Steve Woods's Reviews > Well Done, Those Men: Memoirs of a Vietnam Veteran

Well Done, Those Men by Barry Heard
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Feb 28, 12

bookshelves: vietnam-war, life-changers, biography, ptsd, australian-authors
Read in February, 2012, read count: 2

As a Vietnam veteran, this book gave expression to a lot of the confusion and pain that was kind of swirling away right down inside. In some ways it really focussed my attention, not only on what was happening to me but what was happeneing to other vets I had seen in hospitals over a period of many years, coping with the same problems. It shook me into realising that in a very real sense I was beyond the help of those who were trying to helpme and often the places I ended up in just helped cement the difficulties into place.I needed to take responsibility for my physical, mental and spiritual condition now, not for the idiocies of our political masters 40 years ago. Enough!

My own journey has taken me into Buddhist thinking and practice, I can honestly say that this path has done for me what no psychiatrist, no pill, no counselor was ever able to do. It has begun to unravel that locked in sense of myself as "my story" which of course included all the evnts I participated in while serving as a soldier in Vietnam in 1970-71 and in Cambodia and Laos in 1972. It isn't personal any longer, it is just a series of events that happened.

While I still have nightmares they lack the terrible intensity they once had. They are no longer capable of crippling me for days and exhausting my very limited supply of compassion for myself and others as they used to.

There is a way out of the nightmare, this path has been my guide and I say to any veteran who still suffer, what the Buddha said to us all "Come and see, for yourself.

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I have just finished this book for the second time. I first read it in 2007 when the current part of my journey had just begun. The review I wrote then is above. I was as touched by this account this time as I was the last. The difference is that the wounds are no longer so raw. My practice continues as does the unraveling of the pain. If this account is one man's it also belongs to all who served there in one way or another. The Vietnam experience still reaches into the present in the lives of those who served and in a much wider circle. There are the families, wives and children, parents, siblings and lovers, they all carry their own version of the wounds. They too are part of that section of a generation that was psychologically crippled by the deceit, the futility and the barbarity of that war. Though they live as evidence of what evil ego driven, self righteous politicians can wreak, nothing has been learned. Vietnam veterans everywhere, must weep as I do when I see the same idiocy being perpetrated today and the same blithe political faces rallying the masses around the flag with the fable of Anzac in ways that neither we nor our forefathers would willingly countenance. To top it off they quietly strip those who serve today of the support that has saved so many of our generation, if there is everlasting shame it has a permanent home hanging over Parliament House in Canberra
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