I’m Jack Farley. I served in the 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam. After falling under fire, I lost my leg above the knee, and with it, the dream of the life I had planned for myself. My new normal included physical pain, grief for what might have been and the struggle to find a new path. In time, I continued my work as a lawyer and became a Federal court judge, working on veterans’ benefits. I also volunteered my time to work with other amputees from Vietnam and every conflict since through Iraq and Afghanistan. To this day, I still work with disabled vets who are amputees, teaching them how to ski. This story and more will be shared on the National Memorial Day Concert on PBS, Sunday, May 29, at 8pm (check local listings). For more on PBS’ National Memorial Day Concert. Ask Me Anything

Proof photo: https://www.dropbox.com/s/q1zw4n6uqk1v8ma/IMG_0617%20%281%29.JPG?dl=0

I am finished with the AMA now. Thank you so much for your questions!

This was my first experience with AMA and I am thrilled at the quality of the questions. I'll be looking out at all of you tonight during the telecast on PBS of the National Memorial Day Concert. It is okay if you wave back.

Tune in to the National Memorial Day Concert on PBS, tonight, May 29, at 8pm.

Comments: 78 • Responses: 12  • Date: 

dxsinner15 karma

Two part question: as a vietnam vet, do you feel honored that society has been trying to make right the unwelcome feeling that many of your brothers felt when they returned home originally?

When a person like Frank Lucas (drug dealer who allegedly smuggled drugs in soldiers coffin's) gains fame for his criminal career, do you feel that society is hopelessly backward? Ie: we elevate the wrong people to pedestals?

Jack-Farley28 karma

Part one, absolutely. The country learned a vital lesson after Vietnam and it is wonderful to see all the support that our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are receiving. As for part two, I really can't speak to that.

Cilor13 karma

Though you did not serve my country, thank you for your service to your own. What was it like adjusting from military life and the war?

Jack-Farley19 karma

Thank you for the kind thought. My adjustment of necessity was a slow one because, back then, it took about 8 months to a year before a new amputee received a prosthesis. Multiple surgeries, recoveries, preparations, etc., took time which did not go to waste. While in the hospital I prepared my law school applications, met my wife on a blind date, and did some traveling. I imagine the transition directly from combat to home with only a plane ride in between can be very difficult. Further, I know much effort is being expended DOD and DVA to try to assist all veterans with this transition.

Cilor4 karma

If you don't mind me asking, why law? Was it difficult? I'm planning on taking a course in law soon so I'll be eagerly taking notes!

Jack-Farley15 karma

Purely a personal decision. I already had an MBA and was planning on business as a career. With my new disabilities, which ultimately were rated at 100%, I wanted to be able to practice a profession totally on my own if it ever became necessary. I was older when I went to law school, graduating when I was 32, and was a far better student than I had been in college or graduate school. The military experience and a new marriage resulted in an environment suited to study, learning, and thinking. Good luck in your career choices.

2000and1613 karma

If you could have had an artist paint any memory that you had of the war, what would it look like? Thanks for your service, I am going to join the military soon became I feel it is the best way to help people.

Jack-Farley66 karma

Great question! I'm of two minds which gives rise to two questions. One, how can anyone paint the horror that is war? Second, and even harder, how do you paint bravery? I guess I'll just have to punt and say, like with pornography, I'll know it when I see it.

dodecagonman11 karma

What's the most inspirational story you've seen of all the people you've met?

Jack-Farley48 karma

I see inspirational stories daily. One in particular involves Brendan Morocco who lost all four limbs. About three years ago, he underwent two arm transplants. He can push his wheelchair, shoot baskets (he is no Steph Curry), and is working everyday increasing his dexterity and agility.

Keikobad10 karma

Contrasting the 1960s and today, what is most different in how government and society respond to people with disabilities? And what would you most like to see in this response moving forward?

Jack-Farley28 karma

The most significant difference is the change in attitude brought about by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). New buildings could not be built and changes could not be made to existing buildings without full consideration of the impact on people with disabilities. I think that elevated the national conscience on that issue. I think it is important not to define people on the basis of their disability. For example, I resist the characterization of myself as an "amputee". I am a person who happens to have an amputation.

uhuhrightokay6 karma

How does the healthcare experience you had compare that with that of soldiers coming home today?

