James Joseph Baltrus
James J. Baltrus was born on 10/04/42 in Cleveland, Ohio to Joseph and Rose Baltrus. He was the youngest of four children and the only surviving son. He attended St. George elementary school in Cleveland, Ohio and St. Joseph and Euclid Senior High School in Euclid, Ohio. My brother, "Jim" or "Jimmy" (as we affectionately called him) was a person who loved his family and his country. He had a passion for history and read variously about the subject. As I remember, being the patriot he was, he volunteered for duty in Vietnam. Jim believed in his Country and also that all people deserved to live in freedom and he would be willing to fight for that cause. After his return from Vietnam, he would never speak much to us about his service there. However, a lady friend he was seeing after his return, would tell the family that Jim would wake up during the night screaming and also at times have terrible night sweats. My personal account, directly from my brother, came on a visit I made to Ohio from California to spend the Thanksgiving Holiday with him and his family (He then was married to Carol and had a step-daughter Tania) This was the first time he and I had a conversation about his tour in Vietnam. We stayed up all night talking and for the first time ever I saw my brother cry. He confessed to me that what tore him apart was not his tour in Vietnam but the fact that on his return to the States that he was spit upon by Americans and was unable to obtain work because he was a Vietnam Veteran. He spoke also about having to leave the Vietnamese people who he got to know as equal to you and me and leave them frightened about what the Communist would do to them and their children. It pained him much that the war protesters in this Country along with the politicians who wouldn't let the military run the outcome of this war were responsible for the deaths of many military and civilian people. His spirit was truly broken. Six months previously to his death by suicide, Jim suffered an aneurysm in the brain. He survived the surgery which the doctors claimed was a success but upon waking from the anesthesia he had flashbacks of being in Vietnam and began pulling off all the stents, tubes and bandages which as a result caused an infection throughout his entire body. He spent at least six weeks in ICU with his entire body packed in ice and with only a 25% chance of survival. Once again he survived this trauma. However, after the infection cleared he was left in a vegetative state. He was unable to walk, talk, feed himself, was blind and had no control of bodily functions. After weeks in rehab he was released home but couldn’t read or write nor speak clearly. Within six months, because of his relentless determination to return to work, he taught himself with the help of his wife, to read, write, speak and spell and was driving himself to work. Unfortunately, his short term memory was affected and also he remained in a very depressive state. So it was on June 15, 1992 that my dear brother took his own life.