The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Letter from a vet in prison

Feb 4, 2008

The following is a letter The Spark received from a prisoner in Indiana.

Your article in the December issue, “U.S. Military: Thousands of less than honorable discharges” was exceptionally good. However it failed to bring out some other facts about our military and judicial system. For example:

I am a Vietnam vet, well decorated, having served two tours of combat duty in Vietnam with the first Air Cavalry Seventh Division. I came home suffering from PTSD and ended up in prison serving a double life sentence. I have been in prison for 37 years now.

To make a long story short, it was not until the mid 1980s that, due to my wife and her dedication in seeking out the truth, it was discovered that at the time of my discharge from the military, I was, in fact, suffering from chronic PTSD, and everything you said in your article was an accurate description of what I was going through. The self medication, drug addition and alcoholism. It was while suffering from PTSD that I got into a shoot-out with police and, applying my military training, I ended up killing two of them. Please, I am not trying to excuse my actions, merely attempting to point out just how misunderstood the seriousness of the effects of PTSD are. I want to warn our society of what to expect with all the men returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, in hopes that they will receive the medical care and psychological counseling that the Vietnam vets failed to receive.

When it was discovered my crime was done under the effects of PTSD, we filed an appeal with the courts. After waiting five years with no decision, I had to file a writ of habeas corpus, to force the local court to hand down a ruling. The federal court gave them 90 days to rule; on the 90th day they ruled against me – saying I had taken too long to file.

So here I sit, 37 years later, still no justice given to me, forced to spend the rest of my life behind bars merely because the Indiana justice system fails to see just how serious PTSD is. Having served my country faithfully and with honor, having shown I had never been in any trouble whatsoever until my return from Vietnam, all of which has made no difference to our judicial system.

I can’t help but ask what is in store for our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Obviously they cannot expect any help from our government, when even local governments demonstrate their lack of concern.

Just like the Vietnam vets, they too will be used up and then tossed to the side – homeless, jobless and yes, no doubt many will turn to crime. Look at the statistics of those Vietnam vets in our prison system now.

Lonnie D. Williams