It’s been years since Jack Murphy was in Vietnam, but the memories are as close as today.
“They come and visit me every night in the form of nightmares,” said the 64-year-old Murphy. “They are memories I wish I didn’t have.”
Murphy spent most of 1969 in Vietnam. He enlisted in the Army and was stationed at Fort Brag, North Carolina. He was a part of the 199th Light Infantry Brigade and served two years.
In Vietnam, he was an RTO, which means he carried the radio through the fields as an infantry foot soldier. Three months into his time in Vietnam, he was hit with shrapnel in the face, arms and legs and was sent to the 3rd Airfield Hospital in Saigon.
After several weeks in the hospital, Murphy went back to the war and finished out his year in Vietnam.
He came home to Palmerton, Penn., and went to work in the steel mill.
“It was really the only work I could get,” he said. “But then the mills began closing.”
Murphy was able to get work with the Navy in a civilian position. He drove a van for a Navy medical clinic. He met a woman, got married, had a son and a daughter. But that marriage didn’t last. In 2000, he retired.
It was at about that time that he began having severe symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
“I’d probably had it all along,” he said. “But I tried to hide it. It was when everything started up with the first Gulf War that it became real to me again.”
He sought help from the VA and has been treated for PTSD since. That treatment brought Murphy to remember many things he’d tried to forget.
“When I came back from Vietnam, my mother and brothers and sister came to greet me,” he said. “But everyone else, they wouldn’t look at me. They’d turn away. They hated soldiers.”
Murphy had been warned of that.
“When we left the Army, they told us as soon as we got home to take off our uniforms and not wear them out in public,” he said. “They said don’t walk around in them. So I put it away in the closet.”
Although Murphy still has his uniform, he doesn’t often look at it. He does remember, however.
He always loved music, wrote songs and played the guitar. When he came home from Vietnam, he found he couldn’t write about the war.
“I’d played since I was 15,” he said. “But my feelings about the war ­— they just wouldn’t come out. Then one night, I sat down on my bed and it all fell out.”
The result was the song, “The Promise.” It’s a song about the ‘Welcome Home’ that we never got.”
It’s about two soldiers in Vietnam talking about girls and a ‘57 Chevy, making a pact to share a beer when they get home. One doesn’t make it and the other goes to the wall to find his name, with two beers in hand.
After he wrote the song, he recorded it on CD and made several hundred copies. Since then he’s been handing them out to any Vietnam Veteran who wants one. He’s probably given out 1,000 at his own expense, he said.
In 1996, when he went to an annual gathering of Vietnam Veterans at the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C., he handed a copy to Jan Scruggs who helped to fund the wall.
“He told me he’d play it and he did, at the wall,” Murphy said.
That led to another Vietnam Veteran, David Hernandez, using the tape for a ceremony in California and making a video to go with the song. It was put on YouTube and has become quite well known.
On that same CD are two other songs, one that is an up tempo song about Vietnam and a third song, “A Veteran’s Pledge,” that is a poem his friend Bill Henning wrote. Henning also suffers from PTSD.
Murphy, who has since remarried, said he gives away the CDs because he “can’t give them to the ones (soldiers) who are not here.”
“A lot of guys went to Vietnam and didn’t come home,” he said. “They weren’t as lucky as I was. I owe them something and if I can give away my music in their honor, then I’m proud. It’s the least I can do.”
To hear Murphy’s song “Welcome Home,” go to YouTube, Welcome Home Vietnam LA Event 2012.
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