie would not let me give up on myself or on us. She would move my legs with her hands daily bending them at my knees. I only sunk deeper into my own depression as well as into the darkness that surround my soul. That war had given me more than just my wounds; it had scarred my mind for life for I carried demons with me from that war, creatures that walked in the night.
Carrie went on with doing what she thought was right moving my legs daily for the next two weeks or so. The next day when she came into my room and started to exercise my legs, I by passed my heart as I unleashed the demons I carried in my soul.
“Get your damn fucking hands off my useless legs,” I yelled at her.
“John, don’t say stuff like that when you do it means you have given up hope,” Carrie replied. “Remember this always John,” “Never give up hope,” Carrie added smiling at me.
“I GAVE up on hope after hearing the click snap and it did not take my fucking life,” I screamed at her like some type of a lunatic.
Carrie looked to me with sadness in her lovely blue eyes as she said, “If you gave up on hope then you have given up on us as well, John.” “Goodbye John, I am leaving and you will never see me again,” Carrie added as she started out of the hospital room.
I watched Carrie walking toward the door. Suddenly that voice within my head that had guided me through Vietnam. The one I called the monster within spoke loudly in my head.
“SGT. J you stop that girl NOW,” the monster within said.
“CARRIE, please don’t leave me alone,” I screamed from my hospital bed.
Carrie walked back to the bed where she stroked her gentle hand against the side of my face as she said, “Hush, Hush my love or the creatures of the night will get you.”
“I am sorry Carrie, please do not ever leave me for I fear being alone,” I replied to her.
“John, as long as you have hope you are never alone.” Carrie said smiling at me.
I looked up into her lovely blue eyes. They sparkled and shined as I stared into them. Her eyes took me to our happy place by the lake. The place I went to in my mind to be with her during Vietnam.
I stared into her eyes as the gentle lapping of the waves against the shoreline filled my ears. I saw the moon dancing across the water with to many stars to count behind it. Carrie was standing there with her arms out and open waiting for me to join her as her long blonde hair blew gently in the night’s breeze.
My mind seemed to go blank until I heard the monster with in say, “SGT.J you move your leg now and that is an order SGT.”
My leg gave a jerk much to Carrie and to my surprise. I should have known better for the monster within was my friend and he had kept me alive for the last three years while in the jungles of Vietnam. He was once again helping me to survive. Carrie wrapped her arms around me as I lie in bed. I felt my left arm twitch as if it wanted to hug her back.
Carrie pulled away from me as she said, “See what a little hope can do for you.”
It was a long hard struggle almost two years but with Carrie’s help, a little hope and the monster within I walked down the aisle marrying her on June 3, 1974. Carrie finished college earning a doctoral-level degree in psychology. She wrote her term paper based on me as she tried to help me to deal with my Vietnam memories and the demons I brought back. We even started a little support group where Carrie helped me as well as other Vietnam vets who worked for us to deal with our problems.
Life was good and Carrie and I enjoyed it to the fullest. We had money and a construction company my uncle had turned over to me. We lived the lifestyle in which we grew up back in our neighborhood that being swingers. We even turned our little house on the lake into a swingers retreat. Life was good and while I was still having nightmares and flashbacks to that damn war. As long as Carrie was with me, I would survive them.
Then we gave up on swinging deciding it was time to start a family. Vision of having a family with Carrie would always fill my mind when I was doing my job in Vietnam. Thoughts like those were dangerous for one during war as I found out the hard way. I wanted Carrie as my wife and maybe three or four children running around. That was my hopes, my dreams however; all I got was a nightmare that has lasted all these years.
Carrie became pregnant near the end of September 1979. She became even more beautiful to me during that time. That woman and our unborn child had become the only thing I cared about or ever wanted.
I lost Carrie the woman I loved with my heart and soul on May 10, 1980. I never got to hold our unborn daughter Melissa as well. I cannot bear reliving that nightmare so if you seek details find them in Chapter 12 of my life story.
My life was over I could not and did not want to go on living. I did what I had done all my life I ran. I sold that house on the lake we had called home, as it was no longer like a home to me. We also owed a home in a near by town as I always worried about her being alone during the hard winters on the lake, which I did not sell, but it sat unused by anyone for many years a forgotten winter home for Carrie and our child to be safe in while I battled winter storms coming off the lake in a snowplow truck.
I told everyone I was going to fish my way out to California just to see that sunset Carrie used to tell me she enjoyed. That was my cover story for running away. I took to the bottle, drugs or anything that could take my pain away. Losing Carrie had taken everything from me, all I had left were the demons I carried with me. I no longer had any dreams or hopes for a future.
Nine or eleven months later, I decided I have had enough. I had just been in a bar fight in which I would have taken another man’s life if it was not for the ghost of Carrie stopping me. This was not the first time her ghost had visited me nor would it be her last. I returned to my hotel room with the answer to all my problems.
