Free Website Subscription:

Another Look at Don Burton’s Vietnam War Novel

By , April 20, 2015 2:26 pm

When one does a lot of book reviews, it sometimes happens that after further reflection, a reviewer will revise a review. That is what I’ve done with my review of Don Burton’s excellent book on his combat experience By What is Sure to Follow.  I rarely take the time to do this, but Don’s book is so multi-layered and deep, that it deserves a second look.

I’m sharing the revised review here:

A Brilliant Account of the Savagery of the Vietnam War and Its Lingering Effects on Our Warriors

Don Burton’s book speaks to the journey all of the unnoticed true American heroes took as they served our nation in the Vietnam War. It tells of being a young participant in the Vietnam War. But the larger story is of Don’s struggle to rise above the death blow to the soul and psyche that afflicts those who have experienced brutal combat.

In a brief interview, Burton said he couldn’t write about himself. On advice from a Vet Center counselor, he said he put the story on the shoulders of fictitious characters. One day Don was living the carefree life of a college student, as was his main character, Luke, where his main focus was the young women on campus. After dropping a class, his college notified the draft board. Soon after, Burton was meeting with a Navy recruiter.

One of the other recruiters in the office he visited was a Recon Marine. Burton heard him tell another inquirer that “Force Reconnaissance Marines are the elite of the Marine Corps. Not just some faceless slime bag, but part of a highly trained team of professionals.” He further explained that Force Recon was equal to the Army’s Green Beret or the Navy Seals.

It was then that Don saw the other person decide to be a Recon Marine. His fate was sealed. The author chose the Navy so he “wouldn’t stomp around in the mud”. Little did he know he would end up working beside Marines in Vietnam.

Burton takes us on a wild ride through boot camp, to his horrific experiences in Nam. From a young man who once was “a lover, not a fighter” he explains, through his main character, how he reluctantly becomes a seasoned warrior (a war with one’s own moral compass.)

Burton’s book shows the tight bond that forms between men when they share in the “combat brotherhood.” It’s a bond civilians can never understand. When losses of his “brothers” come, one after another, (with no time to grieve during combat) it leaves life-long scars. Continue reading 'Another Look at Don Burton’s Vietnam War Novel'»

Here’s a Great Book from A Vietnam Veteran Recovering from PTSD

By , April 10, 2015 1:59 pm

I’m very pleased to share my review of a very worthy book that tells quite a story. Don Burton’s shares with us his Vietnam experiences, as well as his ongoing recovery from PTSD. While it technically is termed a novel, it is based on Don’s real time in Nam.

I think today too many people forget what it was like when most of our young men were called to war by a draft. This book eloquently recalls those difficult times.

By What is Sure To Follow

 A Brilliant Account of the Savagery of the Vietnam War and Its Lingering Effects on Our Warriors

Don Burton is a true American hero as well as an outstanding writer. This book is a testament to the power and resilience of the human spirit. It speaks of the details and events of being a participant in the Vietnam War. But the larger story is of Don’s struggle to rise above the death blow to the human spirit that afflicts those who have experienced brutal combat.

We learn that Burton is a veteran of two wars: Vietnam and the one inside his head. The last fourteen years of his life have been spent attending self-help group sessions at a Vet Center.

One day Don was living the carefree life of a college student, where his main focus was the young women on campus. After dropping a class, his college notified the draft board. Soon after, Burton was meeting with a recruiter and found he was joining the Marines.

The recruiter had been a Recon Marine and noted “Force Reconnaissance Marines are the elite of the Marine Corps. Not just some faceless slime bag, but part of a highly trained team of professionals that nobody fucks with.” He further explained that Force Recon was equal to the Army’s Green Beret or the Navy Seals.

It was then that Don decided he wanted to be a Recon Marine. His fate was sealed. The author takes us on a wild ride all the way through boot camp, to his horrific experiences in Nam. From a young man who once felt he was “a lover, not a fighter” he reluctantly becomes a seasoned warrior. (A war with one’s own moral compass.)

Burton’s book expresses the tight bond that forms between men when they share in what becomes the “combat brotherhood.” It’s a bond that a civilian can never understand. And when one loses his “brothers” one after another, with no time to grieve during combat, it leaves scars that remain throughout life.

This book is not for the “faint of heart” but for those who truly yearn to understand the combat experience and what it can do to the soul and the psyche. It’s also about how one can begin to heal those wounds with the courage to face their silent demons. Continue reading 'Here’s a Great Book from A Vietnam Veteran Recovering from PTSD'»

Living with PTSD and Talking about It in an Unreceptive World

By , March 12, 2015 3:50 pm

So many of us who live with PTSD daily find that the world can seem to be a cold and uncaring place. I find that when I’m in social settings, I’m hesitant to broach the subject of the numerous traumatic events that have affected my life. It’s just not a subject that most people are comfortable with.

