Johnson City, TN (WJHL) — Sammy Witt left Vietnam and it’s horrible war in summer of 1969. But Vietnam and its horrors have never left him – not even for a day.
“The things you have to do to stay alive,” Witt remembered. “The people dying, the kids not having enough food. And I lost a whole lot of friends there.”
Depression, anxiety, and night terrors haunted him. Decades after coming home, Witt learned it had a name: post traumatic stress disorder..
His hardest times come around the anniversary of his Vietnam homecoming when a group of anti-war protestors met him at an airport in New York.
“They said, ‘A Marine, the killer of women and children,” Witt said. “And they spit on me.”
“That’s a pretty hard way to be welcomed back to the United States.”
So this year when that painful anniversary rolled around, Witt said he was especially down.
To cheer him up, his wife sent him on an errand with their son to a local grocery store.
She’d spotted his Disabled American Veteran license plate, grabbed a patriotic quilt out of her car, and approached him outside the store.
“I said, ‘Sir, are you a veteran?”
When Witt told her yes, she told him she wanted to give him a gift.
“He looked a little surprised like he didn’t know what I meant,” Martin said.
Sammy Witt remembers stretching out his arms and accepting the present, a handmade quilt in red, white, and blue.
Witt says he couldn’t hold back the tears outside the grocery store, touched by the sincerity of a stranger’s gift. And by the timing. Forty-seven years earlier, strangers had cursed him and called him a killer.
Pat Martin has given away more quilts than she can remember. She told Witt what she’s told others before as she handed her handmade art to a total stranger.
“I told him I never thought bad of the Vietnam Veterans,” she said. “I told him I appreciated everything he did, because he did it for me.”
Sammy Witt says the quilt is a priceless treasure. “I can look at the quilt and think back and see my angel who was there and see somebody. I didn’t have a bad dream that night. I didn’t have a flashback that night.”
“I got welcomed home.”
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