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Bezotte: Why I talked about my experience getting out of the Army after Vietnam
RELEASE|May 26, 2024
Contact: Bob Bezotte

This is a tough one to write.

In the 52 years since I got back from Vietnam, I think I’ve only really talked with my family about it maybe about a dozen times.

I was in country from August of 1970 to October 1971. I started out as a clerk but ended up driving a Deuce and a Half transporting troops and equipment from Da Nang to Phu Bai, so we got hit quite a bit. We’d sometimes get hit three to four times a week.

When my tour was over and we got off the plane at 2 in the morning, we just wanted to go home. We were feeling lucky that we even got to go home, to be honest with you. They asked us if we wanted to go to bed and muster out the next morning and we said no, we wanted out now.

So we were mustered out of the Army. With no surveys, no questions, you just get on a plane and then you go home and then you have to deal with your issues.

That’s not the best way of transitioning back to civilian life.

You can’t go to war without it affecting you. I don’t care who you are.

I recently testified in committee about my experience getting out of the Army because I am working on a bipartisan package of legislation to help veterans with their mental health. The bills still need work, but we’re moving in the right direction.

My bill would provide an assessment that active-duty service members and veterans may use to gauge their own mental wellbeing. It’s a tool they can use in private to see how they are doing.

The survey is completely optional, and anonymous. It’s a stepping-stone in case they want to access additional mental health resources.

We’re also working to improve outreach efforts and build a better support network. The overall point of the package of legislation is to tackle the problem of veteran suicide and substance abuse. 

Twenty-two veterans a day take their own lives through suicide. Others turn to alcohol and drugs to cope. And it’s not just recent veterans; veterans over 50 take their own lives at a much higher rate than the general population.

A lot of us Vietnam vets felt we didn’t really need help because physically you look fine. Everyone understands physical injuries, but a lot of us have mental injuries as well.

For me, I remember the 58,479 Americans killed in Vietnam every day. It never goes away. I’ll always wonder why I made it and they didn’t.

And I want other veterans to know that we all deal with this stuff. And that there are tools to help, and that we’re working to make sure more help is on the way.

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