Danny served in the U.S. Air Force from 1969 to 1981. He served three tours in Vietnam, treating wounded soldiers as a Rescue Medic. For his own peace of mind and to avoid his parents worrying about him, Danny kept his location a secret by having friends mail letters home from other places. He didn’t come clean until 15 years later when he could no longer suppress the memories and emotions.
Vietnam took a toll on Danny both physically and mentally. He not only suffers from tremors, but also severe PTSD. Explaining how it impacts his daily life, Danny says:
“Sporadic stress; little things can set you off. I still cringe every time I hear a helicopter going over and I still cringe every time I hear a siren coming. Fireworks used to be such a pleasure when I was a child, but I don’t enjoy them anymore because it has that percussion sound that I don’t think ever leaves your ears.”
However, thanks to Sophie’s Companions for Veterans, his life has recently changed. Danny received Duke; a rescue dog that will be trained for service to assist with his disabilities. The bond between them was instantaneous. For the last five years, Danny has been unable to have a good night’s sleep but slept completely uninterrupted the first night with Duke. Danny’s wife, Judy, has also benefited from Duke. She suffers from anxiety after recently recovering from a long battle with cancer. She feels much calmer now. Danny says their future is bright with Duke there to help them heal.
To any soldiers who might be suffering from depression or PTSD, Danny would like to send the following message:
“What you go through is a balancing act. I was pretty good for a lot of years of just pushing it all back and not letting it affect me, but it somehow manifested itself back up to the surface. Getting into the American Legion and helping other veterans, seeing their difficulties and seeing so many suicides, it made me open up and seek help. I wish more veterans would do that. For any veteran –no matter what state, county, or wherever you live– there’s a place to reach out called Veterans’ Services. These people are sent from God because they bend over backwards to let you know what’s available to you. They’ll let you know what compensations are available to you. They fight for you.”
NFM Lending is proud to donate $2,000 to Sophie’s Companions for Veterans on Danny’s behalf. NFM looks forward to the opportunity to continue to honor military and Veterans through the NFM Salute initiative.
Full Transcript of Video Interview is Below:
– Welcome in to our first NFM Salute of 2020, and what a special one we have. I’m your host, Greg Sher, and we are absolutely honored to welcome into NFM TV Vietnam Veteran Danny Austin from Dayton, Ohio. Mr. Austin, thank you for joining us, and thank you for your service.
– Thank you very much sir, appreciate it.
– You served three tours in Vietnam, you served in the military as an Air Force rescue medic from 1969 to 1981. What was that experience like?
– The memories are still today a living hell because it was just constant chaos from day one to whenever you left. I felt sorry for the Vietnamese people, but it’s something that stays with you probably the rest of your life.
– I know that in talking to you and getting to know you, Danny, and your wife is there in the background, Judy. Hi Judy, we’re so glad you’re with us as well, that it’s been a challenge for you, the dichotomy between embracing and thinking about those memories and wanting to just pretend like they didn’t exist.
– That’s a good phrase, because that’s what it is, a balancing act. I was pretty good for a lot of years of just pushing it back and not letting it affect me. I don’t know, somehow it just manifested itself back up to the surface, maybe getting into the American Legion and helping other veterans and seeing their difficulties, and seeing so many suicides, and I’ve known people that have done suicides. It makes you open up and seek help, and I wish more veterans could do that.
– You feel very passionately about that. So, what message do you have for other Vietnam veterans and other veterans of the newer wars that we’ve had in recent years? What message do you have because veteran suicide is unquestionably an epidemic?
– Yeah, it’s probably higher than it’s ever been in history, sure. But any veteran, no matter what state, county, wherever you live, somewhere, the mileage I can’t tell you, but somewhere there’s some place to reach out called Veterans’ Services. These people are sent from God because they just bend over backwards to let you know what’s available to you, let you know compensations that are available to you, and they fight for you.
– Appreciate that. I know all the veterans appreciate that and loved ones of veterans. PTSD, you know we hear the acronym a lot. Tell us what it’s like to actually physically live with that, if you would.