Jack-Farley15 karma

In a world of combat veteran amputees, my opinion is that they receive the finest care available anywhere in the world today. When we started the Amputee Center of Excellence at Walter Reed, the plan was to treat all amputees in that center and to collect and train the finest doctors, nurses, therapists, and prosthetists available anywhere. It soon became clear that Walter Reed did not have enough room so a program was created at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. A third center was later opened at Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego. All three centers provided and provide state-of- the-art medical care and rehabilitation. Perhaps the biggest difference between medical care today and the past, is that the Department of Defense has undertaken the mission of rehabilitation. And the proof of the success of that mission is in the numbers: of almost 1600 amputees, over 300 remained on active duty, and over 50 returned to Iraq or Afghanistan. I benefited from awesome care by dedicated professionals during my 16 months at Walter Reed from 1969 to 1970. I'm sure virtually all of today's veterans and patients will say the same.

Catfider3 karma

How realistic are the war movies compared to real life?

Jack-Farley12 karma

I touched on that issue in an earlier response but let me add one more comment. "Born on The Fourth of July" is the story of Ron Kovik who is from Massapequa, New York. I am also from Massapequa and witnessed some of the events depicted in the movie, not the battle scenes but the bar scenes. The movie did a pretty good job.

2000and163 karma

First, thank you for your service. I am currently a Cadet Airmen and look foward to many more years of helping out. Do you feel the way that the Vietnam War is shown in present day film reflects accurately how it actually was?

Jack-Farley16 karma

And thanks for your service! Vietnam was the first "instamatic" war and it appeared nightly on every newscast in the country. Some of the official descriptions, it turns out, may have been a bit fudged but the cameras didn't lie. As for movies, Platoon, for example, depicted scenes that I'm sure did occur but they did not all happen in one 24 hour period. I once asked Hal Moore, author of "We Were Soldiers Once and Young", how close he thought the Mel Gibson movie was to real life. His response was, 80%. Interestingly, that's the same figure that one of the survivors of "Black Hawk Down" used about that movie.

MemorialDay13 karma

How do hope having your story told on television will help other veterans and their families?

Jack-Farley10 karma

I hope it conveys the extent of the help that is available to our veterans, both those from long ago and from just yesterday. The country has changed and wants to help. Veterans' Service Organizations (VSO), have increasing resources. And, despite its current difficulties, the Department of Veterans Affairs remains the largest health care and benefits organization in the world.

Hobomel3 karma

First, thank you for your service. Second, why skiing specifically?

Jack-Farley19 karma

I learned to ski on one ski thanks to dear friends who put up with me as I kept falling and falling and falling. They, I think, just liked to use my handicap sticker to park near the gondola. One day, I was skiing with my wife and we just happen to run into the Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic. The next year, I was invited back as an instructor and I continued for over 25 years. For a brand new injured warrior, who had never seen a mountain much less skied one, the thrill of being able to negotiate a trail on his or her own carries over into all of life's challenges. "If I can do this, I can do anything."

ElMangosto2 karma

Do you feel at all like losing a limb these days is less of a "big deal" due to advances in medical technology? It seems like losing a leg in the here and now wouldn't have a devastating affect on someone unless they were planning to be an athlete or something.

Jack-Farley16 karma

A parallel might be our present weather situation. Last I looked, there is a 30% chance of rain. What that really means, however, is that if it is raining where you are the chance is 100%. If it is not raining where you are the chance is 0%. If someone loses a limb the impact is total, i.e., 100%. Their life will change, will be different, but whether it's better or worse is totally up to them. The technology has increased exponentially and amputees are able accomplish remarkable feats with current prostheses. True, they may not be able to do everything they did before as well as they did it before, but they may be able to do new things that they never even imagined. I guess it depends on your definition of the word "devastating". Again, your life will change, there will be a "new normal" but life goes on.