Thursday, December 31, 2015


 2015 was clearly a year of growth for me. Many significant things happened that have enriched my life and clarified my path.
In addition to revealing and solidifying my relationship with my Dad, I have reconnected with more long time friends as well as welcoming many new friends and also dealt with the excess baggage I have been carrying from other relationships that were not enhancing my life. My relationships with my core family has improved and even expanded to include others and my life with my wonderful wife just gets better every day. 2016 will make it four years Ngoc and I have been together, and I have to say, I have never had a better partner in life. All of our kids are steadily progressing well and we are proud of all of them.
My first Veteran's Tour of Vietnam went very well. And I finally got my first book published after a five year delay with the next one already in the works.
I feel much more in touch this New Year and centered than ever before in my life. I am at a place where my options are almost wide open. Ngoc and I have many plans for new ventures that we hope to develop in the year ahead.
I am even more aware of all of this after the phone call I received last night.
It is funny how things happen. Ngoc and I were just entering the local Albertson’s store to pick up some chicken for dinner last night when my phone rang. It was a number from Union Point, Georgia, which I did not recognize. Normally, I might let such a call go to voice mail, especially after receiving so many unwanted calls lately, like political or solicitation calls, but I decided to answer it.
“Hello. I would like to talk to Skip Nelson please” said the clear, articulate voice on the other end of the line. “This is Skip Nelson” I said. He continued, “I am Stephen ________ and I am calling concerning my older brother, who is a Vietnam Veteran. Our mother recently passed away and I have been left in charge of care for my brother. Since returning from Vietnam, he has been troubled and reclusive. I just took him to the doctor for the first time in 45 years. He will not speak and avoids contact with anyone. He was stationed in Quy Nhon and I found your organization and your name on the internet. I am very sorry to bother you but I was hoping that you could give me some back ground that would help me understand better what he went through and why he might be in this condition. I hope you can help.”
Hook taken and set.
I asked Stephen to call me back in an hour when I was at home, which he did, and we talked at length. He told me he had gone to the trouble of obtaining all of his brother’s medical and military records from the Army Records Center, he had contacted the Veteran’s Administration and had gotten his brother “in the system” for care and evaluation. I commended him for doing what he was doing. What a remarkable act in the name of love.
Talking to Stephen, I got very emotional. At times, I found it hard to speak and tears welled up in my eyes. My emotions were both of sadness and happiness and uplifting of spirit.
My sadness was triggered by the condition of his brother, who has suffered for over 40 years, alone and without relief. My happiness and uplifting of spirit were triggered by the overwhelming sense of brotherly love and understanding that this young man was showing for his older, troubled brother and his mission to seek solutions to help him. That is what being a brother and family is all about. Sadly, many do not understand this. Many throw blame and insults. Still fewer will be like Stephen and actually do something to help. He doesn't have to.
There are way too many of these cases. Some people, although they are physically present never “came home”. It is still happening today, from Iraq and Afganistan. If we can afford to spend billions to fight wars, we should be able to spend enough to help those who fought them when they are in need.
I asked him to email me some of his brother’s records so I could get a better idea of what the circumstances were that may have caused his condition and that hopefully, together, we could do something that would help bring his brother home. Stephen agreed and we will be talking again soon. I am determined to do all I can to help bring this "brother" home.
What a wonderfully spiritual way to end the year………and to start another. I will probably never refuse another phone call.
Happy New Year everyone!!!! Broaden your horizons. Enhance your understanding. Break down walls. Enrich your lives and those around you. It is our job to lift people up, not push people down.
Don’t forget to reach out when you have an opportunity.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Happy Holidays.....

The period from November through February has traditionally been a time of celebration for every religion or culture.

It started over 6,000 years ago with the celebration of the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, which occurs on December 21.

The “Holiday Season” as we know it, has many holidays, some of which are celebrated for a week or more.

Islamic New Year is celebrated anywhere from late September until late December.

Thanksgiving is celebrated the last Thursday in November by most, regardless of religious beliefs.

Bodhi Day is a Buddhist holiday celebrated on December 8, which is the day when the Buddha attained enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree.

The Jewish holiday of Hanukah also falls during the “Holiday Season, this year begins on December 6 and goes until December 14.

Christmas, the celebration of Jesus’ birthday, which actually occurred originally sometime in March or April, was originally incorporated into the Winter Solstice celebration and is now celebrated on December 25.

The African holiday Kwanzaa is celebrated from December 26 until January 1.

Japanese New Year, Shogatsu, is celebrated from December 28 until January 5.

The Hindu holiday, Lohri, also a solstice celebration, is celebrated on January 13.