Aphrodite Matsakis, author of Vietnam Wives- Facing the Challenges of Life with Veterans Suffering Post-Traumatic Stress, makes an assertion that seems as timely today, as it was in 1988, when the first edition was published.

His problems and yours are compounded by the fact that we live in a culture with an inadequate understanding of human suffering. Our cultural ideal is often that of emotional coolness.”

Recently I decided to broach the subject of war trauma while I was among friends sitting at a luncheon table. I knew my one lady friend has a husband who is a Nam vet and has a 100% PTSD disability rating. She rarely talks about his PTSD. But she finally opened up a bit and said her husband also doesn’t like to talk about his war experiences. On occasion, he’ll relate something humorous that had happened during his tour of duty.

She said the only way she knew about some of the terrible things he had gone through, was by reading the clinical notes written by his psychiatrist. I found it interesting in that this differed a lot from my own time living with my ex-husband. He fairly often would share many of the horrendous events he had gone through in Nam.

I believe that because of those things I’d learned, I felt bonded to him in a way I might have otherwise not experienced. Something else occurred that day at the table that surprised me. Another lady, Jane, who I’ve known for some time, shared that her husband had been a veteran of the Korean War. She said he only began to talk about his war in the final days of his life.

If I hadn’t broached the subject of war trauma, I doubt that I would have ever known that Jane’s husband had been in a war. It troubles me that something so significant could go unnoticed and unacknowledged. Plus I’ve heard it said that “Troubles shared are troubles lessened.”

I find it a sad state of affairs that living with PTSD (something that is so life-altering for so many millions of us) still seems to be almost an impolite topic of general conversation. I believe that our American culture of “emotional coolness” may be responsible for the increasingly violent incidents that have become an everyday occurrence. As I now find myself in my autumn years, I wonder if things will ever change in my lifetime.

Certainly, this is one of the reasons I continue to write about my traumatic experiences, as well as those of others. It’s one way of coping with an inner world that exists, but is so often kept “too close to the vest.” Something to think about….

Don Burton, Vietnam Combat Vet, Shares More Thoughts on His PTSD Recovery

By , January 27, 2015 4:50 pm

I’m very pleased to share another great article by Don Burton. His thoughts on his PTSD journey and how he’s healed his traumatic memories, have been very helpful to me and I believe my readers will gain a great deal of insight from what has worked for him.

Caught Off Guard by PTSD– So I built a mental bookshelf

Surprisingly, I didn’t know I had PTSD from Vietnam for over 10 years after I got out of the service. Clinicians call it “Delayed Onset PTSD”. Others around me undoubtedly saw the signs of it but I was oblivious. Matter of fact, I now realize the massive extent to which it impacted me even before I had gotten out of the service. At home on leave or liberty after my second Vietnam tour I began “drinking like a fish”. It is obvious looking back that the extreme drinking was a symptom of the PTSD. At the time I just went with the flow. (Pun intended) Nonetheless, the memories were gone.

After I got out of the service another set of symptoms presented themselves. Maybe they began even before I got out. I found I couldn’t ever sleep longer than four hours a night—even if I was exhausted. Before entering the service I could easily sleep 8 -9 hours or more, To offset the lack of sleep I usually napped without setting a clock for exactly 23 minutes. I did it during the middle of the day or during my lunch break. Why 23 minutes? I hav Continue reading 'Don Burton, Vietnam Combat Vet, Shares More Thoughts on His PTSD Recovery'»

Don Burton, Vietnam Combat Vet, Tells His PTSD Story

By , December 17, 2014 1:16 pm

I’m pleased today to share Don Burton’s words on his long and arduous journey with PTSD after serving in combat during the Vietnam War, three tours. I’m looking forward to reading his book soon and I’ll be posting a review here thereafter.

I believe the thoughts he shares in this introspective piece can bring new insights to those of us struggling with the disorder, or as Don so aptly refers to it as, The Beast.

Combat PTSD – One Veterans’ Journey to Control the Beast

I thought January 9, 1970 was the end of my involvement with the military and the Vietnam War. That was the day I was discharged from the US Navy after having completed three tours to Vietnam, two of which took me “in-country” often with various Marine elements. Now 44 years later, at times, I am back there. PTSD, or PTSS as it was called then, takes me there instantly. To me, PTSD isn’t what many people believe. From first hand, I know it is an insidious thing, a beast that is opportunistic and nearly impossible to kill completely. Weird things can awaken it, sounds, smell, visuals and even moods, especially depression. It is hard to guard against and impossible to predict when it will raise its head. So what do you do about it? Here is what I did.

