‘Proud to call him dad’: Son to honor father who lost battle with PTSD
“I only have a few memories of my dad because I was only 5 years old when he took his life.”
David Allen Freier knows very little about his father of the same name. David Keith Freier served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam from 1968 to 1970. Sadly, his life was cut short as a result of the physical and emotional wounds that consumed him after he returned home. He would take his life on January 28, 1977 after a battle with depression.
This summer, David will get the chance to honor his father when he attends the In Memory Day Ceremony on June 16. With the Vietnam Veterans Memorial behind him, David will say his father’s name in front of hundreds of other families who have felt firsthand, the lingering and sorrowful toll of war.
The Vietnam War’s impact does not end with the 58,318 names inscribed on The Wall in Washington, D.C. The In Memory Ceremony, part of the In Memory program, is a tribute to veterans who died as a result of diseases related to their exposure to Agent Orange and other chemicals, or suicide as a result of PTSD. It is a day where loved ones, like David, can come together and remember their heroes.
As part of the healing process, David is continuing to piece together parts of his father’s life.
His mother and family described him as someone who was “very proud, intelligent and creative.” A truck driver by profession, he was always working with his hands and making things.
In Vietnam, all David has learned about his father is that he “drove water trucks to the soldiers on the front lines.” On several occasions his convoy was attacked, but he was still lucky enough to make it home, get married, and have children. David has a number of Polaroid pictures that his father took in-country and hopes it will help him understand more about his father’s time in Vietnam.
As David continues to uncover his father’s past, he has come to learn about the myriad of health issues he suffered from. “I think his service in Vietnam had both physical and mental effects on my dad,” he said. His family has told him that his father had a cancerous growth on the right side of his face, probably from Agent Orange exposure. He also knows that his father suffered from bouts of depression from PTSD. David adds, “Although he did not die in Vietnam, his service took a mental and physical toll on him and he died as a result.”
David has chosen to honor his father through In Memory this year because despite his father’s struggles, he is proud of his service to his country.
David Keith Freier will soon join the more than 3,200 veterans in the In Memory Honor Roll, where his story and photo will be preserved for posterity. It will also be a place where future “generations will be able to read about his sacrifices, triumphs and sorrows.”
When asked how he wants his father to be remembered, David said he wants “him to be remembered as the hard working, fun loving, truck driving, all-American hero that he was.”
And he wants everyone to know that he’s still proud to call him dad.
To learn more about the In Memory program or to apply to honor a loved one through the program, click here.