The aftermath of the attack, the Naval Board of Inquiry resulting in a decision that this attack was accidental, my own government ignoring what we had to say, has been devastating for me.
I was a mess when I got home in August of 1967. My mother and my wife said they hardly knew me. My mother didn’t even recognize me, as I got off the plane in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and she said I had lost so much weight, my face had a look like she had never seen before. That is what she said anyway.
I spent five years just doing nothing, except trying to get my health back, not knowing what was wrong, and when I finally went to a VA Hospital for help, they didn’t believe my story, and they actually called Washington D.C. to confirm what I told them. PTSD wasn’t even on the diagnostic manual at the time, and so the doctor that I saw, made a diagnosis of a neurological disorder. I went home after spending 44 days there. It took me a long time to come around, and even try to get a job, but I did get one. To make this short and concise, I will just say that I walked away from my first wife, leaving her everything, with the idea of committing suicide with alcohol. Circumstances that I couldn’t overcome, and seemed unsurmountable overwhelmed me. I failed at the alcohol/suicide thing. Just couldn’t do it. I left my first wife, with the idea of making it alone. I did manage to get a license as an electrician, and begin my own business with a partner. I then got remarried, and four children came out of that marriage. My second wife had enough of me after ten years, and divorced me, and she ended up with all the kids. She claimed that I was a combat veteran that no one could be around. My fixation on the truth never left me, even to this day. So I ended up alone again, but remarried one more time, and this marriage has lasted 27 years. Guess I finally got it right, and regained enough of my health, that I could function. A couple of things before I close off from this, as it is still painful to talk about.
First there is nothing like being drug into a court room knowing what I knew, and having the judge take away my children, being treated like a criminal, and I had never been in jail, or in trouble in my life. The Wyoming courts raked me over the coals, and then again I was left with nothing. Lost my home, and ended up paying a lot of child support. Secondly I just want to say that in this society, telling the truth, and fighting to make things right can put you in a terrible situation. I have been called names, that I am not, been threatened for telling the truth, and pushed out of two churches for telling them the story. The ugly treatment has been endless for over fifty two years, but I have no remorse for standing tall for the truth, and for the welfare of this nation, and I suppose someday they will know. I doubt if I will be here to see that.
As I said, no remorse, as I did the right thing. I never got to wear the Chief’s uniform, and eventually I was hoping to be an LDO. That was all taken away by the attack, and I was too sick to stay in the service, and all I wanted was away. I was honorably discharged, and was finally diagnosed after many years with severe PTSD, a physical back injury, and various other things. I still love my country, and I wouldn’t change a thing. Funny thing is, I still would like to have what I earned. That Chief’s uniform meant the world to me, and one of my shipmates who was a second class was made an honorary Chief, when he worked at NSA. To say I wasn’t envious would be an understatement, as I most certainly was. There is really nothing more to say. I stood my ground; my training demanded that I do so. I am still alive at 78 years of age. Not moving very well, but never the less, very thankful to our creator, for my life. I hope this little testimony will pass to those who love this nation as I did. Time is short for me, I suppose, but I don’t care. I did the right thing. My moral compass is still intact.
By Mr. Ronald Kukal
Liberty Veterans Association Chaplain and Secretary
Chaplain for the Silver Star Families of America