We'd decided to give a copy of our book - Return to Viet Nam: One Veteran's Journey of Healing - to each Vet Center along our route, and to other places where it seemed right. Here's where 11 books found a home:
1. Vet Center, St. Louis, MO. Art went in alone and I sat in the car for 15 minutes. When he came out I asked how it had gone. He said, "The team leader was very cordial. He sat me down and wanted to know why I was there and if I had any problems. He really seemed concerned about how I was doing. I was very nervous! I told him about the book and he was very appreciative in getting it, because in a few minutes he was going to go to a Viet Nam vets' session. He gave me his card and wished me luck on my journey. He also said he'd read the book. I told him there was a website where he could make comments if he needed to."
2. Our hosts Tom and Joan in Waverly, TN. Joan had asked to read it the night we got there. Her brother was a Viet Nam vet who died a couple of years ago of "unusual Asian cancer" - possibly brought on by Agent Orange.
3. Vet Center, Nashville, TN. This time I sat in the car for 25 minutes while Art went in. "He was on the phone on hold taking care of some business, and asked if I'd wait. When he was done he invited me in. He did the same thing - asked me how I was doing, was concerned whether I had any problems that were pressing. I told him about the book. He took it and said he'd read it. He also gave me his card."
4. Our hosts David and Sharon in Gordonsville, TN. Sharon has a brother, a vet with PTSD.
5. Vet Center, Knoxville, TN - Art received the same warm welcome. The team leader asked if we were going to the Johnson City Vet Center. When Art said yes, he said to say hello to his buddy, a team leader there.
6. Vet Center, Roanoke, VA. The team leader said he'd post one of the bookmarks we'd included on the bulletin board in the Center. He thanked Art for bringing the books around. Art said he thought the Viet Nam vets had either gotten help or were ignoring their PTSD entirely. The team leader said that since 9/11, three times as many Viet Nam vets have come in because of the stirred-up memories.
7 and 8. Polyface Farms, Swoope, VA. We talked to two employees about our book. One of them is married to a Viet Nam vet who served in the Marine Corps and talks about it all the time. The other has a dad who is a Viet Nam vet who served in the Army and never says a word about it. We wanted to buy a couple of books by Joel Salatin, the owner of the farm; his wife Teresa was there and she said, "Go ahead and take them." A wonderful trade!
9. Vet Center, Johnson City, TN - We arrived there during the lunch hour, and the team leader was just saying goodbye to someone he was talking to. He asked me what I wanted, took the book and thanked me. He had another commitment so he left.
10. Proprietor of the hotel in Harlan, KY. He said there are a lot of vets in Harlan, including his brother-in-law. He wanted to read the book and then pass it along.
11. Vet Center, Lexington, KY. The team leader was at a vet group meeting in other town. The secretary greeted Art warmly as she took the book. She said she'd make sure that he got it. If he hadn't gotten back before she left, she'd put it on his desk so he'd see it on Monday. Then she said that her dad was a Viet Nam vet. Art told her she ought to read it also, and she said she would.
Art says, "I hadn't realized how affected the country was by the Viet Nam war. All the way from the relatives being affected, and the proprietor in Harlan who was really shook up over his 1970 draft number. He told us how nervous he was the night the numbers were drawn - by birthday - to determine who would be drafted that year. It affected a lot more people than just those who went."
We have one book left. I wonder whether someone we meet in the next two days will need it.
A year later
10 hours ago