For many Americans, Veterans Day is just another break from work or school. It’s a much-needed day off to tide you over until the holiday season. But no matter what you’re doing this weekend, take a moment to reflect on the reason for Veterans Day: to honor the sacrifices our veterans have made and continue to make for our country.
While many veterans get together for parades and gatherings to remember old times, Brian Yee will be low-key on Veterans Day. Yee flew in 375 missions during his 10-month tour of duty in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969, where watching gun battles and picking up dead bodies were a common occurrence.
“It’s painful to remember,” says Yee. “The hurt never goes away.”
Yee was shot down twice within a few days of each other while on board Army helicopters during combat operations.
Veterans Day is just another reminder of a time he’d like to forget. But Yee cannot forget. He regularly goes to reunions on the Mainland with the other veterans he served with. He goes to the Spark M. Matsunaga VA Medical Center, where he receives services through the VA Pacific Islands Health Care System. And watching the Ken Burns documentary The Vietnam War on PBS this fall was like reliving the war over again. “It got me a little depressed,” he says. “I think of all my friends who died there and those who are now sick because of Agent Orange.”
This photo of a river in Vietnam was taken during one of Yee's many flying missions in the late 1960s.
Even today, his family has trouble understanding his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). To help him cope, Yee writes, plays music, and does ceramics. “Art takes so much time and effort that it completely removes me from my depression.”
He honors other veterans by teaching a music class at the VA Medical Center. And writing about his experiences in Vietnam helps him to cope.
Despite the pain, Yee doesn’t regret answering the call from his country. “I’m proud to have served,” he says.
Yee is a talented artist. He says art is therapeutic.
So on this Veterans Day, take a moment to reflect on our armed forces. If you know a family or friend who’s currently serving in the military, take a minute to call or message them to thank them for their service. If you pass someone in uniform in the store or anywhere else, you can thank them for their service, too. It doesn’t matter if you know them.
On behalf of all the bloggers at Well-Being Hawaii, we thank you, Brian Yee, and all the members of the U.S. Armed Forces, for your service.
Photos courtesy of Brian Yee