A Vietnam Veteran's Long Journey

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/6465350/6465387" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Tom Geerdes with his daughter Hannah Campbell in Murray, Ky.

Tom Geerdes with his daughter Hannah Campbell in Murray, Ky. StoryCorps hide caption

toggle caption StoryCorps
Tom Geerdes during his tour of duty in Vietnam.

Geerdes during his tour of duty in Vietnam. Courtesy Tom Geerdes hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy Tom Geerdes

When Tom Geerdes came home from Vietnam, he was different. As he told his daughter Hannah Campbell recently, it wasn't until 10 years after his return that a chance event allowed him to heal.

After being drafted in 1969, Geerdes served in the 11th Armored Cavalry in Tay Ninh Province and Cambodia as an Army medic.

Geerdes, now 62, returned home from his tour of duty in 1971. And when he got back to America, he recalls, "I was not really worried anymore about being socially acceptable." His long hair and beard alienated him from his family.

So, Geerdes took off on a long bicycle trip, heading north toward Minnesota and then out west, to the coast.

But, Geerdes says, it wasn't until years later that he healed from the war.

Working on a flooring job he was doing at a Sears, Geerdes recalls, there was a movie about the Vietnam War playing on the store's television.

"Something just broke," Geerdes says, "I cried, I just sobbed like a baby for a couple hours" as the memories of his friends, and the devastation and the hurt came back to him.

"I really didn't plan on coming back," Geerdes says.

And when Campbell tells him, "I'm glad you came back," Geerdes' answer is simple: "Me, too."

This piece was produced for 'Morning Edition' by Michael Garofalo, with help from Grant Fuller. The senior producer for StoryCorps is Sarah Kramer.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from