In the beginning…
In 2012, I interviewed the first of seventeen in-country Vietnam veterans whose stories appear in Vietnam Veterans Unbroken Conversations on Trauma and Resiliency. In July 2019, my book was published by McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. https://mcfarlandbooks.com/
My decision to research and write about the lives of veterans began several decades earlier, around 1988, when my husband was admitted to Ward 8 at the VA Central Western Massachusetts Healthcare System, Leeds (Northampton), Massachusetts for his first of thirteen visits over the next twenty years but it took until 2012 before my poetry book describing one family’s effort to survive the peace after war was published in Galway, Ireland.
During the 1990s and early 2000, I attended poetry and prose writing classes at the Joiner Center for the Study of War and Social Consequence at the University of Massachusetts, Boston where in the early days of their June summer writers’ conference most of the faculty and student body were veterans or family members of veterans. At workshops, panels, discussions, and during films, I paid attention to the veteran’s words, thoughts, and opinions. I read and studied the published works of the faculty trying to find answers to questions that interjected themselves in my daily life, with my children, and in my marriage to an in-country Vietnam veteran. Not the least of these questions involved the time it takes veterans to discuss their in-country combat and to discuss whether or not their time in-country affected the rest of their lives and the lives of people who love and live with them.
I was twenty-six years old when I married W. Gary Loring. I worked at Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis, Massachusetts as a Labor and Delivery nurse. I grew up in a home with three sisters. My father received exemptions from World War II because of his job as a power plant operator for the Boston Edison. None of my uncles or grandfathers ever served in the American service. One of my aunts served in the U. S. Navy. I never knew her World War II story. When we married, I had no personal understanding of war or its consequences.
When I married my husband in July 1969, he had been home from Vietnam for seven months. He is the grandson of a man who served as a motorcycle currier in World War I. He is the son of a career soldier who served in the U.S. Air Force in World War II and Korea. During his time in the U. S. Army in Vietnam, my husband served as a laboratory technician in Saigon who volunteered to work triage at the hospital and to go into the villages to treat Vietnamese people. During the Tet Offensive, his best in-country friend was killed, the hospital where he worked was mortared, he was wounded and awarded the Military Order of the Purple Heart. He was twenty-three years old when we married.
I am the mother of a child placed for adoption. Gary and I are parents of biological and adopted children, and a number of foster kids. We are grandparents and great grandparents.
During the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s, I became involved with the Vietnam Veterans Outreach Center in Hyannis, Massachusetts where my husband was a member and later president. From 1989 to 1991, I chaired their yearly poetry contest. From 1989 to 1990, I co-chaired the committee that bought John Devitt’s “Moving Wall” Memorial to the Hyannis village green. The half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in the Constitutional Gardens in Washington, D.C. brought thousands to view the Cape Cod event. From 1999 to 2011, I judged the Veteran’s For Peace “Peace Week Poetry Contest”. In 2002, I again chaired the Nam vet’s committee that brought a “Moving Wall” Memorial to Hyannis.
I am honored to have Vietnam vet friends from my days at the Joiner Center. During the Moving Wall events in Hyannis, I frequently stayed after dark to sit on a bench on the village green with veterans. To be available if they wanted to talk. Some did. Some sobbed. I listened.
But how little I knew about the secrets held by men and women who served in Vietnam became shockingly clear to me in January 2011 when I attended the funeral of a close friend’s husband. It was a sort of awakening and the actual beginning of writing Vietnam Veterans Unbroken Conversations on Trauma and Resiliency.