One steamy night, the summer of 1969, at Marble Mt. Air Base near Da Nang in Viet Nam, a rocket exploded near me and I died. There was screaming, explosions, dust, smoke, chaos; I had no torn flesh, no blood in the dust, but I died.
My flesh did not die but I had shattered. In death, I became a ghost. In life, a shadow. The ghost dominated the shadow. That domination has meant self-destructive behavior, an obsession with suicide and suicide attempts. Self destruction. Who, what is self? My body? My heart? My spirit? I had to destroy all that might be self. I had to destroy self completely, my complete self, even though there was no complete me.
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…
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.
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.
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.