I sat on the edge of the bed as I picked up the 45. I chambered a round before I shoved the barrel into my mouth. My lips tasted freedom as the barrel slipped into my mouth. I closed my eyes as a vision filled my head.
The gentle lapping of the lake’s water against the shoreline filled my ears. I saw the moon as it danced across the water. The night sky had many stars shining bright too many for me to count. I saw Carrie standing there with her arms folded shaking her head back and forth.
She looked like an angel as she stood there at the waters edge the moon silhouetting her. She had a glow around her and she looked even more beautiful than I remembered her ever looking.
“Put the gun down, John,” Carrie said as she opened her arms for me motioning for me to come to her.
I went to her open arms taking her into mine. I hugged her tightly as I said, “It’s the only way to be with you my love.”
Carrie pushed me from her arms as she replied, “John, if you do that I will not wait for you.” Carrie rubbed her hand to the side of my face as she added, “Always remember John, to live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.”
Carrie started to fade away and before she was gone she said, “Remember John never give up hope and I will always be here for you just look to your heart when you need me.”
That was the first time Angel Carrie came into my life. From then on she guided me down the road we call life. I went to rehab and got my life back together. When I hit a bump in the road, I looked to my heart. Angel Carrie was soon there to guide me in the right direction. I asked Angel Carrie once during a dream just what her purpose in guiding me was.
“Others will need you and the code you follow, John,” Angel Carrie said smiling at me.
“"Truth, Honor, Bravery and the courage to take action when others do not," "To always do what is right and just," “To never give up hope,” those words filled my mind.
Those who have followed my story know I have followed and used those codes much through my life. Angel Carrie guided me to three lost souls trapped and lost within their own darkness. They were Kay, her daughter Sherri and Cathy. Really, it was two as to Cathy; I had driven her into the darkness.
I have followed these codes faithfully for 44 years never once questioning them or straying from them. In breaking one of my codes, I began to question my judgment of everything I have done in my life. Had I really helped those around me or have I only caused them more harm?
"Truth, Honor, Bravery and the courage to take action when others do not," "To always do what is right and just," “To never give up hope,” those words I would say proudly as one of the very first army ranger.
During my tours in Vietnam, I was with the Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) and Long Range Patrol companies (also known as Lurps) which began in the mid-1960s as a reactive necessity to the US Army's lack of units capable of reconnaissance behind enemy lines. On 1 January 1969, under the new U.S. Army Combat Arms Regimental System (CARS), these units turned into Rangers in South Vietnam within the 75th Infantry Regiment (Ranger). I was with the 75th during this time so I became a ranger.
Today’s rangers earn their title while men like me in Vietnam were given the title. However, we earned ours in combat. Others judged us on and by our actions as well. All of us were willing to give our life’s to stop anyone from taking or removing one’s freedom. Our actions over in Vietnam helped to train future army rangers for today’s warfare.
Those words do not seem important to me any longer. They used to mean a lot to me especially “Never give up hope.” We had added that one when I returned home from Vietnam bringing with me demons from that war. The one I broke is probably the most important one to me and one, which has had the most bearing on my life, “Never give up hope.”
Those words have echoed in my mind since the day Carrie used them at me in the hospital after my war was over. She would tell them to me and fellow Vietnam veterans back in 74 and 75. During this time, we were trying to help other vets who like me had brought demons home with them from Vietnam. She would always end our meetings we held at our little house on the lake with those words. I had always held those words close and near to my heart since that night Angel Carrie stopped me from pulling the trigger on that 45 in my mouth.
It was not just one event but also a series of events that led to breaking of the code. It all started with the Vietnam War, as you will see as the story plays out as I write it. That dam war has been a part or a player in my life for 44 years. I curse it forever happening and myself forever becoming involved with it. That dam war of long ago came back to haunt me worst than it ever had in the past.
I am writing this introduction for the benefits of any new readers to my story. It will give them an idea of what kind of person I was. For I am no longer certain if maybe those who I have had contact with are better off today or not. Thoughts of Kay, Sherri and Cathy fill my mind as well as ones of my beloved Carrie and anyone else I have had contact with might have been better off if they had never met me. I am here writing this new story due to the events that happened recently in my life that caused to me to go against my codes.
As I type, I am sitting in judgment of myself. My story does not have an ending yet as you, the reader will discover the ending as I decide upon it. The events leading up to all of this will be forth coming through the chapters that follow. I will be reliving my life through the eyes of those who lived it with me. I hope that I will see just whether those whose lives I touched are better with me or without me.
I end this introduction to my new story with a quote that I once heard.
There is a saying in Tibetan, “Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.” “No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that's our real disaster.”
― Dalai Lama XIV
The first chapter will be out on Friday afternoon following this short introduction and others chapters will follow. How many I cannot say other than as many as it takes. As always, I look forward to your comments and your emails. If nothing else just stop by and tell Sgt. J “hello again.”