PTSD & Psalm Twenty-Three by Robert Scholten

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Robert Scholten’s Vietnam War experiences resurfaced in 2007 during six weeks of  VA therapy sessions. He has collected them in PTSD & Psalm Twenty-Three: Coming Up Out Of PTSD’s Trench (Westbow Press, 128 pp., $30.95, hardcover; $13.95, paper; $3.99, Kindle).

Scholten, who is a life member of Vietnam Veterans of America, was troubled from minute one when he joined Charley Battery of the 4th Battalion, 60th Artillery attached to the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vietnam in September 1970. He immediately began counting down the days to the DEROS date on his long-timer calendar. He inscribed his personal mission on his boonie hat: “I’m a-going home – heaven or Chicago.”

Nicknamed “Preacher” because he constantly read his Bible, Scholten says he is “a praying man from a praying family.” His trust in God and his devotion to prayer and scriptural knowledge were central to his Vietnam War tour of duty.

Scholten came to learn that his emotional welfare was way down on his unit’s priority list, behind maintaining the Duster track vehicle, cleaning weapons, guarding the firebase, and placing crew members before self. He describes Charley Battery as “a tight-knit group who learned mutual trust and comradeship under extreme stress that would snap a civilian like a dry twig under a horse’s hoof.”

“Looking back forty-five years later, I have to admit that first night with my Unit had major impacts on my life,” he writes. During that first week Scholten couldn’t sleep, troubled by thoughts of his family praying for his safety and his own prayers centering on not having to “take a life.” Those thoughts and prayers “and Scripture readings started mingling with previous war movies and television shows” to keep him awake.

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Duster Gunner Robert Scholten completed his year in Vietnam thanking God that he had lost no members of his crew. PTSD was an unknown when he flew home.

Many years later, realizing he was “haunted” in the “PTSD trench,” Scholten writes, “I didn’t leave Vietnam alone, I brought my crew and Section members with me in my heart and soul. To this day I can see, taste, smell, feel, and hear the times we were in the Duster engaging the enemy.”

–Curt Nelson

Psalm Twenty-Five & PTSD by Robert Scholten

The cliche is that you can’t judge a book by its cover. But Robert Scholten’s poignant and personal book, Psalm Twenty-Five &  PTSD: A Journey Into the Darkened Realms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (Tate Publishing 188 pp., $12,99, paper) certainly delivers what the cover promises.

The reader is walked through what Sholten calls the “sunken trench” of PTSD alongside Bob, “a gunner on a Duster attached to the 173rd Airborne Infantry” in 1970. Nicknames are essential to this Vietnam War memoir, a revelation to me as a rear echelon Vietnam veteran.

When I began the book, I wanted more background on the author, but as I read on. I could see too much information would have been a distraction from this homily-like treatise. “War changes people, be they individuals or families or communities” is just one of the author’s observations.

Scholten’s honest recounting of his PTSD, as well as his mother and wife experiencing it along with him, clearly illustrates the shelf-life and shared pain caused by post-traumatic stress disorder.

The author shows us that thought processes, prayers, meals–in fact, just about any daily activity we take for granted—can be interrupted by flashbacks to lonely nights in Vietnam where danger lurked. One flashback in which Scholten had an M-79 grenade launcher in his lap ended with the thought that what was on his lap was his Bible .

Now a minister, the author recalls how he has lived with Psalm 25 since age sixteen, revealing that his closeness to God has guided him through most of his life. That includes his months in combat and the present day as he deals with flashbacks.

The importance of this book to veterans and those with PTSD is summed up by the author: “PTSD is a natural reaction and byproduct of experiences in war. For me it was Vietnam.”

Scholten, who had the combat moniker “Preacher Bob,” adds a concluding prayer which, he writes, can provide comfort to those dealing with PTSD:

“Let me have the privilege to pray with you personally and for anybody else who has taken the journey thus far through the trench of PTSD. We have tasted war with all its terribleness it dishes out to veterans and civilians alike. We despise the flavor it has left in our lives, yet many of our fellow veterans stand ready to go through it all again.”

This thought-provoking volume is meant to offer guidance for those experiencing PTSD. It is valuable and worthy of a place on your bookshelf.

—Curtis Nelson