Fallbrook High School alum Don Bick has completed a project that many in his position would never even begin to attempt. Bick, a graduate of the Class of 1967, penned a book, “The Boy Died in Vietnam,” which was published last year.
The book details Bick’s experiences in the Vietnam War and his resulting, painful 42-year struggle with chronic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
“I never dreamed I had been affected to the extent it now appears [I have],” wrote Bick, at age 62. “I can look back on my life and see it has been a classic case of the disorder since my return from the Vietnam War.”
A popular high school athlete who grew up in a solid family, Bick said that he envisioned a “picket fence” future, but when his life’s journey took him into the Marine Corps and ultimately to Vietnam, it changed which path his life would take and certain images were destined to remain forever etched in his mind.
Bick’s primary assignment location during the war was in the Dong Ha area of Vietnam. Because he was trained to speak Vietnamese early in his military career, he was selected for certain tasks.
Amidst the devastation caused by the war, Bick was assigned to transport children that had died from wartime injuries back to their homes and families.
“Without exception, the child would weigh next to nothing when I lifted him or her and carried them out to my vehicle,” related Bick. “It was up to me to express (on behalf of the U.S. military) our condolences to the mother and father when I returned a deceased child back home.”
“When you hear or read in the news that so many militants died… …don’t believe it for a minute,” he said. “Most of the time there are innocent women and children in those deaths as well. Bombs don’t discriminate.”
One saving grace of Bick’s time in Vietnam was to be the result of his role as an English teacher at a country school. He took particular pleasure in encouraging the children to sing with him, which they were excited to do.
“The students were so amazed [that I would sing in Vietnamese with them] that I became known all over the area as the American Marine that sang Vietnamese songs,” said Bick, adding that one young boy who had sustained severe burns over his body was particularly enthralled.
“Even though he was suffering, he would smile through the burned skin as he listened to me sing, happy in the moment,” he added.
Bick was gratified by the positive response he received from the children and would not forget it. Unfortunately, he would also not forget the many atrocities he witnessed.
In hopes of bringing some element of understanding and perspective to his ongoing pain after the war, Bick made a trip back to Vietnam and Dong Ha where he saw the wide-sweeping changes time had made and was fortunate enough to be reunited with many of his former students.
His experiences with his now-adult students brought great joy to Bick and demonstrated, in many cases, the resilience of the human spirit.
Bick’s joy, found in reconnecting with his former students and seeing their successes, reaffirmed his desire to continue his commitment to help Vietnamese orphanages, which proceeds from his book will assist.
In addition, Bick detailed in his book his experiences with homelessness, the illnesses and disabilities he has experienced at the hands of Agent Orange, and his overwhelming desire to be secluded from society. It also includes his experience outside wartime when he ended up in prison due to “bad businesses decisions” involving a mortgage company he owned.
“The Boy Died in Vietnam” is available in both paperback and Kindle form on Amazon.com. More about Don Bick can be read at www.donbick.com.