Tears of a Warrior by Janet J. Seahorn and E. Anthony Seahorn

Tears of a Warrior: A Family’s Story of Combat and Living with PTSD by Janet J. Seahorne and E. Anthony Seahorn (Team Pursuits, 225 pp., $20, paper) is an excellent book. Janet and Tony Seahorn are well qualified to speak on the subjects of combat and PTSD. Janet Seahorn holds a PhD in Human Development and Organizational Systems. Her husband received two Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts for his service in the Vietnam War with the Army’s First Infantry Division.

One unique feature of this book is the number of poignant quotations about war and its high human cost.  Words from Wendell Berry, Elie Wiesel, and Erich (All Quiet on the Western Front) Remarque remind us that war has been horribly devastating through the ages.

Tony Seahorn makes the chilling statement that no one who has not been in actual combat can imagine its horror. His war experience began in Lai Khe, an abandoned rubber plantation on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. During his third night in this dangerous area, a 122 MM missile exploded above his tent.

“I was one of the lucky ones,” he writes. “A single fragment of shrapnel pierced my leg. Others were not as lucky. I will never forget the screams of horror in the night from my bunk mates. One lost an arm and both legs. The third one died. Welcome to Vietnam.”  The rest of his war story retains this intensity.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, the photographs in the book tell their own story. The smoke, dust, and elephant grass are almost tangible. Beginning midway through the book, nature scenes are used as symbols of healing.

The Seahorns

The authors explain what PTSD is and how it manifests in a veteran’s daily life. This part of the book is easy to follow, and offers hope for veterans and families affected by PTSD.  As a follow-up to these valuable chapters, the authors include a diagnostic self-evaluation tool. While not intended to replace professional mental health care, the assessment is a great starting point.

Another evaluation instrument measures the effects of PTSD on relationships. Once again, the clear wording here provides a good starting point for saving or improving personal relationships. Anyone who reads through the evaluations will quickly realize that combat is not the only cause of PTSD. This reader would suggest that the authors publish the evaluations in pamphlet form to be placed in doctors’ offices, places of worship, and the like.

Janet and Tony Seahorne provide hope as only those who are working through pain can do. At the end of the book listings of VA and PTSD treatment centers throughout the United States.

Tears of a Warrior is a heart-mending book for veterans and others with PTSD—and their loved ones.

The authors’ website is www.tearsofawarrior.com

—Joseph Reitz

 

 

 

From Nam to Normal by Richard A. Price

From Nam to Normal: Battle of the Demons (CreateSpace, 182 pp., $8.99, paper) by VVA member Richard A. Price is a passionate, practical, well-organized handbook for Vietnam veterans dealing with PTSD.

Price makes no claims to be a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist. But in 170 pages he describes a lifetime’s worth of suffering with PTSD. He also includes a variety of useful techniques to help veterans back to normal. But he warns the reader: “Don’t kid yourself; the journey isn’t easy. But what has ever been easy for the Vietnam veteran?”

Richard Price spent many years teaching secondary school and college-level courses at Ohio State and Kent State Universities. His true passion surfaced when he began dealing with his fellow Vietnam War veterans and their PTSD. He credits Vietnam Veterans of America with providing him much-needed support in his work with Vietnam veterans.

In his book Price uses an impressive style in setting out his experiences and journey to normalcy. Each of the twelve chapters compares an aspect of the battlefield with a similar situation back home. The chapter titles include “The Firefight: My Symptoms Surface,” “A Friend in the Foxhole: The Value of a Buddy,”  “Search and Destroy: Attacking PTSD.”

Price spent two tours in Vietnam as a Seabee. He arrived on the first day of the Tet Offensive in 1968 and led a machine gun squad defending the Gia Le perimeter. Following Tet, he began working on Seabee construction projects. At the end of his tour Price flew home on a cargo plane that turned out to be a full of caskets.

“No one can expect a veteran returning from combat to be the same person he was before,” he writes. “That was expected of us, and for that matter, we somehow had that expectation of ourselves.” Price compares his home-front reception to an ambush that destroyed his dreams, and also set the stage for his PTSD demons.

Price explains that veterans often are unaware that their personal reactions often stem from wartime experiences, and that damage can be done to familial relationships as well is to self and property. The results often lead to escape through alcohol and drugs. Self-awareness and wartime buddies can help a veteran navigate this minefield on the road to recovery.

