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…
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?
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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.