From the December 2010 magazine.

Soldier of misfortune

Vietnam and caring for a handicapped child were nothing next to the wrath of John Barleycorn

I GREW up in a small country town in upstate Pennsylvania. When I was young there was not much to do but watch the grass grow and play. I'm from German, Native American and Irish blood, and I remember as a young man there was always a party for something or other--a birth, death or wedding. Whenever something happened there was a party. I remember walking around and drinking out of some of the drinks on tables here and there. My family would just laugh and say, "Look at the little drunken sailor."

I grew up in a time of black-and-white TV, when people still had narrow minds. My father was a very heavy drinker and would at times beat me for what he thought I had done while he was drunk. I learned to hide my feelings of hate and of being unloved. I found out early in life that beer was good, wine was fine, but liquor was quicker. I used it to fit in and to wash away my pain. I carried this into my life through school and on into my military career.

-- JOHN S.

Fresno, Calif.

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