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Started February 8, 2006 @ 6:09pm by admin
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Moved from GuestbookFebruary 8, 2006 @ 6:09pm
My name is Colleen Whitten Price and I am the widow of a 101st Airborne
soldier who served proudly with honor in Vietnam. My husband's name was
Charles "Chuck" Whitten. He was awarded 2 Bronze Stars, one with a 'V' and
the Purple Heart. He was wounded in Chu Chi and spent the next 8 months at
Fort Riley in the Irwin Army Hospital. We have discovered before he was
released from the hospital and the Army on the same day he had a fatal
disease....PTSD. Tragically for his family and friends Charles committed
suicide on October 12, 1971, 2 1/2 years after his release. For 32 years I
believed he had become a madman in Vietnam, not knowing how much he was
together during his time spent in country. In June of 2003 Charles' and my
daughter, Lori, was able to get in touch with four men he served with while
in the 3/187 Infantry Airborne Division stationed in Phouc Vinh. We were
told of his heroic actions, bravery, devotion, kindness, and dedication to
the 101st Airborne Mission. On July 3rd of 2003 the Elkhart Truth in
Elkhart, Indiana, did a 71 inch article named "He Wasn't The Same" written
by Steph Price who is no relation to me. She was about 25 years old when
she wrote the article. I dropped off a book, 3 days prior to the article
being written about PTSD that a Veteran friend of mine had given me so she
might understand what Charles suffered with. What a fantastic job she did
for someone so young. The story started off telling of how we met,
married, spent Charles' R&R in Hawaii, the sad decline of a once proud man,
who we now know suffered with a disease unknown at the time of his suicide,
and of his death by carbon dioxide poisoning. I was told the night he died
he honked the horn of our car while it was in the detached garage for over
3 hours. The neighbors told me they thought "Crazy Charlie" was just drunk
and no one investigated his actions. Sadly his brother found him dead just
inside the service entrance of the garage the next night. I filed for a
sevice-rated death for about 10 years but this was denied time after time
until I gave up in 1980. I had letters from Congressman John Brademas and
Senator Birch Bayh, Charles' mother, my mother, supporting my request to no
avail. No one knew of the deadly disease PTSD and I read about suicide
after suicide until I contacted the Phil Donahue Show in the late 70's to
do a show on the suicides that unfortunatly still are occuring to this
day. I was told the widows of these proud misunderstood band of brothers
probably had remarried and would not want to bring their dead spouse into
their new lives. No show would be done.

Soon after contacting Jerry Jerett, Nick Goudoras, Dave Dillard and Kenny
Gaddy in June of 2003 another member of the 3/187 12/13/67-12/13/68
Rakkasans killed his wife and then himself so the madness continues to this
day.

As I was warned in the late 70's about widows not wanting to bring their
dead hero into their new lives, I sadly lost my husband of 15 years this
last month because of bringing my dead HERO into our lives. My husband
Bob, who I married after being single for 19 years, felt he was in
competition with a man who died 34 years ago.

