An Interview with Daniel Jones, U.S. Army Veteran
CHEYENNE, Wyo. – With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, there couldn’t be a more fitting time to share the inspiring story of Daniel Jones, a U.S. Army veteran who selflessly served his country during the turbulent years of the Vietnam War.
On March 25, during the Veterans Welcome Home event, I had the privilege of speaking with Daniel Jones, a U.S. Army veteran who joined in 1969 and spent one year in Vietnam, “we played hard and worked hard and guarded the bases,” said Jones.
As he stood amidst a crowd of well-wishers, including the Governor of Wyoming and the Adjutant General of Wyoming, I delved into his thoughts and experiences, reflecting on his military service, the challenges of transitioning to civilian life, and the significance of veteran recognition.
With a sense of humility, Daniel expressed his gratitude for the overdue appreciation bestowed upon Vietnam veterans. “It makes me feel really great. It’s long overdue for the Vietnam vets, and with the Governor and the military leadership here, yes, I really appreciate it. And I know a lot of others do, too,” he shared, a glimmer of emotion shining in his eyes.
Transitioning from military to civilian life is undoubtedly daunting, and Daniel acknowledged the difficulties he encountered. “It’s tough. I still, every now and then, not a lot, dream about it. I shouldn’t, but I still do. And I know a lot of other people that have had it really tough…and really tough to get back to being a civilian,” he confessed. However, he also emphasized the importance of leaving the past behind and embracing the present. “It took me a while when I first got out, but I just had to put it in the past. That’s the only thing you can do,” Daniel added with resilience.
Recognizing the difficulty of the Vietnam War, I asked Daniel to share a highlight from his military service. Recollecting his time in Vietnam, he spoke of the camaraderie and the bonds forged amidst the challenges.
“We had a good time and… we played hard and worked hard and guarded the bases and stuff,” Daniel reminisced. While he didn’t describe it as “fun,” he acknowledged that the experience was distinct and memorable. His subsequent deployment in Germany provided a contrasting experience of discipline and adventure, leading to a genuine enjoyment of his time there.
When asked about lifelong friendships, Daniel’s voice resonated with a sense of longing. “Yeah, but I just lost contact with all of them… Every now and then, I’ll see a name in the VFW, the American Legion book. Well, they’ve passed on, but that’s been what, 50 years ago,” he revealed, highlighting the fleeting nature of time and connections.
Knowing the struggles younger veterans face, Daniel offered heartfelt advice: seek help, connect with other veterans, and never give up.
“Don’t think suicide, seek help… Don’t give up. There’s a lot of people out there who will help you and more people care about you than you realize,” he urged. His resilience and determination were a testament to the strength found in support networks and assistance programs that are offered by organizations like the VA.
Finally, as we discussed the significance of Veterans Welcome Home recognition day, Daniel emphasized the importance of personal connections and gratitude. He continued, “Tell other veterans, welcome home and thanks for your service… Shake their hand, say thank you very much for your service anywhere you go,” he suggested, a simple acknowledgment that can go a long way. Drawing upon his own experiences, Daniel reminded veterans that they are not alone and there is an abundance of individuals who care deeply for their well-being.
As I concluded my conversation with Daniel, it was a reminder of the immense sacrifice made by veterans like him, and the lasting impact on their lives.
As we observe Mental Health Awareness Month, let us not only honor our veterans’ sacrifices and reaffirm our commitment to supporting their well-being. Through understanding, compassion, and access to resources, we can create a society where veterans feel valued, heard, and empowered as they navigate the path of healing and reintegrate into civilian life. Together, let us ensure that their service and sacrifices are never forgotten and that their journey toward mental wellness is met with the appreciation and care they rightfully deserve.