Jon York fought the Viet Cong with bullets. When he got back home to the United States, he faced a different kind of enemy, one that bullets couldn’t touch. Instead, the Vietnam veteran fights his battle every day with art and poetry.
Jon York fought the Viet Cong with bullets. When he got back home to the United States, he faced a different kind of enemy, one that bullets couldn’t touch.
Instead, the Vietnam veteran fights his battle every day with art and poetry.
“For 40 years I didn’t know what was wrong with me,” said York, who has lived in Arma for two years. “I went through job after job, relationship after relationship. My dear mother said, ‘Jon, you have post traumatic stress disorder, but I didn’t know what that was and blew it off.”
Later, when he was living in Kansas City, he met a man in a hardware store and they began talking.“He said he could tell I had post traumatic stress disorder just from talking with me,” York said. “I went to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and they told me I needed to go to the Veterans Center and get checked out.”
He did, and the diagnosis was PTSD.
“I applied for, and within three weeks I received, my disability pension,” he said. “When I told them about it at the veterans group meeting I’d been attending, some of the guys wept because they had applied years earlier and still hadn’t gotten their pension. I was just in the right place at the right time and talked to the right people.”
York learned that art therapy can be very helpful to those with PTSD.
“I have an art background,” he said. “My mother was a professional artist, and my father was an architect. I didn’t start painting until my mother died and I inherited her easel. Then I just started painting and painting, abstract acrylic on canvas, mostly on Vietnam.”
A woman who had an art gallery visited the Veterans Center and wanted one painting from each veteran for a special exhibit.
“I had all these paintings, and she wanted to do a one-man show on me,” York said.
Page 2 of 3 - The exhibit, “I Am Vietnam,” ran two months in 2009 at the Springs Gallery, El Dorado Springs, Mo.
York’s Arma home is filled with his paintings, and he has a studio there.
In 2009 he began writing poetry, in response to meeting a woman on the Internet. While the relationship was not successful, the poetry was. York now has 115 poems published on Hello Poetry, an Internet site for poets to share their work. They are about finding love, losing love, life in general and some about Vietnam.“I currently have a readership of 23,883 reads for all the poems, and I normally get 20 to 30 reads every day from around the world,” York said. “These poems just come to me. I go back and re-read them and can’t believe I wrote that. Where did those words come from?”
He published a book online titled “May You Always Find a Reason to Smile - Finding Love and Losing Love.” It is available through shopmybook.com.
On Saturday, as he was thinking about possibly attending the Memorial Day service at the Pittsburg State University Veterans Memorial, he was inspired to write “Memorial Day 2013 for a Vietnam Veteran.” The poem concludes with the following lines:
“So Memorial Day just reminds Vietnam Veterans
“that we are a generation that society
“would like to forget but many of us
“are still here and are trying to hang on to life so dear
“but so many of us know that the end
“is so very near.”
A former Marine who attained the rank of sergeant in 17 months of active duty in 1968-70, York was in combat every day for 13 months.
“I was proud of my service in the Marines,” he said, but it didn’t take too long for him to realize that it was something better left off his job applications.
Page 3 of 3 -
He worked as a night club bouncer, delivered newspapers for a year, and earned a business degree.
“I’m substitute teaching now, and I love it,” York said. “I should have gotten a teaching degree.”
He’s glad that American society today is far more welcoming to those returning from military service.
“At least society learned a lesson from treating us so badly,” York said.
But many of those returning from combat still may face PTSD, and he’s got a message for them.
“I wish I could talk to the veterans and tell them about art therapy and writing, and what it does for their mind and soul,” York said.