Robert (Bear) Woolsey
San Antonio, Texas
Though my husband passed on December 4, 2010 due to Agent Orange complications, he was an adamant supporter of veterans of all wars. Instead of following in his father’s footsteps of joining the Navy, the 17 year old volunteered for the draft in October of 1969, unaware of just what he was going to truly face in the war-ravaged country of Vietnam. He returned much older in his mind to face such savagery from the very people who should have understood him the most. His funniest memory was of receiving a forwarded draft notice six months after being in-country and telling his commander that he must return home as he had been “drafted”. He was brought home by the Red Cross in March of 1971 on emergency leave due to the possibly eminent death of his mother. Instead of returning in-country they posted him to Fort Dix, New Jersey for the remainder of his service. There he found out that the prejudice against these veterans extended even in the military. I received a phone call informing me an “encounter” with his CO had earned him some time in the brig. It wasn’t until his final release that I found out that this young man had acted unbecomingly as suited his rank.
I married him 17 days home from the war and learned just exactly how much he had suffered while doing what his country expected him to do. We had the most unusual anniversary date in that we married on April 1, 1970. I remember the first time he received notice in the mail that he must go to the police station the first of the year to “register” his hands so that if he “damaged” someone during a flashback, his stint in that foreign country would be taken into consideration. He said it made him ashamed to know that he was so trained that he must subject himself to such things as being known as “mentally damaged” by the authorities.
It wasn’t until his body began to betray him in the early part of this century that he became actively involved in the “veteran community”. He stayed as active as possible until health issues made it impossible to do so, but looked forward to the newsletter sent to him each month by his organization-TAVV-of which he remained a member until his death. He was finally able to talk to people who understood the miasma of troublesome thoughts, nightmares and prejudices which he had been unable to resign with the reality of his present life. I will be forever grateful for their support and respectful treatment of him at his passing.
He became an over-protective father of four, always frightened of hurting one of them during an “episode”, but they always knew they were loved and came to accept his rather hard outlook on life. He began helping young people on the streets,giving them advice, acceptance and even shelter so our home was always rather full. He became a much-loved “father” figure to most of them and many came to show their love when he died. He is buried in a family cemetery established on our property so he is always “at home”.