Lunar New Year is celebrated usually in the month of January, next year on February 8 and goes for two weeks.

Holidays in this time of year are traditionally viewed as a way to celebrate the end of the year and looking forward to a new year; a time of reflection and rebirth.

This is a spiritual time for all people, even those who are not religious.

Personally, I have been wishing everyone “Happy Holidays” since the early 1960’s, when I realized that many of my friends did not celebrate Christmas as I did. I have always considered it an act of inclusion and respect.

I do not know the conditions where others live, but I know that saying “Merry Christmas” in my world is just as popular as ever. I have never seen anyone being told not to say it. It seems to me that if you are secure in your beliefs, diversity should not bother you.

I do think, however, as we get more educated in the diverse culture that we have here in America, more people are showing respect to all people, and have adapted to the more inclusive term of “Happy Holidays”.

Many businesses, whose main goal is to attract a customer base and make money, have switched to using “Happy Holidays” as a way to sell more stuff to those who do not celebrate Christmas. I thought all those who claim “Christmas is being stolen” or somehow destroyed or depleted, love business and making money.

It does not bother me one bit.

I prefer to be inclusive. I prefer to respect all people’s beliefs and do not attempt to impose my beliefs on others.

The “War on Christmas” is a hoax. It does not exist. It is distracting you from the more important issues of our day.

Do not be mislead.

Have a Wonderful Holiday Season, no matter what your beliefs!!!

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Silent Trauma of Veterans

I guess it is no secret by now, to most people who know me, that "Patriotic Holidays" like Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day affect me very differently than many other people. 

I am also fully aware of the fact that I am not alone in these feelings. I know many veterans who suffer from the same kind of feelings. Most of those I know do. 

Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day have always been extremely hard for me due to the intense feelings of the injustice, sadness and tragedy that wars present that I carry with me to this day..……especially a war in which we should not have been involved in and where so many on each side died or suffered unnecessarily like in Vietnam of which I am a veteran. Many of us still have vivid visions of the situations we witnessed, the people and how it affected them on both sides……especially the children. 

The seemingly obligatory observation of these “Days of Remembrance” gives no consideration to the injustice and criminal aspects of war and what we, as military personnel, are asked to carry out and experience in the name of “Freedom”………which since WWII, could be more realistically described as “protecting Corporate interests abroad”……with the expense of such ventures then being passed on to the US taxpayers. And we should not forget that it is often the poor and underprivileged that fight these wars while the wealthy and privileged sit on their asses. And of course, let us not forget the massive Pentagon budget that hands over billions of dollars every year to projects by “private government contractors” related to war.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower, himself a former “General of the Armies” in Europe during WWII, who saw the horrors of war, warned the county in his famous farewell speech in 1961, “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”  (

“Perpetual War” is a recently coined term created by, ironically, those that practice it, that describes the current condition of international military involvement. The U. S. has not won a “war” since 1945, a fact which seems to validate this ominous claim. There is no profit in peace.

While many try to forget or ignore the reality of war and celebrate the historical illusion, I, and many other veterans of combat like me, have no choice and on these “Days of Remembrance” are reminded once again of the injustices that have been cast upon our military by a nation that most often chooses to look the other way. 

What makes it worse for many of us veterans is that we are silenced by society. We, as veterans, get shamed into never questioning it. If we are bold enough and choose to do so, we are branded as ‘Unpatriotic” or “Not supporting the troops”, which only adds to our PTSD. 

We all deal with these feelings in different ways. Alcohol. Drugs. Anger. Depression. Anxiety. Sadness. Relationship issues. Some are not affected openly or mask it using other methods, but, for most of us, it is all too real. 

Oh……I support the troops. Of course I do. I was one once. 

My problem is I don’t like them being used like expendable commodities by insensitive politicians and impersonal corporations as fodder and then, when they come home, dirty, broken and in need of help……they are ignored by the very same people who initially embraced them with public displays of support and then sent them off to do their dirty work. If you can afford to go to war, you can afford to take care of those who fought on your behalf when they return and ask for help. 

I am not anti-American. I am not anti-military. I am not anti-troops. I am anti-injustice.

So, before you question our comments, statements or attitudes, take time to realize that there are more perspectives than the one which you possess. If we don’t seem to embrace your comments about “Our Service”…..please understand that many of us are not particularly proud of what we did. If you really want to honor “Our Service”, support politicians who support programs for veterans by increasing funding instead of taking it away. 

Remembering living veterans who still suffer the horrors of war is just as important, if not more, as remembering those veterans who no longer do so. 

So……if we don’t share your enthusiasm, please understand and respect it. We have a very different aspect of what war really is. 

Skip Nelson
Vietnam 1967-68