I spent many years at Vet Centers in group counseling, sometimes weekly, sometimes monthly. It helped. My wife of nearly 40 years has probably been the best healing agent as she is a good detached listener when the beast is present. But recognizing what the beast we call PTSD is and its power over us or more precisely the power we allow it to have over us is a key. Another major key is to give it a path out. For many years I kept it all inside. Nobody knew I had any problems. As the saying goes, I just sucked it up. It was killing me. One evening after a frightful bout with the trauma nearly breaking me, my wife suggested that I write it down. I did, slowly. Over the next ten plus years, when it raised its head, I wrote it down. Over time writing it down made me begin to feel like I was in control. Then I read and read and re-read my journal. Continue reading 'Don Burton, Vietnam Combat Vet, Tells His PTSD Story'»

Can I Get Over It?- Living with PTSD

By , December 2, 2014 4:47 pm

Last night I came across an article by Alison Downs. It’s titled  I Have PTSD and It’s Not a Joke. She notes that on November 11th, xoJane (a blog she writes for) posted two articles that referred to PTSD in a comedic way. “One, about silly underwear, said …’I have tween angst PTSD…”

Another opined about expensive beauty products, with the lament, “I still have poor kid PTSD.”

Downs rightly makes the valid point that PTSD is a very serious illness and is not a proper subject for parody.

It was very timely for me, as it seems each day I have an interaction with people who seem to be blissfully unaware of the struggle so many of us who live with PTSD must endure daily.

When you have PTSD, be it a mild case, or complex and severe, you never know what might be a trigger for an upsetting memory or flashback. It might be something you’ve seen on the evening news, a crime show, or a million other things. Continue reading 'Can I Get Over It?- Living with PTSD'»

A Day to Remember Our Veterans and Those That Love Them

By , November 11, 2014 5:03 pm

Many memories are flooding back to me on this Veterans Day. It is a time to reflect on the sacrifices of so many. Every generation has its war. Mine was of the Vietnam era. One of my saddest and most haunting memories are of a day when I was in my late teens. I was working my first job in a beauty shop. In some ways it seems like eons ago, but in other ways, it’s just like yesterday.

My boss had a very sweet regular customer named Luella. We knew that her son was serving in Vietnam. We all were very concerned for her and I had my own worries, as my Marine boyfriend was also stationed in Vietnam.

One day I came into work and immediately knew that something was wrong. The shop was deathly quiet and my co-workers were very subdued. I asked what was going on and was told that Luella’s son had been killed in Vietnam. I felt like I had been punched in the gut. The stark reality of the war was now in front of me. It was hard to get through work that day.

But even worse was the day that Luella came into the shop to get her hair done for Larry’s funeral. She wore large dark glasses and looked shell-shocked. There was no laughter that day, only a tense and dismal atmosphere.

It has now been close to fifty years later and that scene is deeply ingrained in my brain. I think of Luella and her family often, and wonder if the years have brought any healing.

I pray that they have found some measure of peace. I will continue to pray that all those others whose lives have been touched by war, can find some meaning and purpose in their experience. And of course, we can all pray for and dream of, a day when war becomes inconceivable.

There is a Civilian “Army” of Americans Still Affected by the Vietnam War

By , October 31, 2014 3:38 pm

Dear readers,

I’m currently reading a brilliant book titled Long time Passing- Vietnam and the Haunted Generation, written by Myra MacPherson. While the book was first published in 1984, many of its truths are still relevant.

The author has been a longtime political writer for the Washington Post. In the Introduction, there are quotes from men of three different generations. The first goes like this:

“We’re not philosophers. We’re not religious leaders. We’re young kids. You send us over there, you put us there on a mission to kill and then we come back and you say, “what did you do over there? Kill all those women and children and all that terrible stuff?”

–Former U.S. senator and Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Bob Kerrey

This book is nearly seven-hundred pages and is a very thorough retrospective on our nation’s most divisive war. As a baby boomer, it is “my” war. The Vietnam War may be long past, but it still holds observations that are pertinent to our American culture today.

Chapter 6 is titled  “The Significant Others.” On pg. 264, MacPherson writes

“They are called “significant others” in the jargon of psychologists and sociologists attempting to neatly package all the mothers, wives, girlfriends, children, fathers, cousins, aunts, uncles of Vietnam veterans. They are a civilian “army” of millions who were deeply affected by the tragedies of Vietnam.”

It still blows my mind to think of this. Millions of Americans still affected by that long-ago war. Add to that, the millions upon millions more affected by our recent and current wars.

I am reading this book in ‘bits and pieces” as it is too overwhelming to try and digest at several sittings. And I’ll be sharing more insights in new blog postings.

It is for all of you other “significant others” out there, that we need to keep examining our wars, why we fight them, and how we learn to live with the ramifications afterward.

