A reader asks why I so often report on my hideous memories from Vietnam. Why don’t I just forget about all that and move on?
First of all, I can’t write about my experiences after Vietnam. Everything after 1975 is still classified.
Besides, I can’t forget what happened in Vietnam. That’s the nature of Post-Traumatic Stress. The memories are ever fresh. Trying to push them out of my conscious thought only makes them worse. Then they operate at the subconscious level and show themselves in flashbacks, panic attacks, irrational rages, and nightmares. To stay healthy, I have to face the memories head on. One of the best ways to do that is to write down what happened.
And I have moved on. I finished my intelligence career in the executive ranks, then retired as early as I could to write fulltime. I now have four novels, 17 short stories, and several nonfiction articles in print. I’ve finished another novel (Secretocracy) that I’m now hawking, and I’ve started yet another beyond that. I haven’t eliminated or escaped the Post-Traumatic Stress, but I’ve come to terms with it.
Moreover, I must embrace my memories. These recollections, though unspeakable, are sacred to me. They’re about the men who died by my side and the people I saved and others I tried to save and couldn’t. They’re a vibrant part of the man I am. I would be a lesser man without them.
Further, I want people to know what happens in combat and what transpired when Saigon fell. One of the reasons I write is to unmask the gritty reality of war and expose the historical facts. It’s no accident that my novel, Last of the Annamese, is fiction in name only, as one review described it.
And finally, I’ve lived a life that, as fellow author Larry Matthews put it, Indiana Jones would have envied. I have a trove of rare experiences to draw on for my writing. That store of tales resulted from the 35 years I spent in intelligence. I can write about the barely believable people I knew, the battles I survived, the horrors and the transcendent moments.
In short, take it or leave it, this is me. I offer it to you in humility and pride.