Thursday, November 4, 2010

Recovering from the War by Patience H.C. Mason

When I read a book, I like to sit in a comfy spot, put my legs up, and disappear into the plot. But then, I usually read fiction.

Patience Mason’s book is a documentary. Well written, it narrates the accounts of Vietnam vets when they are finally able to talk about it - thirty years after their return. Mason interviewed by mail, email, phone, and video whoever would respond to her queries. Various vet centers helped by asking for participants.

It’s not an easy book to read. I found myself picking it up and putting it down. The descriptions were graphic, the atrocities horrific, their treatment a crying shame.

I am married to a Vietnam Veteran - a veteran of an undeclared war, a police action. I knew a little about what went on. I had listened to a few stories and watched from the safety of my home while a generation was abused and used for political ends, but nothing prepared me for the depth of the trauma. So much corruption, So much blood. So much bullshit. And so little human consideration.

Mason tells it like it is. What she went through with her husband - a helicopter pilot. What other vets revealed to her. She quotes from their books as well.

The first half of the book recounts different incidents described by these heroes. What psychological nightmares they lived - and couldn’t get out of. Then she goes on to paint a picture of PTSD - Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. A natural reaction to the unnatural horror they lived. Finally, she describes the methods of help and healing for the vet and his family.

If you are at all curious about this time period, read this book. Read it even if you are not. It goes a long way to explain the difference between this war and WWII. This war and WWI. This war and the Korean War.

You probably know parts of it if you have watched a Vietnam war movie or read a Vietnam war book.

But this is the rest of the story.

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