Thursday, February 28, 2013

Life At 64 – The Adventure Continues

With Debbie in Idaho in 2012

I turn 64 today. It was suggested to me that I create a “bucket list.” I politely told the person that I didn’t need a bucket list. I’ve done just about everything I could desire to do in life.

No, it hasn’t been perfect. Whether alone or with Debbie, my wonderful wife of almost forty years, I have spent the last six plus decades walking the challenging path we call life. We have known success, failure, and success again. We have endured challenges, painful loss, and bittersweet times, but through it all we have endured with a philosophy of never giving up on life or each other.

I don’t need a bucket list. I am indeed proud to say that I managed to graduate from college, become an Army paratrooper and Ranger, serve in two wars, survive the bullets, mortars, or rockets directed at me, climb tall mountains, cross raging rivers, walk through jungles in Asia filled with both men and animals that could kill me, traverse deserts in the Middle East also filled with both men and animals that could kill me, jump out of perfectly good airplanes, ride a surfboard at dawn, scuba-dive in the ocean with sharks and in freshwater springs with alligators, survive the crash landing of an airplane, own a business, put a lot of bad guys in jail as a cop (and help a few good guys along the way), start a scholarship fund to honor a fellow police officer’s memory, write a book, live in the best country on earth, have the greatest parents and sister anyone could ask for, marry the finest woman in the world, father four beautiful children, and live to see my wonderful grandchildren. I didn't do everything right, but I hope the pluses are more than the minuses.

I have no right to ask for more than God has given me so far. I only wish to spend as much quality time with Debbie as I can. We have been blessed to retire together.

I received the following email from a good friend. We both grew up in Orlando in the fifties and sixties, and we now find ourselves on the far side of the hill of life. We don’t plan to cash in our chips any time soon, but it is easier to see the end of the game somewhere down the road:

“Yes, I have regrets. There are things I wish I hadn't done...things I should have done, but indeed, there are many things I'm happy to have done. It's all in a lifetime.

If you're not in your winter yet, let me remind you that it will be here faster than you think. So, whatever you would like to accomplish in your life please do it quickly! Don't put things off too long! Life goes by quickly. Do what you can today, as you can never be sure whether this is your winter or not!

You have no promise that you will see all the seasons of your life, so live for today and say all the things that you want your loved ones to remember, and hope that they appreciate and love you for all the things that you have done for them in all the years past!

'Life' is a gift to you. The way you live your life is your gift to those who come after. Make it a fantastic one. Live it well, enjoy today, do something fun, be happy, travel everywhere, and have a great day. Remember that it is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver. Live happy in 2013!

Lastly, consider the following:

  • Today is the oldest you’ve ever been, yet the youngest you’ll ever be, so enjoy this day while it lasts.
  • Your kids are becoming you, but your grandchildren are perfect!
  • Going out is good; coming home is better!
  • You forget names.... But it's okay because other people forgot they even knew you!
  • You realize you're never going to be really good at things like golf.
  • The things you used to care to do, you no longer care to do, but you really do care that you don't care to do them anymore.
  • You sleep better on a lounge chair with the TV blaring than in bed. It's called 'pre-sleep.'
  • You miss the days when everything worked with just an 'ON' and 'OFF' switch.
  • You tend to use more 4 letter words ... 'what?'...'when?'...
  • Now that you can afford expensive jewelry, it's not safe to wear it anywhere.
  • You notice everything they sell in stores is 'sleeveless.'
  • What used to be freckles are now liver spots.
  • Everybody whispers.
  • You have 3 sizes of clothes in your closet, two of which you will never wear.
  • But old is good in some things: old songs, old movies, and best of all, OLD FRIENDS!
Stay well, 'OLD FRIEND!' Send this on to other 'Old Friends!' and let them laugh in AGREEMENT!

It's not what you gather, but what you scatter that tells what kind of life you have lived.”

Thanks to my friend for his wisdom. Thanks to my family and friends for their support and love. Thanks to you for taking the time to read an old man’s musings.

Thanks to God for this life....

Charles M. Grist

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Home From The War: Army Sergeant Surprises Sons

You can never get tired of these reunion videos. Get the tissues out:


From The Blaze:


U.S. Army Sgt. Chris Page had been away from his two sons for roughly a year serving in Afghanistan. On Tuesday of last week, Hunter Dodd and Chandler Pittman got their dad back in a tearful reunion at a school assembly.

See the full story and the video here:

You can also watch more of these great videos at the Welcome Home Blog.

Posted by
Charles M. Grist
Author of the award-winning book My Last War: A Vietnam Veteran's Tour in Iraq

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Army Staff Sergeant To Receive The Medal Of Honor

Staff Sergeant Clinton Romesha

The White House has announced that Staff Sergeant Clinton Romesha, 31, will be awarded the Medal of Honor for “acts of gallantry” during a battle for Combat Outpost Keating in Afghanistan on October 3, 2009.

