Tom Smith shouldn’t be alive. In Vietnam, he was a 1st Cavalry Division helicopter scout pilot. Helicopter pilots, especially scout pilots, flew through the heaviest enemy fire of the war. Cavalry Division scout pilots were hit hardest. Their attrition rates were twenty times that of U.S. Air Force pilots, their survival rate, forty to fifty percent, their life expectancy, three weeks. Tom’s job was to fly at speeds under 30 miles an hour at treetop level locating enemy, usually by drawing their fire.
It took Smith a long time to realize he lives with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a condition brought on, he shares with me, not so much by horrific combat experience –being shot down multiple times, trees snapping his coptor’s rotors off as it plunged earthward, looking down at gunmen whose bullets ripped through his fuselage — but rather, by living with the daily grind of fear. » Continue Reading.