CORBIN — Neighbors, July 3, 2010
By Erica Bowlin / Staff Writer
Victor Edwards, of Williamsburg served in the Viet Nam War as a hospital corpsman. As others prepare for this year’s 4th of July celebrations, Edwards says the holiday holds a different meaning to those who have served their country. Especially those who have served in combat.
Edwards was born in Hamilton, Ohio, though his family had originated from Owsley County in Kentucky. He was raised on a farm with his parents and eight siblings. Both parents were factory workers.
1n 1964, Edwards was attending Cumberland College and the Viet Nam War was in full swing. He knew if he didn’t enlist voluntarily, he’d be drafted, so while many young men his age were fleeing the responsibility of going to fight for the Untied States in war, Edwards enlisted and proudly went across the ocean to serve.
“I came from a family with a mountain heritage, and it would have been a disgrace to my entire family had I tried to avoid going to war. It is part of our heritage to be proud of our country, and to fight for it,” said Edwards.
Edwards was a Navy hospital corpsman, trained in combat first aid. His assignment had him working alongside marines, and they accepted Edwards as one of their own, referring to him as “doc.”
“The marines accept the hospital corpsman because he lives and fights beside them. They treated me with the utmost respect, as I did them,” he said.
Assisting soldiers who had been severely wounded was a difficult task, according to Edwards, but he tried to put aside his fears and sadness in times of need.
“I had been trained using plastic wounds, complete with plastic veins. So when I would treat someone in the field who was terribly injured, I would pretend in my mind that the wound was plastic, and this allowed me to complete the work that needed to be done. Later, of course, is when I would cry.”
After three years in the military, the war ended and Edwards returned to Cumberland College. Upon graduation, he worked as a teacher and a pastor at various churches and also did missionary work. He has also served as Chaplain of the VFW Chapter 3167 and Chaplain for the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 61 in Williamsburg. But even after the war was over, Edwards thoughts were still with the soldiers who fought and died in battle, and he struggled with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. There were certain smells or sounds that would take him back to that fearful place. He felt guilt about surviving, when so many he fought alongside had not.
Like many soldiers who fight in combat, Edwards found it difficult to adjust to the daily routines of life after returning from Viet Nam. The war had changed him, and he began trying to find ways to deal with the pain.
“Your loved ones depend on you, and they need you be to be strong, but they don’t understand what you’ve been through and the things you’ve seen. You feel a guilt about the soldiers you could not save, no matter how hard you tried.” said Edwards.
He began writing about his experiences in war, and found that it was a good way to relieve some of the stress he was feeling. But he also found that writing about his experiences in war caused him to relive many of those times in battle he had been trying to forget.
Over the last forty years Edwards has compiled his writings into a book, which he hopes to have published. The book is based on true events he experienced, and only the names have been changed.
“Even though it’s been hard to write about, it also helped me a great deal. I hope my stories can help a soldier who has been through similar events,” he said.
Along with writing, Edwards has learned that the best way to deal with PTSD is to stay busy, so he works tirelessly on his farm in Williamsburg. He raises sheep and other animals.
“It gives you a responsibility. It’s good to have things to do and ways to spend your time.”
Edwards also enjoys spending time with his loved ones. Last year on the 4th of July, he drove to Indiana to spend the holiday with his brother and other family members.
“Everyone was busy cooking and getting things ready for the celebration. Then I heard what I thought was cannon fire. My nephew laughed and explained it was just an M-80, which is a type of fireworks. The smell, along with the sound, scared me and made me realize that this holiday has a different meaning to soldiers than it does for most other people,” said Edwards.
“For most people, the loud bangs and smell of smoke simply mean a celebration of freedom, but for the soldier, the 4th of July serves as a sort of memorial.”
After making this realization, Edwards sat down and wrote a poem, one which so eloquently describes the two different views of the holiday.
Edwards encourages everyone to take a moment this holiday to remember those who fought and died for our country. This Independence Day, he encourages us to remember those that gave the ultimate sacrifice.
Edwards hopes to continue working to try to have his book published, and continues working on his farm. He would like to thank his wife of 41 years, Brenda, and his children Luke and Stacy for all their support. Of course, he would like to thank all those who have served — past and present. For it is these soldiers who have fought for our freedom, and they are the ones to be remembered this 4th of July.
Below is the poem Edwards wrote the 4th of July, 2009.
The 4th of July
Pinwheels, starbursts, multicolored sprays,
Spiraling screams, amazing displays-
Radiant explosions fill the skies,
And reflect in the clouds and glasses and eyes
Side by side stood the man and the boy,
One full of sadness, the other full of joy,
The lad expressed great wonder in his eye;
The man looked as if he were about to cry.
Noting a tear roll down the old man’s cheek
The shy lad stole another peek.
Then gathering courage asked the old man why
On such a happy day that he should cry.
“Sir,” he said, “This is the 4th of July!”
“Lad,” Began the man in a hesitant way,
“Some forty years ago today
I fought in a war in a foreign land.
Things were different there. Do you understand?”
“The bombs and rockets and fireworks were real,
and the sadness and grief is with me still.
And each time I see a fireworks display
I remember the men killed in battle that day.”
“You see, lad, when I see a bomb bursting, like there,
I think of those men so young and fair,
Who throughout our nation’s history have fought
To keep the freedom our forefather wrought.
Like the brilliant bursts of colorful light
They had great hopes of a future bright-
And though booming and brilliant and beautiful to see
They were stilled and silent, nevermore to be.
Though today is celebrated as Independence Day,
To remember the birth of our nation, I’d say
Those fireworks brilliantly lighting the sky
Are saluting our heroes this Fourth of July.
And, lad, the Heroes are those who will fight and die
To keep the freedom we cherish this Fourth of July.”