Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Wounded Soldier, Healing Warrior: A Personal Story of a Vietnam Veteran Who Lost His Legs but Found His Soul by Allen Clark

Wounded Soldier, Healing Warrior: A Personal Story of a Vietnam Veteran Who Lost His Legs but Found His SoulBy ALLEN CLARK

Reviewed: Janet Morrison

Nonfiction (memoir), bibliography, index, 320 pp., 2007. Zenith Press, an imprint of MBI Publishing Company, Galtier Plaza, Suite 200, 380 Jackson Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-3885, $24.95 plus shipping.

The title of this book attracted my attention. I had just finished reading a memoir of another Vietnam veteran and was ready to read a second one while still in that mood. Wounded Soldier, Healing Warrior immediately drew me in as it opens at the defining moment in Allen Clark’s life – 4:30 a.m. on June 17, 1967, at the Special Forces camp at Dak To, Vietnam – when a North Vietnamese mortar attack resulted in the eventual loss of both of Clark’s legs.

Mr. Clark weaves the story of his life by smoothly moving from Vietnam back to his days as a West Point cadet, back to the war, and then returning to his life before Vietnam. Throughout the book he makes the connection between how his early life prepared (or did not prepare) him for his life-changing wounds in the war and how everything that has happened to him since June 17, 1967, can be tied back to his experiences on and shortly after that day.

One theme that surfaces numerous times in the book is the lifelong influence West Point has had on Mr. Clark’s life. There is a bond among the cadets and former cadets that never failed to give the author an emotional boost when it was most needed, or helped pave the way for a career move when that was desired. This bond goes far beyond actual classmates, but spreads throughout West Point alumni. Mr. Clark describes it as a bond like no other. It is a true caring about one another.

Without being “preachy,” Mr. Clark’s overriding purpose in writing this book is to share his spiritual journey since that fateful day in 1967. He admits putting God on the back burner while at West Point. It wasn’t until his second amputation that religion became of increased interest to him. He speaks of the power of prayer. His search for a close relationship with God led him to reflect on the decisions in his life such as volunteering for duty in Vietnam, such as transferring from the Army Corps of Engineers to military intelligence, and such as requesting to be attached to a Special Forces (Green Beret) unit.

Mr. Clark talks about some of the things he learned about the Vietnamese people. He talks about how isolated he felt as an intelligence officer in the tri-border area where South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos meet because there was no one with whom he could discuss his mission. He talks about the Montagnards and the assistance many of them gave the US troops. (Incidentally, did you know that there are 15 different groups/tribes that are Montagnards?)

The book includes the struggle many – if not all – American Vietnam veterans and their loved ones and survivors have had to come to grips with: Was my sacrifice worth it? Mr. Clark describes a turning point in his grappling with that question after a chance conversation with Bill Moyers.

Reading this book gave me a better appreciation for what amputees go through – the excruciating pain, the months that their injured limbs must in some cases be in traction to stretch the skin over their raw stumps, the months of painful rehabilitation, and transitions through increasingly useful prostheses.

One thing that I especially liked about this book was how Mr. Clark involved the other people in his life. By inviting family members, fellow soldiers, medics, and friends to write their memories of the various events in his life, Mr. Clark lets the reader see those events from several points of view.

Without giving away the amazing path Mr. Clark’s life has taken since his physical recovery, let me just say that his true character comes through as he chronicles the surprising and rewarding twists and turns of his career and some of the famous people with whom he has “rubbed elbows” as he has worked for the better care and treatment of our American veterans.

In his book, Mr. Clark talks about the various kinds of healing he has experienced since June 17, 1967, and some of the soul-searching questions he has wrestled with along his journey of physical, emotional, and spiritual healing. His journey continues.

Janet Morrison
Our History Project Reviewer & Freelance writer

Saturday, January 9, 2010

OHP BOOK REVIEW: THE WORLDS BLOODIEST HISTORY: Massacre, Genocide and the scars they left on Civilization

THE WORLDS BLOODIEST HISTORY: Massacre, Genocide and the scars they left on Civilization
Fairwinds Press, 319 pages

It is hard to describe a book with this title or its subject matter as a great read, much less an enjoyable book. However that is what Joseph Cummins did…..I am talking 5 stars, straight through the uprights, 3 points and nothin’ but net.

Ok, let me explain from a Reviewer/Reader stand point. I receive a lot of books to review and sometimes I receive a book that is sound, has a good looking cover and it draws me in somehow. I read the first two chapters. If it holds my attention I keep going, if not it’s to the center of the book I go for a middle chapter or two then two the last couple of chapters. By then I have gauged the quality and the intent, and have a solid foundation to judge (in my personal opinion) that its good, bad or average.

As an Historian and Researcher, I am looking for the complete story. I am looking for primary and secondary sources to back up that story(s). I am looking for names, dates, events and witnesses that can tell the story. And, though it is hard I am looking for the mind set, or both sides of the story, kind of the story behind the story if you will.

The World’s Bloodiest History was one of those books I could not put down. I actually read it over and over and went on my own researching quest behind the stories after each chapter. Now, that is something that no other book in my history of reading has compelled me to do…None, Nada, Zip. Not after each chapter.

What does this book that I am raving about have in it? Why am I so engrossed within the pages? Well, as the title states it’s the world’s bloodiest history. It covers eighteen (18) events that truly impacted the world and thier countries for generations. It is a book about racial and secular superiority. It is a book about greed and hate. It is a book about intolerance. It is a book about so many things, feelings, thoughts and actions. However, it is a book about hope, knowledge and courage to stand up to say this will not happen again. We actually did our interview with Joseph Cummins a couple of months ago and it was aired on OHP in December. Guess what, I’m still reading it.

What I love about this book is that for each chapter, you may not know a thing about the events, lets take the “Colfax Massacre” for instance. This was one of the stories that I did not know. Written with in that chapter there are eighteen (18) pages that cover the event and tragedy. The unbelievable part is….when I finished those eighteen (18) pages, I actually knew the who, what, when, where, why and how of that story. Imagine, each chapter is like that. Yes, every one. From the Carthaginians in 146 BCE to the Massacre at Srebrenica, its there and you will have a grounded understanding of each event when your done.

If you are like me…. it just may be a book that never ends. Pick it up, borrow it, check it out, download it; however you can get it, this is a book that you will want to read…and never completely put down.

Craig Anderson
Our History Project