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In their own words
Im a survivor
Veteran Story mug
Ergle - photo by Michele Hester Dawson Community News

Terry Ergle was working at a post office in Atlanta when he was drafted to the Army in 1967.

A few months later, he was on an airplane to Vietnam, a place that still haunts him today.

"There's not a day that goes by that I'm not back in ‘Nam. And it seems to get worse the older you get. What's funny is when I came home, I repressed it," he said. "I didn't want to think about it. Now I wake up in the middle of the night in cold sweats or I hear a song from the '60s on the radio, and it all comes back."

As a young soldier, Ergle shied away from making friends with his fellow infantrymen.

"You know, the next day, they could be gone, dead and you just go on like nothing happened. You never developed a friendship with your fellow GI's," he said. "To this day I don't like to be around death. I try to avoid going to funerals, because you get to where death is ... you see so much of it, you see so many horrendous things."

Ergle hadn't been in the country long when his unit was first ambushed. Then nearly seven days a week for the next 12 months, he was in the jungles on search and destroy missions.

"You only came out of the fields if you were injured or going home," he said. "I was lucky. I'm a survivor, not a hero. None of us were heroes. We'll all tell you that. But there were many of us that did heroic things."

Arriving home at the airport in Atlanta on Jan. 12, 1969, the only reception Ergle received was from his family.

"Walking through the airport, all I got was stares and people that looked away. Because they didn't even want to know I existed," he said. "We were just fortunate to get through the airport without any protestors."

Ergle went back to work at the post office and made a conscious effort to get on with his life by putting Vietnam behind him.

Then a couple years ago, he was approached about getting involved with the local chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America.

"Vietnam vets are funny. They're just not joiners, most of them. We don't talk a lot and like I said, we blend in," Ergle said.

But he finally gave in and found that band of brothers he shied away from as a young GI.

"This is a great bunch of guys. It's helped a lot. It's therapy, because you get to talk. I can talk to another Vietnam vet whereas that Vietnam vet can't talk to anyone else," he said.

Now retired, Ergle also finds therapy as an artist and has a studio in Dahlonega with a corner dedicated to the memories of the war that he's learning to accept.

"Every Memorial Day and Veterans Day I do some kind of an observance, and I turn out a few pieces relating to my experiences. I think that's one way that I cope, how I let it out on a canvas or something and get my feelings out," he said. "A lot of guys don't have that avenue. I think that helps."

Ergle and his wife Patricia have three children and four grandchildren.

The couple has lived in Dawson County nearly 40 years.

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