A large enemy force of some three hundred fighters attacked the base with rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns, mortars and rifles. During the battle, which lasted a full day, Romesha inspired other soldiers with his courage, personal example and leadership.

He killed several enemy troops, was wounded, and still developed a plan to secure major parts of the base. Romesha exposed himself to enemy fire and continued to eliminate enemy positions. He also directed air support that resulted in the destruction of a large enemy force, and he led other soldiers forward to recover wounded and dead American troops. A total of eight Americans were killed.

According to journalist Jake Tapper in his book “The Outpost,” Romesha is “an intense guy, short and wiry.” Tapper said that Romesha was the son of a Mormon church leader.

Charles M. Grist
Author of the award-winning book My Last War: A Vietnam Veteran’s Tour in Iraq

Thursday, February 7, 2013

War Veterans And PTSD

First Lieutenant Chuck Grist
Shortly before Christmas, 1970 , Northeast of Saigon
In three weeks, I will turn 64. I retired from the Army Reserve in 2009 (with service in Iraq as well as Vietnam). In 2010, I retired after twenty years as a police officer.

Back in 1970, I arrived in Vietnam as a twenty-one-year-old Army Ranger lieutenant. I would serve as an infantry platoon leader in combat where I would experience the deaths of men I knew as well as participate in the killing of the enemy soldiers who wanted to kill us.

Every day was lived on "red alert" where you were ready for something terrible to happen. When there was no action, there was the threatening silence of the jungle around you that was filled with bad guys. Who wouldn't remember most of this, no matter how long ago it happened?

Before you read the article below on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), check out this LINK to an article about the general statistics of Vietnam veterans. You will probably be surprised, and you will also learn that the guy with the work for food sign at the overpass is probably NOT a Vietnam veteran.

I encourage my fellow Vietnam veterans, my fellow post-9/11 veterans, or the veterans of any war to seek help if you need it. You are my brothers and sisters and I care about you.

No veteran of any war can escape the curse of the memories, those ghosts that often come to you in the dark of night. Some can handle the memories just fine, but others cannot.

As a poster in the local Veteran's Administration clinic says, "It takes the strength of a warrior to ask for help."

The following article from Stars and Stripes talks about retiring Vietnam veterans like me and the possibility that PTSD might rise from the shadows even forty years after the war:

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Retirement might unleash PTSD symptoms in Vietnam veterans

