THE BLOG
09/30/2014 01:08 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

In Limbo Between War and Peace: A Vietnam Veteran Comes Home

How a country treats it war veterans says a lot about its values. Not the values it purports to cherish, but those it actually holds. Whether one comes from a family where fathers, son, mothers and daughters have always served, or from one that hasn't seen a member in uniform for generations, most of us believe that when a nation sends its young people off to war, they deserve recognition and, more importantly, help--psychological, medical, financial, whatever it takes to make sure they're whole--when they come home.

In the spring of 1971, LIFE magazine published a remarkable story, "A Veteran Comes Home--to Limbo," written by Colin Leinster and featuring photographs by John Olson, who made some of the most indelible pictures from Vietnam. Focusing on one particular vet, 21-year-old Michael Ball from Midland, Mich., the article and photos captured the singular troubles faced by countless veterans, then and now, returning from war: the doubts; the troubled sleep; the anger; the longing for normalcy.

[See the entire story, and many pictures that never ran in LIFE, at life.com]

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Not published in LIFE. Sgt. Mike Ball, Vietnam, 1970.

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Caption from LIFE. "Mike talks with Shirley Lyvere, whom he had once dated. His father invited her to the airport to help welcome Mike."

(Photos: John Olson--The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)