Interview with Jeff Bramblett, Part 6
This audio interview details Jeff Bramblett’s time with the U.S. Coast Guard during the Vietnam War. In this segment, Bramblett discusses how his service affected his family and also talks about the challenges of returning home.
WONGSRICHANALAI: How did your service influence or affect your family at home?
BRAMBLETT: I was the first in my family. I had four brothers and I was the first one … I was the youngest one and I was also the first one to go to war. It was extremely hard on my parents. My mother and father, when I came back … I will never forget my father saying something to me. We … I was having a very hard time assimilating back into what was going on. I … When I landed in San Francisco when I was coming back most of the people on my aircraft were one Army unit and there was only five of us that went to San Francisco International Airport and that was at about two o’clock in the morning. I was … I’d gotten my ticket and had like forty-five minutes to wait and I went to a bar. I just … I just wanted to have a drink and just sit there. I didn’t want to talk to anybody. I had my uniform on. My sea bag, same thing as a duffle bag, that had all my uniforms and some civilian clothes in it had been stored in a … what’s called a Conex Box, a big metal box. Well during a mortar attack, it had gotten some holes in it, and the rain … because the monsoon … it seemed like it never stopped raining … It had rotted and I didn’t have anything except my jungle fatigues that I had on. And I had saved one pair to have to take to take back with me because I knew from talking to the other guys that once you got back to the States, if you had a set of jungle fatigues, you’d never be issued another pair because they didn’t wear the same type of fatigue in the United States. I had earned a black beret and I had my beret. I had six ribbons, a bar that they had just handed to me and said “Here, this is part of the ribbons and medals that you’ve earned. You will receive the rest of them when you get to your next base.” I had those on and a man and his wife, girlfriend, whatever had started calling me a baby killer and a lot of other things and they wound up … She spit on me first and I just pushed her away. She’d gotten almost up in her face and I just pushed her away and her boyfriend, husband, whatever … He then spit on me and swung at me and I proceeded to hurt him a little bit. There was a policeman showed up. He told me to go down and told me where my gate was. He said, “You go down there. There’s a bar down there.” He said, “I’ll radio another guy to tell him that you’re down there.” There wasn’t hardly anyone in the airport. It was two, two-thirty in the morning and he then arrested these two people but it was like you were a leper the way you were … People would look at you when they … I mean I came back to a little small town in Northeast Texas and yet people I had known my whole life wouldn’t speak to me. They … I went to a VFW and I had a couple of guys that had been in Korea tell me I wasn’t … I couldn’t be there because I hadn’t actually been at war because Vietnam was never a declared war. They didn’t have the right to tell me that. The bartender, one of the people that was actually a member of the VFW, were nice to me but I had already reached the point of I wanted nothing to do with anybody at that time. At that time, they still didn’t know about post-traumatic stress disorder and that’s part of my hundred percent disability is caused by being … Post-traumatic … PTSD. Also, got a lot of Agent Orange, which is an herbicide that’s 2,4-D. Our water supply, the filtration system, didn’t have any way of taking that herbicide out of the water and they were processing and so not only were we sprayed with it and came into contact physically with it, we were drinking it. I … It causes you to be a diabetic. Nobody in my family is diabetic but I have diabetes. I have peripheral neuropathy that is extreme and accelerating. I’m on such a heavy level of medication that … It’s unbelievable what it takes to stop the pain that I’m in but at the same time I’m pretty lucky I have my hands and my arms and my legs and my feet. I got both eyes. Pretty fortunate.