Wife Finds Healing After Losing Husband, Vietnam Vet, to PTSD

Written by Cyndy Hollender-Stancliff

VVMF’s In Memory program began in 1999 and honors Vietnam veterans who passed away from service-connected illnesses attributed to their exposure to Agent Orange or suicide as a result of PTSD. Cyndy Hollender-Stancliff honored her husband John through the program in the mid-90s* and again in 2000. John served with the Army in Vietnam from September 1967 to August 1968. After his return home, he suffered from the emotional wounds he received in-country and passed away in 1994. This is the story of how the In Memory program helped Cyndy heal.

 

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John Hollender, who later lost his life under circumstances believed to be related to his post-traumatic stress disorder.

 

The In Memory program was still in its infancy when my husband, John Carlin Hollender, was an honoree.  It was an opportunity to give my husband the honor he so richly deserved.  But when the day came to pay tribute to John, it became much more than just honoring him, it became a healing process for me.  I met other spouses who had gone through the same experiences – pain and grieving.  It allowed me to put closure on a difficult time in my life and move forward.

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John served in the Army from 1967 – 1968.

 

When John returned from Vietnam, he was not the same person who left to go overseas the year before.  As many military families from the Vietnam War know, those who returned came home to many different challenges.  From political unrest to emotional and physical disabilities, these men and women came back having to re-assimilate back to the “normal” world.  For some, the emotional and physical issues took years to manifest.  For others, their lives were taken way too soon.

 

When the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was erected, many of us felt that it was about time that we had a place to honor the more than 58,000 men and eight women that were killed or remain unaccounted for.  For myself, losing John had a devastating effect.  I always felt he never got the recognition he deserved.  For families who lost their veteran to service-connected issues such as: PTSD, cancer, ischemic heart disease and other Agent Orange related medical issues, there was no healing. There was no honor for the veteran, just the loss of our loved one.

 

The In Memory program was created by veterans and family members who wanted to honor their veteran and help each other by creating a support group of survivors that shared a common loss.  As the program began to grow, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund carried the torch and kept the program alive.  VVMF has honored more than 2,800 veterans to date.

 

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The last photo of Cyndy and her late husband, John that was taken in 1993.

 

The In Memory program was crucial to my healing after the loss of my husband.  I could talk with other spouses and family members who shared many of the same experiences that I had.  I was able to move forward with my life knowing that John had finally received the honor for his service, and I had found a support system that understood what it was like to go through the trials that I went through.

 

In the years since John was honored, I have found peace by participating in the In Memory Day ceremony every year since.  I am there for other spouses and families that are going through the process for the first time and I offer my support.  My goal has been to tell others about the In Memory program and make sure every one of our veterans, who fought and died for our freedom and lost their lives because of their service, be given the honor they so richly deserve.

 

The In Memory program has made a huge difference in my life.

 

Cyndy Hollender-Stancliff has been volunteering at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial since 1994. She has spent nearly 23 years sharing the legacy of veterans in Washington, D.C. and has since remarried. To learn more about the In Memory program and how you can honor a loved one in 2017, click here.

*Cyndy first honored her husband through the In Memory program in the 90s, when the program was held by the Friends of the Vietnam Veterans of America. 

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