By Leo Shane III
Stars and Stripes
June 20, 2012

WASHINGTON — It took Sam Luna more than 35 years to get treatment for his post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I didn’t realize anything was wrong,” the combat-wounded Vietnam veteran said. “I thought I had adjusted well after I came back. I had a job, I had a family, everything looked great from the outside.”
But shortly after he retired in 2004, his anxiety attacks and stress levels increased. A trip to his local Veterans Affairs hospital triggered war memories. The former soldier started to notice the hair-trigger temper his wife had complained about for years.
He found himself thinking more often about the war — and the friends he lost.
“It was like I had a black box on the mantel for years, but I could ignore it when I left for work every day,” he said. “When I retired, it was still sitting there, waiting for me.”
Mental health experts say that kind of delayed trauma isn’t unusual. Major life events such as retirement often trigger personal reassessment and forgotten memories.
But for Vietnam veterans who returned decades ago to a harsh reception and limited mental health options, that could mean a new wave of stress and serious psychological issues as their generation enters retirement age.
The average age of a Vietnam vet is 65 years old. More than 5 million of the nation’s more than 7 million Vietnam-era veterans are between 60 and 70 years old, according to data from the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics.
An additional 1 million are expected to turn 60 within the next five years.
“A lot of people coped with the traumatic experiences in war by throwing themselves into work when they got home,” said Tom Berger, director of the health council at Vietnam Veterans of America. “Now, after being a workaholic for 40 years, they suddenly don’t have that structure in their life anymore. I expect there will be more and more folks seeking out help for those issues.”
But Berger and other veterans advocates worry that if there is a flood of new cases, the already struggling VA mental health system won’t be able to handle it.
In retrospect, Luna said, his PTSD should have been obvious.
His wife, Gloria, said after he returned from Vietnam, the 22-year-old soldier never spoke about the war or his injury. He punched walls when he got angry. He stewed in silence over things that caused him stress, and he lashed out at her and their children when it became too much.
“I knew he was different, but I figured that just happens when men come back from war,” she said.
For his part, Luna said he just “forgot” everything he saw overseas. He blocked out the stress of patrols in hostile areas, the men who got hit by sniper fire and the snare trap that shot a wooden spike through his right leg.
Once he was well enough to do so, he found work with the Texas criminal justice system as a probation officer and threw himself into his career.
“I just didn’t want to deal with that stuff,” he said. “I didn’t think there was anything I needed to deal with.”
John Edwards, a rifleman who was entering Vietnam the same year Luna was leaving, said he saw the same pattern in his war experience. After two years of violent scenes and close calls, he just wanted to return home to a “normal” life. He found success in a series of technology firms. He was diagnosed only recently — more than 40 years after his return — with PTSD.
“I didn’t feel right, and someone told me I should go in [to the VA] and talk with someone,” he said. “It wasn’t about getting benefits for me. It was about getting help.”
He’s getting that help now. Berger said it’s a common story heard by those at Vietnam Veterans of America, one that shows the need for mental health services for all ages.
But he worries an influx of cases like his could overburden the VA medical system.
“They just don’t have the resources to handle that,” he said.
Last year, more than 476,000 veterans received treatment for PTSD from VA hospitals and clinics, up dramatically from about 272,000 in fiscal 2006.
Iraq and Afghanistan veterans make up a large portion of that increase but still account for only about one-fifth of all PTSD patients. More than half of the new cases come from earlier wars.
In response to the demand, VA officials have added almost 7,000 new mental health specialists in the last six years. But in April, the VA inspector general sharply criticized department officials for overly optimistic estimates on wait times for mental health appointments.
Fewer than half of patients requesting an initial evaluation were seen within two weeks, and many facilities took months to schedule even basic visits.
VA officials have promised changes, vowing to hire 1,600 new mental health professionals nationwide and to fill 1,500 existing open positions across the country.
Dr. Matthew Friedman, executive director of the VA’s National Center for PTSD, said officials haven’t begun preparing for a wave of retiring Vietnam veterans seeking mental health care.
In the past, they have issued alerts around anniversaries or other large public events that might trigger war flashbacks — when the movie “Saving Private Ryan” was released, for example — about the possibility of new patients, but studies haven’t shown a significant jump in therapy visits following those markers.
“But anecdotally, I can tell you I’ve seen a lot of veterans [following notable dates or events] who just want to talk informally with someone,” he said. “We know anniversaries are important, and they evoke a lot of memories.”
The Defense Department last month launched its 50th anniversary commemoration of the Vietnam War, pushing those veterans’ experiences and memories to the forefront again.
Barbara Van Dahlen, founder of the nonprofit counseling organization Give an Hour, said the combination of that and the veterans’ ages create a “perfectly normal” situation for mental health issues to resurface.
“I don’t want to suggest that all of these veterans will need professional help,” she said. “But it’s a situation where the memories and the emotions are bubbling up. For some, it’ll be a conversation with their children or their wife, sharing things they wanted to before didn’t feel like they could. Some will need more help. The important thing to know is that it’s normal and important to address those issues, and not just to shove it away again.”
Veterans of Foreign Wars deputy director Gerald Manar, a Vietnam veteran, noted that he saw more visitors to the Vietnam Wall on Memorial Day last month. It wasn’t just veterans either, he said. Many families were there, asking questions and listening to stories.
“Vietnam veterans were slapped with a lot of unfair labels when they came home,” Manar said. “Millions went off to war, served with distinction and honor, and then came back to be major contributors to the middle class. But that doesn’t mean they dealt with everything.”
Friedman said from a treatment perspective, the age or combat era of a mental health patient doesn’t really matter.
“PTSD is PTSD,” he said, noting that recent advances in treating younger vets can be easily translated to older generations.
Luna, who is in counseling with the VA to deal with his PTSD, works with Vets’ Journey Home Texas, running weekend therapy retreats for veterans of all eras. They mainly work with younger veterans, in the hopes they can deal with their war traumas more quickly and more definitively than the older generations. But he said he’s also started hearing from a large number of Vietnam veterans who have just retired.
Said Luna: “America has no idea what the Vietnam vets are still going through.”
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Charles M. Grist
Author of the award-winning book My Last War: A Vietnam Veteran's Tour in Iraq

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Navy SEAL Sniper Chris Kyle Murdered – Authored The Best-Selling Book “American Sniper”

Navy SEAL Chris Kyle

The most lethal sniper in American history, Chris Kyle, has been murdered in Texas while helping an ex-soldier suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Kyle and another man were shot and killed.

Chris was a former Navy SEAL and the bestselling author of the book “American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S.Military History.” He was killed at the Rough Creek Lodge gun range in Texas on Saturday.

The suspect, Eddie Ray Routh, allegedly stole Kyle’s car and fled the scene. He was captured by police after a pursuit and after he rammed a police vehicle. He will be charged with murder.

Kyle served four tours of duty in Iraq. He also had 160 kills as a Navy SEAL, according to NBC DFW reports.  According to the Stephenville Empire-Tribune, his longest successful shot was to take out an insurgent with a rocket launcher 2,100 yards away.

Kyle was also known for his confrontation with Jesse Ventura when he said he punched Ventura in the face.

Chris Kyle was married and the father of two.

When interviewed by, here is what Kyle had to say about Obama's proposed gun control measures and other issues:

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Chris’s family, friends, and fellow warriors.

Charles M. Grist
Author of the award-winning book My Last War: A Vietnam Veteran’s Tour in Iraq