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.

AIRED: September 17, 2017 | 0:02:25

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.

TG: Yeah.

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.

TG: Yeah.

Me too.

Me too.