Scott Hutchinson has been a Pastor in the United Church of Christ for the last 30 years. Scott’s formal education includes professional degrees in Divinity, Counseling and Human Relations, and Social Work. Prior to full time ministry, Scott was a counseling professional. Scott’s areas of focus and expertise include forgiveness, trauma healing, and peace education. Scott is co-founder of Touchstone Veterans Outreach and of the COMPASS Healing Circle. He has experience in two war zones as a noncombatant.
Glen Miller is adjunct professor, Fox School of Business, Temple University. He teaches Business Ethics and a course in Leadership. Glen served as a Ranger Team Leader in Vietnam from 1969 – 1970. Glen lead two Ranger Teams into Cambodia at the beginning of the invasion, May 1, 1970.
More than forty years after combat and warzone peace-building, the authors helped form a group that is creating space and place for healing from war wounds to the soul. The organizing leaders called the group Touchstone Veterans Outreach. They talked and mused and connected with others that were interested in the mystery of war healing. In short, they did not turn away but towards the pain wrapped and sealed within the bodies and souls of veterans…
Humberto Ak’abal is a poet from Guatemala. These poems were written in K’iche and translated into Spanish by Humberto. Further translation from the Spanish into English was made by Miguel Rivera with Fran Quinn. All poems are extracted from the book by Humberto Ak’abal In the Courtyard of the Moon, Los Angeles, Tia Chucha Press, forthcoming in April 2021. We kindly thank the publisher for permission to publish these poems.
Seeking the most comprehensive and holistic healing of war wounds possible, I have been leading annual reconciliation journeys to Viet Nam for veterans and other war survivors every year since the twenty-fifth anniversary of the end of the war in 2000. Encounters between survivors of all sides squeeze long-ago memories and feelings out of American and Vietnamese alike. Through poetry I record the voices and stories of women and men who lived through extraordinarily close encounters during war and again on meeting today. These encounters show the depths and complexities of our emotional lives during times of warfare and its aftermath when we can transform fear and hatred into understanding, compassion and love.
This poem starts with the Hebrew words for left (Smol) and right (Yameen). In the Israeli army, they are loudly called out during a cadence march. The poem then moves to the very different environment of a Zendo in NYC. Years later these words came back to me during walking meditation, creating a disorienting sense of unreality, even astonishment at this new setting. What does it mean for a soldier to find himself in this still, serene environment? Is it not mere pretense to walk with such beatific air? As a gay young man, I did not see my fellow platoon members as brothers in arms. I saw aggression and pride in their new-found power, exemplified by the M-16 in their hands. They would most likely have laughed at this new group I’ve assimilated myself into, walking with the foolish idea that slow steps and a soft gaze can bring us to enlightenment. Is it possible for me now to let go of my boots and helmet when these Hebrew words assert themselves at every step I take?
“I’m not letting him, or any other gook sonovabitch get anywhere close to me. Especially near my eyes!”
This conversation was going nowhere fast, but he didn’t have the option of choosing another surgeon; it was the only specialist available in this region for the relatively rare ocular condition that was slowly blinding my 80-year-old combat veteran therapy patient. Dr. Kim’s highly respected reputation mattered not. As it were, he happened to be of Chinese ethnicity.
That was all Don needed to know. He had served with the “Triple Nickel” 555th Military Police Battalion during the Korean War. From the outset, he was clear that he was still filled with rage towards his former enemy. Curiously, he reserved his deepest vitriol not for the North Koreans, but for their Chinese allies who had joined the effort to push the Americans off the peninsula and into the sea…
On March 17, 2020, at the beginning of the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, all French and foreign newspapers reported the war declaration of President Emmanuel Macron, “nous sommes en guerre”, which was followed on March 19 by that of the previous American President Donald Trump, who described himself as a “wartime president”. Those first steps, which politicians and newspapers around the world would henceforth follow, triggered the rush to applying metaphors of war during the early stage of the Covid-19 pandemic.
From a logical and rhetorical point of view, several significant connections exist between the two related domains – the fight against Covid-19 and war. Therefore, the metaphor we are at war with the virus and all the metaphors derived from it (e.g. doctors are heroes, the virus is the enemy, intensive care units are trenches, etc.) have been formally adequate. However, from the ethical and emotional points of view, these metaphors have not been adequate because they do not produce that perspicuous clarity: they highlight some aspects of the situation while concealing other, such as the gravity of the structural weakness of public health systems in many countries worldwide. From the ethical point of view, then, war metaphors appear problematic because they arouse the same emotions felt by those who live in a state of war, which does not make the case of the Covid-19 pandemic…
Dear readers of Close Encounters in War, we are delighted to publish another poetic contribution about the Vietnam war, this time from the perspective of a Vietnamese veteran: Trần Đình Song, who served in the Southern Vietnamese Air Force and was in the re-education forced labour camps after the war. This beautiful poem was written in 1966, and although the horror of civil war war haunted the Author and his country, his words are full of love and hope. We publish the poem in its original version, accompanied by the new English translation that the Author made with his friend and member of the CEIWJ Editorial Board Edward Tick.
Survive & Thrive: A Journal for Medical Humanities and Narrative as Medicine, 5, 2 (2020)
The American War in Viet Nam created significant divisions among their population. Factions include southern Army of the Republic of Viet Nam (ARVN) veterans, northern People’s Republic or North Vietnamese Army (NVA) veterans, Viet Cong (VC)veterans who were essentially militia, non-combatant Pioneers – largely women, Agent Orange victims. All these are now treated as one people, one family. Some government prejudice and denial of benefits remains toward ARVN vets, but as we will see not among the common people. We turn to our American experiences in the Viet Nam of today of otherness, differentness, moral responsibility for the war, the possibilities of reconciliation between former foes. How do the Vietnamese experience us? And what is our experience of being the outsiders from our country that formerly invaded this land?
Download the open-access article as PDF for free HERE.
Poet, author, psychotherapist and international activist and guide, Edward Tick, Ph.D., (www.edwardtick.com) is author of four nonfiction books, including War and the Soul, and two volumes of poetry. A specialist in war and trauma healing and the cultures of Viet Nam and Greece, Ed uses the humanities, literature, cross-cultural and ancient psycho-spiritual-cultural practices for healing.
Close encounters in war are, before anything else, life experiences that change in depth those who make them. As editors of the Close Encounters in War Journal, we have always been aware of this simple but basic fact and therefore decided to open the third issue of the journal (2020) to creative writing. We wanted to propose an experimental encounter between scholarly research and forms of creative and non-fictional writing whose roots go deep into experience and imagination.
After that exciting experience, being aware that stories and poems of close encounters in war deserve a place of their own in the website, we are happy to announce the launch of the new section “Stories and poems of close encounters in war“.
This new section of the journal is divided into three subsections (Poetry, Fiction, and Testimonies and Autobiographical Essays) and is meant to be a space for creativity and exploration of all those forms of writing that help us understand war more thoroughly as a multifaceted and complex experience. We invite storytellers, veterans, practitioners, relatives and friends of veterans, poets, therapists, and much more to feel free to submit their contributions to the CEIWJ. We will be happy and grateful to read year round your original and unpublished works about your encounters in and with war, real and imagined. We will select and publish the best, more insightful, and inspiring contributions.
We present in this section a collection of testimonies and short essays from veterans, therapists, witnesses, practitioners and others who have experienced close encounters in war in person or through their work and connections.