I have the Vietnam veteran in my heart. They are intertwined in my life as ivy on a garden wall. Bracelets on my wrist, tear stained books on my shelves, reviews in my hard drive, photos in an album, a black and white flag that sometimes flies outside my door and friendships that I cherish. Sometimes I wonder why I chose them or they chose me. I guess God knows. I know only that we are inexplicably connected. These are the reasons for asking you to trust me when I say get in your car or go online right now and seek out this book. It calls out to be read. The first thing you may notice when you get this book home is that the cover art is fitting with the title. A soldier sits with his head in his hands in sorrow or anguish, exhaustion or maybe just plain homesickness or hunger. In any case, “Not enough tears” is what you see. I found myself wondering about this young man and thinking that indeed this was also a fitting label for the war itself.
Mr. Wright impresses upon readers the anguish one man suffered as a result of post traumatic stress disorder. He writes in such a truly personable way that you feel a bond of friendship with him. Some of his descriptions may seem graphic, not because he went to great lengths to offend your senses but because what he lived through was in fact so offensive, heartbreaking and utterly unimaginable that the mere mention of them are enough to make you turn your eye away and look out the window waiting for the emotion to pass so that you can continue.
In one excerpt he tells of his well-intentioned fiancée sending a Christmas tree for the holidays. He remembers,” Peeking into a ripped corner of the package, my heart sank. It wasn’t Christmas here.”… “Friends were getting killed here.”…” I could not put the tree up. This was no place to honor Christmas”. It sure wasn’t like those old movies when he was a kid, where the GI got all misty-eyed for home. Homesickness or loss of focus on survival was not a luxury that they could afford. He speaks of the paradox of life in a war zone and life back in a normal world. As if there was no pain or suffering somewhere in a forgotten jungle. He recalls,” Ironically, the same hour we lost a man in some unknown piece of the jungle in Vietnam, the whole world focused on the Apollo 8 space mission. “ …“ People around the world held their breaths not knowing.” He said,” My mind could not reconcile how people could focus so intently on astronauts and not seem to care that there was a young point man from the third platoon who gave his life in service of his country that day. It was one of those “life isn’t fair lessons. The injustice haunted me”. I will probably remember this passage for the rest of my life. It made me so sad at the injustice of it all and I wondered how our world can so easily forgive itself for what we have done. What touched me most about this author’s story is that he knew even while still serving in Vietnam that his life had changed. He often thought he could not bear any more death, any more stress, any more jungle war. But at the same time, he could cope with nothing else. The simplest idea of going home and sleeping in a heated room with a door and a bed and blankets was almost frightening. He had slept outside on the hard ground with nothing more than a rubber poncho for months. How would he carry on a conversation with ordinary people about baseball, cars or the news? The men he lived with could not even carry on a conversation without using language that would curl most people’s hair. None of the stories he could tell would be things people back in a real world could understand or even care about. He was frightened even of himself.
One moment he was a warrior, the next he was in America; as if he could pretend he was fitting in. The funny thing is, on one level, he really did fit in. He wanted dearly to fit in and forget the past, to have a family, a good job, a life. On the outside, those were the things he was striving for, while on the inside the battle raged deep. He was always just a few steps away from a peaceful life. But it was his only reality and it occurred to others, including his wife, but not to him, that there was something broken, something not right. PTSD. It is a sad thing indeed that the author like so many other men and women who have given for their country had to suffer so many years, searching for what is rightfully theirs. The good news is he is a survivor and he is happy and I hope at peace with the demons he fought for so long. He is an honorable man. He has earned the right to be free.
His story holds valuable lessons for those of us that seek truth in the stories of those who served. Their sacrifices have been great. His story holds hope for those who have traveled a similar road - there is peace.
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