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Lance Johnson - U.S. Army

In addition to the mood swings and bad dreams, I began having problems staying focused, which of course reflected on my job performance.  My mind wandered, and I often felt like a schoolboy trapped in a classroom on a spring afternoon.  I began to resent my co-workers’ successes and distanced myself from them.  On numerous occasions, Dave took me aside and told me to lighten up and think about what I did around the office.  Now and then, he made an oblique reference to posttraumatic stress, and even though I wasn’t ready to hear that, I paid attention to everything else he said.   Dave was the only friend I had left at the bank, and I didn’t argue with him. 

  • No longer in Vietnam and in a state of constant alert, Lance’s brain attempted to sort out the tangle of horrific images it had recorded during the war.  In the brain, the hippocampus is associated with episodic memories – memories of experienced events and their associated emotions – and damage to Lance’s hippocampus resulted in his inability to form new long-term episodic memories.  In simpler terms, Lance Johnson experienced lifelong difficulty forming new episodic memories not associated with the traumas he suffered in Vietnam.

In 1972, I transferred to the Vietnamese desk, a surprise because I didn’t know any American bank did business in Vietnam.  We were at war, for Christ’s sake.  Shows you now naïve I was.  The planners at Bank of America knew the war would end someday and were greatly interested in the economic future of the region. 

One day, after six months in the department, the bank president sent me a personal letter encouraging me to support the American oil companies’ bids on offshore drilling rights.  A map accompanied the letter showing the drill sites already awarded throughout Southeast Asia, and I saw the void around Vietnam that with bank support would be filled by American companies. 

What a joke.  Twenty years, millions dead, and for what?  To stoke the fire in the belly of big business.  I’d already tired of working at the bank for too little pay and too little spiritual reward.  That letter was too much for me.  After three years with B of A, my letter of resignation was accepted without comment.

  • Lance may not have been cognizant of the similarity between the bank president’s request for his support in gaining access to Vietnamese oil and his onerous duty as salation payment officer while in Vietnam, but nonetheless, his PTSD was triggered.  Lance went to the extreme of resigning his position to avoid any activity that aroused recollections of his trauma. 


1. Ordinary
2. Dating the class secretary
3. Artillery training
4. Special Forces Camp
5. Firing at anything that moved
6. You're not going ot believe this
7. Asked to accomplish the impossible
8. Welcomed by war protesters
9. Anger
10. Like a trapped schoolboy
11. Dissociative flashback
12. Still in love