Howard B. Patrick’s A Never-Ending Battle: How Vietnam Changed Me Forever (CreateSpace, 208 pp., $10.99, paper) is a classic account of how combat in the Vietnam War resulted in many years of post-traumatic stress disorder that adversely affected his life.This book is a basic primer for anyone unfamiliar with what the combat experience was like for veterans who served in the Vietnam War. But more importantly, Patrick published his book to help other veterans suffering from PTSD, as well as to provide their families with information, advice, and support.
Howard Patrick was a highly trained IBM computer technician when he received his draft notice in 1967. Of course, the Army ignored those skills and sent him to NCO school. Then came orders to Vietnam, where Patrick was placed in a 1st Cav Division infantry unit—Echo Recon of the 1st of the 5th—as a “new boot” squad leader.
Sgt. Patrick soon was thrust into several heavy combat, which he describes in great detail. After six months with Echo Recon, his platoon walked into an NVA ambush and half of the men were casualties, including the platoon sergeant and platoon leader. Patrick was then named platoon sergeant.
When a shiny new West Point graduate captain ordered Patrick to resume the attack with the remaining exhausted soldiers, he refused. Two weeks later, Patrick was transferred to the 2d Brigade Civil Affairs unit in An Loc. His new duties included Psyops air missions, leaflet distribution, and live audio broadcasts from the air to try to repatriate Viet Cong. Other duties included Medcaps and humanitarian and recreational activities.
Howard Patrick left the Army after serving in Vietnam and returned to his old position at IBM. But he had changed, and over the years his behavior became increasingly dysfunctional.
His PTSD began with repressed memories of the war surfacing in nightmares of a helicopter crash he’d survived. Then the flashbacks started. Road rage and panic attacks came next. Patrick’s work efficiency decreased and he began job hopping, eventually filing for bankruptcy. He suffered constant feelings of anxiety and hopelessness, culminating in an unsuccessful suicide attempt, which he hoped would provide a $100,000 insurance benefit to his wife who had stuck with him through it all.
Patrick’s road to recovery from PTSD started when another 1st Cav veteran urged him to get help at a Vet Center. From there, the author progressed to involvement in VA treatment over several years. Patrick lists the complete list of PTSD symptoms—he had most of them. He eventually received 100 percent service-connected disability for PTSD.
This book should be required reading for war veterans wondering if their dysfunctional, erratic behaviors might be due to PTSD. What’s more, every mental health professional who has ever treated (or could ever have) a veteran as a client, also should read this book.
The author’s website is http://howardpatrick.weebly.com
—James P. Coan