Flashback: Forgetting and Remembering Vietnam
In April, 1968, six weeks after arriving in Vietnam, a young marine becomes the sole survivor of an incident of friendly fire involving over 200 Marines. Severely wounded physically and emotionally, he returns to the States unable to understand his experience and too ashamed and afraid to talk about it. Instead he buries the memories of that tragic day, and as the doctors rebuild his body he tries to build a normal life. On the surface, he is successful; he has a beautiful home, a family, and a good career. He ignores the uneasy feelings that sometimes make the world seem unreal, that make him feel like a fugitive. Then, more than 30 years after he almost died in Vietnam, his memories try to resurface. After a series of terrifying nightmares and flashbacks he discovers that in order to save his future, he must resurrect his past.
To my Readers: In this memoir, I've shared my combat experience in Vietnam and my struggles with posttraumatic stress disorder. The nature of war does not change; combat veterans of the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the War in Afghanistan, and the Iraqi War all have something in common - a heightened risk of PTSD. If you are a combat veteran experiencing problems similar to mine, I hope that my story encourages you to seek and accept help. - J.W. Clark.
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Review Written By Bernie Weisz, Reviewer, Vietnam War Pembroke Pines, Florida, USA Contact: BernWei1@aol.com June 17, 2011 Title of Review: "Refusing To Recall Being The 1 Survivor of a Battle In Vietnam Most of My Adult Life: Now I Refuse To Forget It!" Former heavyweight champion Joe Louis, just before his 1946 rematch victory over the lighter, faster Billy Conn, was quoted as saying: "You can run, but you can't hide." You will understand the significance of that cliche after you read J.W. Clark's amazing memoir "Flashback." Ostensibly, Clark's story details the tragic events of a battle he was involved in at Quang Tri Province, as a member of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Infantry. This occurred in the early months of 1968, right at the waning days of the North Vietnamese "Tet Offensive." This was a military campaign that commenced on January 31, 1968. Both hard core North Vietnamese regular troops as well as their Southern brethren, the Viet Cong, attacked all of South Vietnam and its forces, i.e., the U.S. and their Allies, e.g. the Republic of Korea and Australian forces. This offensive's intention was to strike military and civilian command and control centers throughout South Vietnam and to spark a general uprising among the population that would then topple the South's government located centrally in Saigon, thus ending the war in a single blow. Hanoi's most ambitious goal, producing a general uprising, had ended in a dismal failure, with Military Assistance Command of Vietnam estimating that 181,149 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops were killed. The real significance of this offensive was that it was the beginning of the end for American involvement in Vietnam. President Johnson, despite the Tet Offensive being a clear cut military victory, was unable to convince the American public that it had been a major Communist defeat. L.B.J.'s optimistic assessments made prior to the offensive came under heavy criticism and ridicule as the "credibility gap" that had opened in 1967 widened into an outright rift. Around the same time that C.W. Clark arrived in Camp Carroll, 60 miles south of the Demilitarized Zone, which was the demarcation between North and South Vietnam, MACV posted the highest U.S. casualty figures for a single week during the entire war: 543 killed and 2,547 wounded. As he was the sole survivor of that firefight that claimed the lives of two companies of Marines, unless he spoke about the battle, no one would know what happened on that fateful day. Clark kept quiet about it, and bore his shame and guilt, with only the publication of this book exorcising his demons. Thinking he would be arrested for murder, Clark silently grieved until the cliche "you are only as sick as your secrets" ate him alive. Clark made medical history by successfully undergoing an amazing surgery to reattach his arm in San Diego. From marrying a devout Catholic woman and adopting her faith to fathering seven children, recovering from malaria and running from his thoughts and memories of Vietnam, here lies an incredible story of dodging PTSD. From being a workaholic, geographical changes, medication with alcohol, nothing worked. He left jobs, divorced, and eventually remarried, still suffering from the war's aftereffects. Eventually vivid flashbacks occurred. J.C. Clark, while unequivocally stating: "I do not intend to make this a tell-all story for others to gossip over: I believe my family is entitled to privacy," leaves no stones upturned in explaining how he eventually asked for and received help. After a series of terrifying nightmares and flashbacks, he discovered that in order to save his future, he had to resurrect his past. Clark did the footwork, with intense therapy with a skilled clinician well versed in treating PTSD. This is a must read for anyone, Veteran or lay person who experienced trauma should read!