 

 

 

 

Living with PTSD and Anger

By , October 14, 2014 12:51 pm

Sometimes I ask myself the question ‘Why do I continue to read and write about PTSD?”

Inevitably, my answer comes. It’s often due to my anger over the way my life has been altered by the Vietnam War. It’s also because the society in which I live (with very few exceptions) has so little understanding of what combat vets and their families endure. There seems to be an abundance of apathy.

Chuck Dean, author of Nam Vet-Making Peace with Your Past, observes

“The war experience has affected our lives, our children’s lives, and the way families are being raised today. Four to five generations have already been affected by PTSD from Vietnam, but the family remains a weak second on the Veterans Administration’s list of priorities. Our problem is one of time lag. We haven’t been in combat for decades yet we still react with survival tactics. Our families are paying a heavy price for a war long gone.”

He’s right. The Vietnam War was long ago. But now we have our veterans from the Gulf War, Desert Storm, Iraq, Afghanistan, and who knows how many other military operations are going on. How many more generations will be affected the way our lives have been?

Back in my time, we had the draft. Many American families had a son who was drafted and had to go fight and/or die in Vietnam. Today, since we have the volunteer army, the general public seems blissfully unaware of the high price being paid by those whose loved ones are doing the fighting in the name of our freedom.

I was just a teenager when the Vietnam War intruded on my “childhood. I fell in love with someone who was destined to go fight that war. That event has had long-lasting repurcussions on my life and so many millions of others. It is hard to live in a society, which as a whole, is hesitant to acknowledge the pain and trauma involved with the war experience. Especially when there is so much “denial” going on.

I used to speak out to my (civilian) friends about my experience. But then I noticed I’m usually met with a dumbfounded stare or I get the feeling they’d “rather not hear it.” It makes them uncomfortable.

Yes, I’m “only” a former wife of a Nam vet. But nineteen years of marriage to him and raising two children together, gives me the right to ‘write what I know.”

I suppose that is why I continue to write about my experience with PTSD, as well as the subject in general. It provides a release of my often “pent up” emotions and I hope that with my writing, I may affect others who are going through similar challenges.

It’s better than “punching a wall.” or “smashing someone in the face.” There have (and continue to be) those times when I want to wipe the “smugness” off of someone’s face, who seemingly has led a “charmed life” with little or no trauma. Those who have had “no skin in the game” or “walked the walk.”

This has been my experience. I know there are untold numbers of other ex-spouses of combat vets whose stories go untold. I find that very sad. Our experiences should count for something. My ongoing recovery demands that I express my feelings somewhere, somehow.

I hope there comes a day when the families of combat vets get the respect and recognition they deserve. That is, the ones who have provided loyalty and support for their loved ones.

Change is slow in coming. The VA failed me when I was in time of crisis. I wonder if the VA’s policies will ever be changed and they will be forced to truly take care of the families of our combat vets. This will not happen without an outcry from the general public. Will it ever happen?

I’m doubtful, but one has to hold onto a smidgen of hope. What else do we have?

Using Humor to Deal with PTSD

By , October 6, 2014 5:35 pm

Dear readers,

Well, I’ve been having “one of those days” where I’m trying to figure out why I’m here and where I’m going. I’ve been dealing with those old images from some not-so-very-nice memories, that often intrude when you least expect them.

I decided to do what often calms me down and referred back to a book I really like. It has helped me a lot in the past. Part of the reason I like it so much is that the author writes with a sense of humor. When you’re dealing with PTSD humor is absolutely vital and life-saving!

Dr. Mark Goulston, author of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder for Dummies  observes “Humor is one of the best ways to defuse stress and short-circuit a blowup. Clip out a funny cartoon or write down a couple of jokes that always make you giggle.”

Just reading that again, reminded me to think of something humorous (not all the bad crap going on in the world.)

Something happened yesterday that really did strike me funny. My husband and I were riding in the car. (He was driving.) We were having a little bit of a verbal battle going on. I finally said, in a joking way, “Do you like living?”

Well, his hearing isn’t what it used to be. So he goes “Do I like women??”

I started laughing hysterically. I finally was able to tell him what I really said, not what he thought he’d heard. Then I commented, “Well, we’ve been married nineteen years. If you don’t like women, it’s a fine time to tell me now!”

Anyway, just having a giggle again over that is a reminder that “we’re never going to get out of here alive” so it’s important to try and “lighten up” at least once or twice a day.

Just recalling that silly little incident has made me feel better. I’m pretty sure I can keep putting one foot in front of the other and live another day. For all of you out there who are dealing with the depression and frustration that goes along with living with those damned traumatic memories, I hope you can find a “giggle” in your day.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Panorama Theme by Themocracy