KNOTTS ISLAND, N.C. — My friends and neighbors removed me from my family when I was about 25 years old – they drafted me – and changed my life.
Once I was in the Army, it became obvious that whether drafted or volunteer, we were all equal “targets.”
The knowledge I acquired from this short time in the Army led me to a long and rewarding life. Most of my decisions today can be traced in some way to things I saw and learned in the Army. I learned the importance of respect, teamwork, family, patriotism and God.
I recommend service to all youth. It will prepare you for life and make you a better citizen.
My military tenure was short. I served in Vietnam. I wanted to pursue a military career, but I needed to return to my family, which was suffering financially. It is family first. Always.
After fulfilling my tour of duty, a “big iron bird” – an airplane – took me home to my family. Life was very difficult at first. The Vietnam War was unpopular, and some citizens treated us terribly.
My wife and I wanted to raise our kids in the country and get away from people in general. We moved to the “end of the known planet,” Knotts Island, and became part of a community that included people all the way to Pungo. Country folk are wonderful.
My bride and I raised two sons who served our country in the Army and Coast Guard and a daughter who became a firefighter. I was blessed with a hard-working wife – now of 49 years – who gives her all to our family, our community and our country.
Exposure to war had given me a type “A” personality, and I needed excitement. So, I answered the call of the local fire department and rescue squad. I was reluctant to join because I had seen enough death and trauma in the military, but I was needed by the community. So I joined.
The fire and rescue service fulfilled my need for excitement and to serve and protect. The citizens honored me with the position of fire chief, and I became a certified paramedic. The fire and EMS service is an education that never ends. I was motivated by serving people of my community and my nation, and I was a happy camper.
Thirty seven years in fire and emergency medical services, both paid and volunteer, plus the exposure to more horrors gave me a second case of post traumatic stress disorder, that included the horrors of abused children and babies suffering from addicted parents. I also experienced many personal major trauma injuries that were job related. I had spent a lifetime helping others, and now I have become disabled from my injuries. Each of these illnesses or injuries is like a badge of honor as they represent the unselfish act of serving our citizens of our country .
The military exposed me to war and its victims. I saw firsthand the unmerciful effects of communism and man’s cruelty to other humans. Evil can be very creative. I also met many beautiful Vietnamese people who loved their families and country and shared many of our same family values and needs. These people were victims caught in the middle, and all they wanted was peace and freedom.
I was crushed when the politicians in our country abandoned the Vietnamese and left them to the communists that placed them in forced labor camps and either starved them to death or killed them. The Vietnamese citizens had no treatment for the effects of Agent Orange, which included birth defects. I will always be bitter about what the American politicians did to millions of South Vietnamese army personnel and civilians. It is shameful.
It took a while to realize that I had brought home a bad case of PTSD. I could be a very mean person without realizing the consequences of my actions upon others. I also had the effects of Agent Orange, the herbicide sprayed to kill the jungle and protect us. I have suffered from diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease and dysfunctional foot and ankle. These are reminders of the price of freedom.
My brother helped me seek treatment. Eventually I was declared 100 percent disabled. However, I consider myself to be blessed so very much. This is America and it is my home and where I choose to live. I know what a third world country is like, and I am so richly blessed to be an American. I defend the rights of those that have done wrong to me and my family and our country. Mom said “love the sinner; hate the sin.” I now live a happy Christian life.
I now have many, many brothers and sisters in arms that I love and respect even though we may not know each other. We are all military brothers and sisters with like values, and we can love, trust and respect each other.
I also have many firefighter brothers and sisters all across the world but, most of all I have am blessed with so very many Christian brothers and sisters.
I turned 75 years old this year. I am surprised I remember so much. I am likewise surprised that I can openly speak out about something that I kept silent inside of me so long. I pray that this message may help my other brothers in fire, EMS, police, all branches of public safety, the military and those innocent victims of domestic trauma to seek help. PTSD is real, and the first step is admitting that something is wrong. Then get help.
God bless, and have a good day.
King lives in Knotts Island, N.C.
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