By Doug Petrowski
“I hope that talking about this journey of healing, and how it has changed me, will help other veterans and their families. The idea of helping even one other veteran stop the nightmares and gain some peace made my story worth sharing.” — Art Myers, Vietnam war veteran
For war veteran Arthur Myers, it’s not that far from Vietnam to Brier, where he and his wife Linda now live — at least it’s not that far in his mind. And that was the problem.
The memories Myers had from his experiences while serving as a sergeant in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War haunted him for years. So in 2005, he and his wife Linda traveled to Vietnam with a group led by a psychotherapist who works with veterans affected by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. From the Mekong Delta in the south, to Hanoi in the north, it was a life-changing journey. The couple have now written a book, “Return to Viet Nam: One Veteran’s Journey of Healing,” about the trip and Art’s life journey since then.
MLTnews.com asked Linda Myers about the book, “Return to Viet Nam: One Veteran’s Journey of Healing,” her experiences writing a book for the first time, and her tips for prospective authors hoping to get their works published.
Q: Why did you write a book about experiences that took place more than 40 years ago?
A: First of all, only the first nine pages are about an experience that took place during the war. The rest is about the years since then. Art’s story is not unusual. He was a sergeant in the Marine Corps in 1968, a radio repairman stationed at Da Nang during the Tet Offensive. He saw only one day of combat, but that day affected every aspect of his life for 35 years. Many veterans suffered from their memories of their time at war. They may bury them, or deny them, or run from them, or act out in other areas of their lives. Alcoholism, drug addiction and suicide rates are higher than average, as are failed relationships and chronic unemployment.
It’s been nearly six years since our return to Vietnam. For the longest time it was a personal journey, not requiring anything other than remembering. Now, though, with veterans from new wars, with new memories, joining the older veterans with their older one, it seems timely for this story to be made public. Other veterans and their families may see it and perhaps connect with Art’s experience and with mine.
Q: Did writing the book help Art therapeutically in dealing with his memories of the Vietnam War?
A: Yes, going back helped. When he thinks about Vietnam now, Art sees it as it is now rather than as it was 40 years ago. He has visited the site of his combat near Da Nang and found it overlaid by construction and contemporary life. He has met Vietnamese who were the enemy during the war, and they have talked and gathered for meals and visited shrines together to light incense for the war dead. They have more in common with each other than with the generals who ran the war from their respective sides.
Q: Would you recommend other war veterans make journeys back to the places where they served?
A: Revisiting can be part of the healing process. There are individuals and agencies who lead trips back. The journeys back can put ghosts to rest.
Q: What was it like to write a book together as husband and wife?
A: It wasn’t too bad. I wrote the first version from my perspective. Then I read it to ?Art. I’d read a paragraph and say, “Do you have any comments?” If he said no, I’d go on to the next paragraph. If he said yes, I’d key in what he said. In the book, my voice is in a standard font and Art’s comments are in italics and indented. It’s easy to see who is speaking. The hardest part for Art was reliving the story over and over as we refined our work. He still says it’s my book, that I’m the one who wrote it. But I respond, “There would be no story if it weren’t for you.” So now he signs the book for those who ask.
Q: Was it easy finding a publisher for you work?
A: I looked around for a traditional publishing house, but I didn’t find one that I thought would be a good fit for this book. I did find one dealing with similar topics, but the minimum length for submission was 65,000 words, and “Return to Viet Nam” is shorter. So I researched self-publishing houses and found AuthorHouse. I paid for the services of the publishing company, which was fine with me.
Q: What is your advice to other local authors wanting to get published?
A: There are many, many online resources for authors. Self-publishing companies have leveled the playing field from the time when traditional publishing companies were the primary option for writers. Amazon offers a service for authors to self-publish ebooks. I would suggest that, before submitting your manuscript, you be very, very careful with your proofreading. Enlist the help of friends. Ask them to read the manuscript and make suggestions and corrections. I did that, but there were still many changes I needed to make even after the book was published. Resubmitting the revised version with its 172 changes was expensive. Take your time before you send your manuscript in.