Criminals, post-traumatic stress

Ron Silliman (
Mon, 15 Jul 1996 14:20:16 -0400

"I read somewhere that during the Vietnam war criminals (And I am not
sure what kind of criminals) were given the option of serving their
sentences by joining the army. I wonder if they fully realized the
possible dangers of >being in the armed forces."-Karen Kling

Students arrested during the Sproul Hall Sit-In in late 1964 were able
to avoid trial by joining the military. A couple of other folks with
whom I grew up joined the army to avoid prosecution for relatively
petty beefs (burglary, drug possession). One of them spent, in his
words, "a year hiding behind rocks" in Vietnam. The other died there.

Going back to Ben Friedlander's question about Post Traumatic Stress
Syndrome in earlier wars: when I worked in the post office in SF in the
mid-60s, that agency was (among its other functions) a giant jobs
program with a variety of social goals. One entire team, maybe 10 guys
in all, at the Ferry Annex in SF was composed of Korean era vets who
were said to suffer from "shell shock." They were pretty deeply
disturbed guys, all chronic alcoholics who lived in the residential
hotels of the Tenderloin, North Beach and 3rd Street. They were kept
literally in the basement pulling the sacks that came off the trucks
from a conveyor belt and onto dollies. They'd been with the post office
around 12-14 years when I was there and I still used to see some of
them from time to time on the streets of SF until I moved east last
year. There was one fellow whose sole job was to sweep the basement
area with a push broom who often just stopped at the wall and had to be
"turned around" by one of the others. I never did figure out how he
managed to get to and from work each day. If you were brand new or had
really pissed a supervisor off, you got sent to work with them for a
week or two.

Ron Silliman