Flashback: Vietnam Cover-Up: PTSD (PublishAmerica, 213 pp., $24.95, hardcover; $24.95, paper) is a novel by Alan C. Thomas, a former U.S. Navy Corpsman who served in Vietnam. His book gives the reader a vision of what a frustrating effort it is to deal with the problem of PTSD on its many levels.
The fictional corpsman, Rob Thomas III, is assigned to a SOG mission to rescue two POW pilots from a camp in the northern province of South Vietnam, and becomes the sole survivor of that effort. The brutality and violence of that mission are only part of the horrors of war that he experiences. At every turn in his service the corpsman comes into situations that require dealing with the ravages of war.
Rob Thomas III’s early childhood and family have been directing him to the jungles of Vietnam. His father served as a Marine in World War II and his grandfather fought in World War I, so it seems he is destined to enter the service of his country. “I always thought of my father Bob Thomas Jr., as Marine and a role model,” Thomas says, “A handsome poster perfect Marine, whose framed photograph set on my boyhood room table.”
Young Rob is not a standout inductee and often finds himself in situations where he blames his failures on others. He is not one to take responsibility for his failures. He trains at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in the winter of 1966. He serves aboard a ship with a Navy doctor. That is the beginning of his downward spiral. “During my time aboard the Proteus,” he says, “I experienced the trauma of responding to two suicides.”
Rob Thomas is discharged and marries. This marriage fails because of his nightmares, which he calls “red dreams.” In these dreams he relives the failed SOG mission during which he survived for three days before he was rescued.
On his return to the ship he is given a clean uniform and “The Captain informed me ‘Thomas you never went in-country… The report about the massacre of your squad will not help the war effort, so I will recommend that the record be scrubbed; and therefore, it will never see the light of day’.” This deception lies at the heart of his depression and obsession.
The second marriage produces a son, but Rob’s downward spiral intensifies. A divorce and child custody battle only make his life more unstable. VA prescribed drugs and court-ordered counseling sessions stretch on and on with no final solution.
This novel will open the eyes of those who have not experienced what PTSD can do to a service member—and to those who live and work with them.
The author’s website is alanthomasbooks.com