Sunday, March 22, 2015

How to Replace the Past with the Present...a Vietnam Veteran's Story

Image from Amazon
Book available here: Return to Viet Nam:
One Veteran's Journey of Healing
Yesterday I finished reading Return to Viet Nam: One Veteran's Journey of Healing written by Linda Myers and her husband Art Myers. Art is a Vietnam War Vet and served in the USMC.

The story of Art's battlefield in Vietnam took my breath away. His account guided me step by step through the one day of battle he experienced during the 1968 Tet Offensive was that compelling.

 As a result of that one day, he suffered from PTSD at what the US government finally recognized as the 60% level. His disability lead to alcoholism, divorce and 35 years of nightmares and anxiety. His is a story that could be told a thousand times over by other veterans like himself from all those wars past. 

The books takes the reader on a day by day journey through the countryside, into the hills and across the Mekong Delta. You will visit the homes and learn about traditions, the Viet Cong and the spiritual experiences encountered.

Finding a way to meet the challenges of this journey was not easy for Art. But he knew that meetings with vet support groups, counseling and Linda, his second wife, working for his recovery was not enough. In the end, Art decided with the encouragement of Linda to return to Vietnam and revisit his past, hopefully for a final time. The goal was to in some way replace the past with the present.

Jan on the right followed us for
3 days. It seemed she just wanted to be
close and speak English with us. She could
not read or write...really.
I don't think that in Art's world we could ever say that the past has gone away but I do think that his courage and wisdom is allowing him to live a life that many of us would envy. His words were so perfect because they told the story of spiritual healing and coming face to face with and forgiving those that were once the enemy...and visa versa.

It may have been his hope that the vets he knew could have that same experience. However, he learned that many other vets cannot find a way to do that. They hold onto their misery forever. He told about the veterans in his support group and their reaction to his journey:
Montagnard Woman 
Art: I thought it it was a good idea to let the vet group know how much better I was feeling and how much less anxiety I had to go through. When I got back I went a couple of times to the group. When I came back from [the]Vietnam [War] the first time, I was rejected by most people for having served. And it felt the same way going back to the vet group. Some of them - the ones who were still living in the past - didn't seem to want to move on. Some were supportive and glad that I did it, but they didn't want to go themselves.
Dwelling totally open
even though the temp lingers at
around 45 degrees f.
My husband and I visited Vietnam several years ago and saw the new Vietnam alive and well. The people were interested in us but not resentful. Hanoi remains a communist driven city but the rhythm of life is very much as it has always been I think.

On the other side of the coin, loud speakers that woke us at an early hour with instructions in Vietnamese for the local citizen's day reminded us that Communism is alive and well.

We stood with the Montagnard People that spoke perfect English. We visited a place called Sa Pa located in northernmost part of the country. For all appearances their life had not changed since the beginning of time. However a large parade square and the obligatory loudspeakers on electric post told of those war years. Even the French villas that dotted the hillsides were a reminder of a history put to rest. Art's story was one I could see in my mind's eye.

Art came to know that his story could have been told by a Vietnam veteran as easily as by himself. I may be wrong but I also think that the thing he struggled the hardest with was not what he did but how our country and his commanders appeared to have failed our soldiers. His experience could have been typical on the battle field. Friendly fire, a few men left to do a very big job and no recognition for the horror they endured. He knew that it was not what he would have ever chosen...not at all. It has been very hard to let go of.

So, if your are interested in a history lesson on the Vietnam War told by a Marine that lived the story, I recommend you read this little book. It is very well written. You will not regret it.

Thank you to Art and Linda Myer for the donations of these books they have made to various veterans groups. I know it has helped. Linda is a friend of mine. As for Art, after reading this book I will see him in a whole new filled with respect and awe! I am very proud to know him.

Be well.


1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your review, Barbara! It's always a treat to get comments from people who have read it.


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