When the reporter was at my home, in 2003, our oldest daughter Lori told
how she thought for 32 years it was my fault her father died. So did her
sister think the same thing, unknown to me. I had not revealed the abuse I
suffered, to our children, not wanting to burden our kids with that
knowledge. All I told the kids, over the years, was how much their father
loved them. Now I was telling the reporter how I fled our home in the
middle of the night, after being beaten, with our 2 daughters, Lori and
Stacy, after being rescued by the police. They had been called to our home
many times before but Charles had already left and nothing was done about
domestic violence back then. This time he was there, as I called the
operator, while he was down stairs locking doors and windows and turning
the stereo up loud. He resumed to beat me. I listened for someone beating
on the door and when this happened I made a dash down the stairs. I heard
him yell "No one is going to help you" as I fled into the protective arms
of the police who took us to my mothers home. Charles killed himself about
two weeks later. He called my mothers and told me to come home the night
before he died. I told him I would come the next day but that did not
pacify Charles. He became verbally abusive and I gave the phone to my mom
who loved Charles like a son. He told her he would not be there the next
day. She replied "You aren't going to go anywhere" and told him I would
come home the next day. He then became verbally abusive with her. After
his calling 3 times we took the phone off of the hook. I did go to the
house the next day and looked through out our home but did not find him. I
did find the endtable pulled in front of the sofa and a small pad of paper,
punched full of tiny holes, and a beer can on the table. Not knowing what
had happened I left and was summoned home by Charles' brother, that same
evening, telling me he had found Charles dead. How I drove over to our
home, a few miles away from my mom's home that evening, I still do not know
to this day. When I pulled up to our home I saw the police and neighbors
gathered, out side of the garage, at the back of our lot. I could not make
myself go in to the garage so I stood outside and stared at Charles'
covered body on the dirty floor, dead by his own hand. He had survived
Vietnam but could not survive coming home. His suicide note was written
from the pad of paper and contained those tiny holes. He wrote "Colleen I
love you." I knew he was thinking of me and the 101st Airborne. I found
his uniform in our coat closet with all the braids and medals in place. I
had not seen the uniform since his release from the service. Sadly this
find was after his burial when my sister, Carolynn, was helping me gather
his things together. We found a box with his momentos of his time in
Vietnam including one of the bullets taken from his body when he was shot
in Chu Chi. Also in the box was a picture of Charles with four men and
wrote "These are all the squad leaders I have" and listed their names, Nick
Goudoras, Kenny Gaddy, Dave Dillard, and Jerry Jerrett, and myself". I
called information in New York City, as Charles had written to me about
Nick in his letters home, and got Nick's phone number. The only part of
the conversation I remember, after telling Nick Charles had killed himself,
is Nick saying "I wish you had not told me this."

After talking to Jerry Jerrett, I asked how the other 3 men were doing. I
was told Jerry had 10 tough years after tour, Dave Dillard was doing ok,
Kenny Gaddy was shot with a portable rocket in the face and had endured
endless surgeries, but Nick was having a hard time. The other 3 men were
dealing with their PTSD but Nick was just admitting he too suffered with
PTSD. I did not know Charles and Nick had been best friends in Vietnam and
my call partnered with his time in Vietnam sentenced him to a life filled
of sorrow, guilt, and endless mental pain. Jery explained Nick did not
like his phone number given out so we waited until he called Lori's home
the next day. Nick exclaimed "I can not believe I am talking to you. This
has to be fate. I just wrote to the VA explaining my health problems with
PTSD and I wrote a paragraph telling how Charles helped me in Vietnam and
of the call you made to me in 1971."

In 2004 Lori and I attended the 3/187, 12/13/67-12/13/68 reunion, in
Oklahoma, and met Dave Dillard and JerryJerrett. Nick was supposed to go
but was in poor health at the time and could not attend that year. Kenny
also did not attend the reunion in 2004. I hope they all can make it next
year as I will try and go to it again in hopes of meeting Nick and Kenny.
After going in 2004 I was to attend in 2005. This time I had health
problems& husband problems, due to our discovery, and could not go. Now I
have no reason not to go in 2006.

The jist of my story is PTSD. I hired Dr. Harold Bursztajn, co-director of
Harvard Medical School, to do a psychological autopsy, on Charles and his
suicide. Dr. Bursztajn's specialties are PTSD and suicide. The Dr's
initial report claims Charles died of untreated or undiagnosed
PTSD. Captain (retired) Paul Bucha, Medal Of Honor recipient, was the
Captain of Charles' Company 'D' and is now trying to help me right the
wrong done to Charles and his family by denying Charles suicide as
service-rated. I furnished records to back up my claim to Charles' band of
brothers and they too are behind our claim. Charles had PTSD, I then had
PTSD, and my children will suffer forever with the illness that seems to
keep on giving.

I write this story so the new HEROS, who are now fighting for their lives
in Iraq, may identify with our story and have some knowledge of what
untreated PTSD can do and will do if they do not seek the help they
need. Please publish this sad story so others might benefit from my words
written from my heart. The reason I started this journey back down memory
lane is 3 men from Fort Bragg, where Charles and I were our happiest, came
home from Iraq and killed themselves and their families. I could not
believe the Army and the VA were not aware of the harm PTSD would cause, if
untreated, in 2003.

Now I am again alone, losing another husband because of PTSD, second hand,
and can write with no reason not to.

Respectfully yours,

Colleen Whitten Price

 

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