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This week's Chicagoan: Dennis Dobrydnia, Vietnam-era vet

"They just spent a year in a place most 'em damn near almost died in, and now they’re gonna take orders from a guy who’s gonna make sure they’re sweeping the floors."

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A first-person account from off the beaten track, as told to Anne Ford.

"What happened is, I got shell-shocked. I got to Da Nang, and my second day in—I just got issued all my gear—they mortared the compound. I was bleeding from the eyes, the nose, the ears. When I woke up, I could not hear. I still have this constant real bad ringing in my ears. The bright side of it is, I never got hit by no shrapnel.

"I found myself in a MASH unit, and then flown out to Germany. After that, I was sent back to the States. I jumped a regular 747 out of Frankfurt. Back then you had to wear your Class A dress uniform to travel. I remember I got off in Columbia, South Carolina, and there was three little hippie girls, and these three little girls came over and spit on me. Spit right in my face.

"I hate to say this, but I'm gonna: it was almost like you were ashamed.

"I got down to Fort Bliss, Texas, and I was a platoon sergeant. I was in charge of about 140-some people who were just back from Vietnam. They just spent a year in a place most 'em damn near almost died in, and now they're gonna take orders from a guy who's gonna make sure they're sweeping the floors. Which was not a good idea. I got jumped by six men right inside the PX because I turned two of 'em in for being AWOL—which I had no choice to do, because they didn't want to get their lazy slug asses out of bed.

"I got out August 30, 1972. I became a millwright, and after that I became a line production manager. I had a fall, and I was so disabled I was laid up for six years and had 17 surgeries. The next person who's gonna cut on me is gonna be during my autopsy. I'm a counselor for the VA now.

"The PTSD—I've always had problems with it. You get into these anger modes. The week before last, I was sound asleep, and I must have been having one of them dreams. The dog jumped in the bed. And I'm telling you, I was standing up straight, and I had the dog held out in front of me before I even knew what I was doing.

"I go to the National University of Health Sciences clinic in Lombard, where they have free acupuncture for veterans with PTSD. I'm amazed at the relief I get. I can't tell you how remarkably better I am for at least a day or two afterward. Whatever they're doing, it does work.

"I probably have at least 35 veterans that I see that are going there, and they all get some value out of what's being done for them. As a matter of fact, I got one guy that three months ago, I called him Grouchy Ass. But the guy is forever smiling now."

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