RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Time again for StoryCorps. This oral history project travels the country collecting your stories.
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MONTAGNE: Today, a veteran's story about coming home from war. Tom Geerdes served in Vietnam as an Army medic. He told his daughter Hannah Campbell how the experience stayed with him long after his deployment ended.
Ms. HANNAH CAMPBELL (Daughter of Tom Gerdees): What was the biggest change about you from Vietnam?
Mr. TOM GEERDES (Vietnam War Veteran): I was not really worried anymore about being socially acceptable. From the day I got out, I didn't shave or cut my hair for probably a year. And people that I know before I left, even some of my cousins, didn't think too much of me after I got back. So I took a long bicycle trip.
Ms. CAMPBELL: Went off and got by yourself?
Mr. GEERDES: Yeah. I rode straight north up through Minnesota, cut across and rode all the way to the West Coast. Took me about six weeks.
Ms. CAMPBELL: Do you think that you sort of healed from Vietnam on that trip?
Mr. GEERDES: Yeah. It helped a lot. But really, I actually didn't heal from Vietnam till quite a number of years later. I had a janitorial business and I was doing floors at Sears. And they had a Vietnam movie on there and something just broke. And I cried. And I sobbed like a baby for a couple of hours. One of those (unintelligible) employers just sobbed like a baby because of several good friends I've lost. It was just too much devastation on us all over there, just too much hurt. And I really didn't plan on coming back.
Ms. CAMPBELL: I'm glad you came back.
Mr. GEERDES: Yeah. Me too. Me too.
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MONTAGNE: Tom Geerdes with his daughter Hannah Campbell in Murray, Kentucky.
This StoryCorps interview and all the others are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. Find out how to record your story at npr.org.
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