StoryCorps Shorts: Tom's War
After being drafted in 1969, Tom Geerdes served as an Army medic in the 11th Armored Calvary in Vietnam and Cambodia. Like many veterans, he returned home a changed man. At StoryCorps, Tom shared his long journey toward healing with his daughter, Hannah Campbell.
Hannah Campbell (HC): What was the biggest change
about you from Vietnam?
Tom Geerdes (TG): 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 knew 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.
HC: You went off and got by yourself.
I rode straight north up through Minnesota, cut across and uh
rode all the way to the west coast.
Took me about six weeks.
HC: Do you think that you sort of healed from
Vietnam on that trip?
TG: It helped a lot.
But uh really I actually didn't heal from Vietnam until quite
a number of years later.
I had a janitorial business and I was doing floors at Sears.
And uh they had a Vietnam movie on there.
And uh something just broke.
And I cried, I sobbed like a baby for a couple hours while
I was finishing them floors.
Just sobbed like a baby.
Because it was several good friends I lost.
It's just too much devastation that I saw over there,
just too much hurt.
And I really didn't plan on coming back.
HC: I'm glad you came back.