Vietnam Veterans Unbroken
Conversations on Trauma and Resiliency
Jacqueline Murray Loring
McFarland, Jefferson, North Carolina, 2019, 212 pages
Book Review published on: March 13, 2020
In the book Vietnam Veterans Unbroken: Conversations on Trauma and Resiliency, Jacqueline Murray Loring chronicles the stories of seventeen Vietnam soldiers to portray what these men and women have endured both during and since the Vietnam War. The book is divided into four sections, and each section outlines important chronological events and struggles in the veterans’ lives.
Section I tells of the lives of each soldier just prior to going to Vietnam. This approach invites the reader to visualize the soldiers as teenagers, most having just graduated from high school. The reader learns about their families, where they grew up, and quite a bit about American culture as a whole during this time period.
Section II dives into what life was like for these soldiers when they returned home after the war. This section emphasizes how they were treated, the expectations that they would adapt to their home lives after serving, and the hostility they faced from those who did not support the war.
Section II reminds us that the soldiers were still “kids” who faced hostility and trauma. Section III captures what life was like for each individual veteran over the past forty years since the Vietnam War. Veterans describe their experiences with family, career, education, and mental health. Here the reader learns how they have coped, often in silence, with posttraumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), and PTSD’s impacts on their relationships and health. Section IV provides the opportunity for the veterans to express the ways in which they think their lives might have been different if they had come home from Vietnam to a positive response. They go into real-life stories sharing their difficulties and successes. There is a desire in this chapter to reach out to more recent veterans in order to provide them with guidance and hope, with the lessons they have learned.
Loring tells us stories about veterans such as Warren G. (Gary) Loring, Pauline F. Hebert, and Standly W. Miranda. Warren Loring’s story began as the son of a career military officer. He volunteered to go to Vietnam, even though volunteering for that war strained his relationship with his mother. He described how PTSD affected his home life, led him to involve himself in many bar brawls, and negatively impacted his attempt at a career in teaching after he nearly killed a student who came after him.
Hebert shares stories regarding nursing in Vietnam, flying medevacs, and her experience with her mother’s passing during her time in Vietnam. She describes how she did her job best by disassociating and details occasions where many of the nurses came back to the United States fighting the same demons as the soldiers, resulting from what they had seen.
Miranda vividly describes how in the years since the war he lives in what he calls a “cellar.” It is not a real cellar, but he feels as though it is. He does not want to leave home and always wants to be alone. He describes that he does not know why his wife hasn’t left him. He is unable to be friends with civilians because he feels like they just don’t understand what he has been through, and he doesn’t trust them after all that was said to him when he got back from Vietnam.
Vietnam Veterans Unbroken does well chronicling the lives of the soldiers interviewed, celebrating them, and focusing on their resiliency. It also provides insight into PTSD and what managing this condition is like for these veterans on a daily basis. Through its candidness, the book also serves as a tool for healing interviewees and their families, as well as for other veterans, their friends and families in an effort to help them avoid feeling so alone.
Book Review written by: Rodney S. Morris, EdD, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas