Red Earth: A Vietnam Warrior's Journey
Native American men and women who wound up in Vietnam were very different from traditional warriors. Many had been removed from that traditional culture as many of these warrior traditions had been removed from these new societies and the old traditions had been replaced by Christian practices of various types. The sacred preparations were no longer practiced and the warriors left vulnerable and lacking pertinent knowledge. They were also lacking the homecoming ceremonies. These ceremonies would take place after the warrior was kept from the main camp for four days. In those four days they would fast and purify themselves. Once they returned to the village the warrior was given the opportunity to tell his story in a healing ceremony. His immediate family would be near, or surrounding him. Around them would be the next level of family. Around them would be the remainder of the tribe. Everyone would listen, and remember. That was their duty to him, to listen, and to remember. Each warrior was given this opportunity.After this ceremony it was understood that this person was now different and would be treated so from then on. This “different” person was now accepted as having been permanently changed. What had happened to him would never go away. His people knew this and they would never go away either. The relationship was understood and bound.The Vietnam “warriors” were afforded none of these opportunities. They were essentially on their own. For example, when I returned, my unit landed at McChord Air Force Base near Tacoma, Washington at midnight in the winter of 1972, and released for leave; Sprung upon The World. My sister picked me up at the base and we went to downtown Tacoma and had a pizza and a several beers before going to her home. A cousin-by-marriage, whom I had met and served with In-country, was with us. We stayed with my sister for a few days and eventually I went home to Sitka to complete my 45 days leave. My cousin left for his home in Canada at the same time.This story is repeated over and over again by most everyone that I had a chance to talk, or listen to. In many of these cases, the Vietnam Vet was released and sent home to resentment and hostility. He was not listened to and what ever was expressed was not heard. Many went home on drinking binges that started on the plane or as soon as they were off the plane. No comfort given, not a friendly ear was to be found. At most American Legion Posts beer was free for a while, but after it was determined “these new guys” were really different, the free drinks stopped. What little comfort was given was soon withdrawn.Soon, the prisons began to fill up with the “new guys”. Violence had become the major expression of this generation of warriors. So many of these new guys were dead, or in prison, not long after their arrival “home”. It was, and still is, a national tragedy.
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I have read, Red Earth, and have met Phil more than once. This book was pertinent then, and most definitely now with the massive numbers of vets coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan. It is clear that the current state of the Veterans' Administration continues to do the same thing over expecting different results rendering inadequate treatment. Phil's Red Earth allows the reader to view the Veteran / Warrior from a different cultural perspective. With so many Vets turning using Expressive/Creative Arts to "tell their stories" this is a must read Veterans and those called to work within the Warrior community.
Abenaki, Bear Clan
Review: Red Earth: A Vietnam Warrior's JourneyUser Review - Mike Cook - Goodreads
I liked this book a lot. I'm a Vietnam Vet, so some of what he is talking about is familiar to me. However, my time was spent on an air base, not in the bush, so I have no first hand experience of my ... Read full review