My name is Charles Alexander Wentworth.* That's a lot of name for a piece of shit like me. I am 72 years old and been living out here for close to 20 years now. I used to be a doctor if you can believe that. A damned good one at that. At first, being a doctor was kind of glamorous.
I fixed the broken arms of future Joe DiMaggio's. I kissed little girl's scraped knees and made them feel better. I was well respected in the community and had the admiration of just about anyone I met as long as I wore a white coat and stethoscope. Then I went to Nam.
I had seen death before. You can't be a doctor and not see death, but I had never seen death to this magnitude. I had never willingly killed anyone before either. In the role of medic, I unwillingly became God. Making decisions in the blink of an eye that cut me to the quick. The hurt my very being. In battlefield situations, sometimes the wounds are so grave, that to attempt treatment is to deny care to those who might yet live. The man is lost - a casualty before he even stops breathing. Then it becomes an act of mercy.
I knew what everyone was thinking. I was a sonfoabitch. If I masked misery as mercy and ended a life, I was being cruel. If I let them endure pain and terror of seeing their entrails lying on the ground beside them, wasn't I being even more cruel? I couldn't live with the decisions because no matter what I did, I was wrong. No matter what I did, I was being cruel.
I tried being a doctor in the real world again. The world without human carnage, Napalm, and the stench of burning flesh. But I couldn't do it. Each time an ambulance came through those doors, all I saw was the pieces of the men I couldn't put back together again. Physician heal thyself was not a concept I could wrap my head around. How could I kiss anybody else owie and make them better again if I couldn't do it for myself?
So I took the chicken shit way out. At least that's the way my family saw it. I didn't want my wife to have to put up with night terrors for the rest of her life. I didn't want my children to see their father fall apart right before their eyes. I walked away from it all. I walked away from my practice, my friends, my family. I even walked away from God. Oh I still believe he's there. I just think now he's the sonofabitch.
They label it PTSD. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I think it should stand for 'Put This Sonofabitch Down'. You see I'm dying. I began dying on that field in Nam and He cannot be merciful enough to end my life. I don't have the guts to put a gun to my head and pull the trigger, so I am killing myself slowly but surely with booze, drugs, cigarettes. One of them has got to do the trick sooner or later.
"It is now the moment to recall what our country has done for each of us, and to ask ourselves what we can do for our counry in return." ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
*Out of respect to Mr. Wentowrth we have changed his name for the purpose of this story.