– Sporadic stress, little things can set you off. I still cringe every time I hear a helicopter going over, and I cringe every time I hear a siren coming. Fireworks used to be such a pleasure when I was a child, a kid, but I don’t enjoy them any more because it has that percussion sounds that I don’t think ever leave your ears.
– Your father did not know, and your mother, that you were serving in the Vietnam War. You kept that a secret from them. How was that possible that you were able to keep that from them, and what did you do to accomplish that?
– Well, I had friends mail letters from other places, and so it raised no suspicion because just the way I was brought up with the Bible and everything else, my father being a minister. Thou shall not kill, I didn’t know how to deal with it. Sometimes when you jump off that chopper to help someone else, you don’t have a choice. It’s you or them. And then that patient suffers, so you don’t have a choice. I dealt with it at the time, but then it just haunts you.
– No, I can imagine. You later in life, about 15 years later, had a chance to share your experience with your father, and to tell him you were in Vietnam. What went into that decision? What did you say and how did he react?
– I just set down and told Dad. I said, “We need to talk.” And he said, “Well, what’s wrong, Son?” And I said, “I got a confession, first of all, “that I lied to you for a lot of years, “and that’s the only time I ever lied to you. “But I did it for the sanctity of my peace of mind “that you and Mom wouldn’t worry about me,” because my mom was one of the biggest worriers I ever met in my life, “I just thought it best “for you not to be worrying about that,” because everybody at that time in the ’60s and ’70s was turning on the TV and seeing that live. And I just didn’t want them to worry. “So, that’s why I didn’t tell you I was there.” And then I told him in detail some of the things I had to do, and that’s when we both just broke down crying. Then, of course, being a good man of God, he explained the difference to me that I never considered because you’re lost in this rage of hell, so to speak, that you don’t know the difference between murder and killing. I never murdered anybody.
– Thank you so much for opening up your heart and the window into these things, which I know, I mean clearly, they’re very difficult. Danny, on a lighter note, we see a dog there in the background that has made such an impact on your life. The dog was given to you by a non-profit charity that serves veterans in need of a companion. The name of the charity is Sophie’s Companions for Veterans. It’s the sophiesanimalfund.com. Tell us about Duke and what he’s meant to you.
– I had not slept, before I got this dog, for five years without waking up in leg cramps and sweats. Duke came into my life on a Monday night this last week, and soon as he walked into the room, it was instant bonding, soon as I touched the dog. And, as you’ll see, when I touch him, I calm down. He has a calming effect. Anyway, he jumped into my bed that night when I went to bed and it’s the first sleep I have had uninterrupted for five years.
– That is incredible, wow. What a story. Can we see Duke? Can we get Duke up there?
– Duke, good boy, come here. Come on, Duke, come on. Come here. Here’s Duke.
– There you go.
– Maybe he’ll give you a little kiss. There you go, aw.
– And my wife has anxiety ’cause she just recovered from cancer and it’s been a long battle. We’ve had a lot of stress, and I wish we had him a long time ago because we’d probably heal us both a lot faster.
– Judy, we wish you well. We hope you’re getting better. What an adorable dog that is. So, I’ve put the website up for those people that want to learn more about the foundation, sophiesanimalfund.com. Here you see the webpage and the contact information, so if you want more information. And I also should mention that we’re donating $2,000 to that charity as part of this NFM Salute. Before I let you go, you’ve got a lot of hobbies that you like to partake in, and one of them is singing and playing the guitar. If you would not mind, we would love to hear a little bit of that as we sign off on this NFM Salute.
– Come here, Duke. Duke, come here, okay sit, sit, sit. Good boy Duke, good boy. ♪ Just a closer walk with thee ♪ ♪ Oh grant it, Jesus, is my plea ♪ ♪ Daily walking close to thee ♪ ♪ Let it be, dear Lord, oh let it be ♪ ♪ Let it be, dear ♪