On Halloween, the Cannaball Run for Vets crew cruised into Music City and the Downtown Nashville Library, where we attended the premiere of the documentary, Stray Dog. The film tells the story of Ronnie “Stray Dog” Hall, a motorcycle-riding Vietnam veteran dedicated to helping his fellow vets and his immigrant family as he comes to terms with his combat experience. Hall is a member of Rolling Thunder, a nationwide motorcycle club comprised mostly of veterans. They travel the country and each year gather in Washington, D.C., where over 900,000 members ride in on steel horses, flags proudly flying.
The movie depicted the struggles of a Vietnam vet who comes home from the jungle with memories that will haunt him. It shows his battle with PTSD and how he performs acts of kindness as a way to deal with the past. The veterans of the Korean, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, and Iraq wars who were present in the room could easily relate to the man on the screen. Vietnam veterans in particular voiced their commitment to making sure future warriors would not be treated as horribly as their own generation was, but would instead receive the respect they deserve.
This is an uphill battle. PTSD has been known—as battle fatigue, shell shock, or soldier’s heart—since before the Civil War. The authorities may try to claim it was a pre-existing condition, but we know: When our brothers and sisters return, they are changed. One gentleman, David Frazier, related that when they were in the jungle and soldiers would be wounded to the point where they weren’t going to make it, they would be given a cannabis cigarette to comfort and relax them enough to fade away in peace. He also shared that the common smoking term “do a shotgun” was invented by troops in Vietnam, who would lodge a lit joint in the open chamber of an unloaded rifle and blow hits through the barrel. (An example of this can be seen in the movie, Platoon.)
The event was very rewarding and informative, with members of the audience speaking up for veterans’ rights and sharing stories of their struggle to transition back to civilian life. One gentleman shared how challenging it is for veterans to be able to trust civilians. Their brothers and sisters in arms, they can trust. There is a bond there. But it is difficult for them to…