As I prepare to publish my own e-book about my return to Vietnam, called Double Exposure: A Veteran Returns to Vietnam, I am hearing from friends about other vets who are experiencing healing by going back to Vietnam. One friend sent me the link to an upcoming film entitled, “A Soldier’s Heart: Healing the Wounds of PTSD.,” which features four Vietnam vets. Another friend alerted me to Bill Moyers riveting interview of Karl Marlantes, a Rhodes scholar and heavily decorated Marine Vietnam vet, who wrote about the way that war wounds the soul in two books: a best selling novel called Matterhorn, and a non-fiction work that covers the same biographical material, entitled, What It’s Like to Go to War.
Whether or not you are a veteran, these films and books will help explain why our country needs to help veterans readjust to civilian life. Many have invisible wounds, spiritual ones. Left unhealed these can cause irrational and occasionally violent behavior. They also can afflict a veteran with disabling depression that sometimes ends in suicide. As evidence, about twice as many Vietnam vets have died by suicide as from battle
Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have served multiple tours, unlike most Vietnam vets who usually served just one year. Psychiatrists who have treated PTSD warn that the long term consequences of PTSD for these recent veterans may be even worse than those for Vietnam vets.
Readers of this post, if you have a friend who is a veteran, thank him or her for serving, and show interest in his or her experience. Many veterans refrain from talking about their experience because they believe that civilians don’t want to hear about it, or won’t understand. Talking about the experience helps to heal the wounds of war.