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.
“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…
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.
David Klein: Soul Operation (February 24, 2021)
Kate Dahlstedt: Wave (December 27, 2020)
Thayer Greene: My “Close Encounters” in World War 2 Combat (December 27, 2020)
Pat Guariglia: From a U.S. Marine to His Vietnamese Counterparts, with an Introduction by Edward Tick (December 27, 2020)