A remnant of my father hangs in my closet; a beautifully-made, army-issue sweater that he wore while serving as an army mechanic during the Vietnam War. Francis was considered fortunate to be stationed in Germany from 1965-1967. No bombs exploding in combat, no Viet Kong around every corner or behind every bush. My father was nervously excited about the adventure and felt he could stomach the jeers from those whose lottery took them directly into active harm because he was fortunate that his deployment would most-likely allow him a return trip home at its end.
He was a charming product of his era with unlimited opportunity and perhaps a natural victim of situation with a self-destructive nature limiting his fulfillment in this life.
I have little memorabilia from my childhood and my father’s life. This brown, button-down, V-neck sweater is made of tightly knit wool. The buttons are an understated dark brown with an odd gold button replacing the bottom fastener. I always thought it represented a masculine style and my dad’s general panache; he was a man who cleaned up well. As I consider the man who wore the sweater, I reconsider my sentimentality and appreciate that this Kamgar military-issue sweater with its serviceable, well-made qualities is mostly a representation of fine raw materials and not an elevated ideal.
A twenty-one-year-old Francis wore this sweater in chilly West German weather, he learned a mechanical trade, he developed friendships, socialized with his peers, and experienced military drug trials that would alter his reality and possibly led to his untimely death. He returned to the United States, married, had four children, lost six possible children to miscarriage, was a party to a tumultuous marriage, held a laborer job, and led a seemingly tortured existence that became less and less social with every passing year. He appeared to find connection and some level of peace communing with nature. He taught me how to find edible wintergreen in the woods and how to meet basic survival needs through nature.
His psychotic break at age 39 was considered abnormally late in life. Research suggests that drug test subjects of military trials from my dad’s service era have experienced these kind of effects.
Hi untimely death in 2005—before reaching the age of 60–concluded a dozen years of seclusion following attempts to live with and treat his schizophrenia.
This CNN article touches on trials, their effects, and the implied consent of military participants. Human Test Subjects
Mediaroots.org provides a preliminary analysis of evidentiary substance supporting the premise of the work Jacob’s Ladder. BZ and Secret U.S. Government Experimentation
My father, as the Kamgar sweater that remains, was well-made of fine raw materials. Circumstance corrupted his service to himself and others.
Do you know of anyone with a similar life experience? What became of their life’s path?