“The majority of people think of intervention as a positive thing,” he writes. “They couldn’t be more wrong.” This statement can be confusing, but Price makes it clear that it is necessary to be very selective in using intervention methods. Interventions in his own life have helped him overcome depression, but Price says that he still deals with depression and is always on the lookout for the triggers that send him down that road.

The chapter titled “Operation Normal II: My Continued Quest for Normal” is both heartwarming and heartbreaking. Price tells of his love and pride for his family, but he also writes about how his PTSD hurt his family. He admits that instead of working to repair and strengthen his relationship with his wife, he immersed himself in work, a common symptom of PTSD.

In “Cans on the Wire: Triggers and Depression” Price explains “triggers” and their role in PTSD. He notes that there are many kinds of triggers, and that can make the identification of PTSD difficult. To a Vietnam veteran, dreams, the comments of a friend, or even a path through a forest can be triggers that bring on the fight-or-flight syndrome.

Nam to Normal discusses the role of movies in creating the image of a returning soldier. World War II movies produced heroes on the screen, while Vietnam War movies typically created a very different kind of image.

Price says that in writing this book he often suffered writer’s block. Anyone who reads his book will appreciate that he worked through the blocks. His book will help many war veterans on the long march to normalcy for a long time.

—Joseph Reitz

The Trauma Tool Kit by Susan Pease Banitt

Scores of books have been written about post-traumatic stress disorder—what it is and how to deal with it. The latest is The Trauma Tool Kit: Healing PTSD From the Inside Out (Quest Books, 305 pp., $18.95, paper) by Susan Pease Banitt, a psychotherapist who has been seeing patients for more than three decades and who also is a certified teacher of hatha yoga.

Banitt points out in her book that when she was in her forties she “was shaken to the core with an eruption of PTSD from the bowels of my being.” The author does not dwell on the details of her own case of PTSD in the book. But she now recommends spiritual and holistic modialities such as acupuncture and naturopathic treatment for her patients with PTSD.

Those and many other treatments are part of the “trauma tool kit” that Banitt explores in her book. The author does not directly address PTSD in veterans of the Vietnam War or any other conflict. However, veterans with PTSD should be able to use the ideas, information, and practices Banitt includes in her “tool kit.”

The author’s website is www.insightouthealing.com

Battle for Veterans’ Benefits by K. David Monahan and Alex Connolly

Battle for Veterans’ Benefits; Taking on the VA (Xlibris, 148 pp., $22.99, hardcover; $15.99, paper) by K. David Monahan and Alex Connolly is organized into four parts, each of which is divided into many short, clearly written sections with titles such as “Who’s Entitled to VA Benefits,” “What you need to File a VA Claim,” and “Who is Eligible for Death Pension.”

The authors are both Air Force veterans who receive disability compensation and who have personal experience with everything they write about. They also worked as veterans service reps at the VA adjudicating claims.

There is no index, so finding some subjects such as “widows” isn’t easy. Scanning the detailed table of contents helps, but it doesn’t contain the word “widows.” I did find the phrase “Agent Orange” in the table of contents, and because I have done a lot of research on that subject, I read that section with particular care.

The authors do a good job of delineating what veterans should do to file a claim for a disease they have that is presumptively related to AO. That section is detailed, extensive, and useful.

There is a lot of other useful information in this book, and mostly it is communicated in accessible language. The nature of the book dictates that some government jargon must be used, but there is no way around that. There are a lot of muddy little black and white photos in the book, which just seem to take up valuable space.

I recommend the book for those who wish to do battle with the VA for benefits they think they are due. For more info, go to the book’s website, http://battleforveteransbenefits.com/index.htm

—David Willson

The Military Advantage by Terry Howell

The 2011 edition of The Military Advantage: The Military.com Guide to Military and Veterans Benefits (Naval Institute Press, 400 pp., $26.95, paper) has recently been published. This annual guidebook contains a ton of detailed information on benefits available to active-duty military personnel and to veterans.

The book was put together by Terry Howell, a retired Coast Guard chief petty officer who is the managing editor for benefits at Military.com. Among other things, the book contains in-depth info on VA home loans, life insurance, veteran disability pay, veterans health care, burial benefits, scholarships, educational benefits, home loan guarantees, and military discounts.

—Marc Leepson