Despite the years spent with an abusive stepfather, as well as losing a kidney when he was a student at Christiana High School, Rick Lovekin still managed to enlist in the Army and serve two tours in Vietnam.
But when he returned from ’Nam, he was filled with anger, resentment and insecurity. He was suicidal but couldn’t admit it—not even after jumping the median strip on his motorcycle and speeding the wrong way down Concord Pike after a night of carousing at a local biker bar.
Then, in 1971, while living in Ohio, he met his second wife, Karen, a customer on his milk delivery route. Her first husband had died in a motorcycle accident. “She saved me, and she says I saved her,” Lovekin says.
Lovekin worked many jobs after returning from Vietnam. Now 64 and retired, he has made his mark as a volunteer, bringing a music and video program about his war experiences to schools and community groups in Delaware and nearby states.
The war and its aftermath still haunt him. Friends and relatives glossed over it, “treating me like I had been away at summer camp,” he says. “I wish someone had sat down with me and said, ‘Rick, you’ve had a terrible experience and here’s what you can expect for the rest of your life.’ It was like trying to ignore a monster.”
He has regrets. “I wish I hadn’t been so angry all the time,” he says. “I wish I had been more understanding with my kids.”
Wisdom came the hard way. “There’s always someone out there who can help you,” says Lovekin, “and there’s always someone who has it worse than you do. Tell people you love them more. Be closer to your family and friends. Live every day like it’s your last day.”
If you knew you had only one year left, what would you do?
“I would continue to volunteer and to speak at schools about Vietnam. I would record my story so my children and grandchildren would know what happened to me that affected the way I turned out.”