My feeling while reading Alan Cutter’s Healing the Warrior Within: A Veteran’s Spiritual Journey (CreateSpace, 240 pp., $11.95, paper) was that it needed to be reorganized with the chapters placed chronologically for clarity. I believe that the last three chapters would have been more effective moved up to follow the introduction.
Parts 2, 3, and 4 contain well-written examples of Cutter’s Vietnam War combat experiences and his post-traumatic stress disorder. I also would delete the first Letter of Paul to the Beloved Warrior, adding the absent footnotes indicated by numbers in the text of the letter.
In the preface to Paul’s letter Cutter quotes his mother’s philosophy “that we all are writing our own sacred book.” This led the author to comment that he found nothing sacred in his “unholy task” as a warrior so he rearranged “sacred” to express how he did feel: “scared, then scarred.”
I recommend that readers of the commentaries to Paul letters discuss them with trusted friends, family, Vet Center groups, or in a retreat setting when intense subjects such as reconciliation, the “unholy task” of combat, thoughts of suicide, or self-destructive behavior are mentioned.
The commentaries following the Paul letters provide insights into the author’s combat and subsequent PTSD. “I found it hard to explain what if [sic] like to be told that because of some physical loss I was now disabled,” Cutter writes. This came after his Agent Orange-related Parkinson’s Disease was diagnosed.
The section called “The Gathering” in Part 2 has several references related to Cutter’s war experiences that are worthy of note, such as: “I always arrive a little early at these retreats, or wherever I go. Before I can feel comfortable, even partially safe which is about as good as it gets, I have to have a chance to walk the perimeter.”
Part 3 contains more personal thoughts. In “G for Gratitude,” Cutter writes: “When I first stepped into a Vet Center I was not filled with gratitude. I was filled with resentment. I didn’t want to be there.”
In Part 4 Cutter writes about joining the National Conference of Vietnam Veterans Ministers, which became the International Conference of War Veteran Ministers when the membership grew more inclusive. This final part features biblical passages from the Christmas season accompanied by the author’s thoughts .
Cutter suggests that veterans write or record their war-time reflections and share them with family and friends. That’s good advice.