REVENANTS-The Odyssey Home: a book review

Most people know and understand what war does to countries- changing boundaries, toppling governments, destroying infrastructure, wasting the land, bankrupting economies. Revanants speaks to the human cost for communities, families, and individuals-driving families apart, killing dreams, interrupting plans, wounding bodies and emotions, and destroying hope. On a global scale, war may be justified but in Revenants it is futile, wreaking havoc on these people’s lives.

REVENANTS-The Odyssey Home

By Scott Kauffman
Published by Moonshine Cove Publishing, LLC, 2015

When I started this book I didn’t know what revenant means; the author waits until chapter 33 to tell us.

“A revenant can be someone long forgotten and now remembered,or someone returning after a long absence; it can also mean a ghost.”

Note: the photos in this post are from my private collection and are not affiliated with the author or the book

The ghost in this case is a nameless disabled World War I veteran who never came home to his family. The main character, a 15 year old girl Betsy, sets out to learn his name, and thus to get him home before he becomes a literal ghost.

World War I happened in Europe from 1914 to 1918 although the United States didn’t enter until 1917. This story is set in 1973, a time when there were still many living WWI veterans who were by then in their 70’s and 80’s. In 1973 the United States was embroiled in another war, the Vietnam war.

My husband served in the Army in Vietnam and we have studied that war extensively, so we were surprised to learn the character Nathan, Betsy’s older brother, is based on a real person, who was the uncle of Mr. Kaufman’s late wife.

Captain Richard M Rees

Captain Richard M Rees was killed in action and awarded the Distinguished Service Cross on December 15, 1973 while performing duties as a member of a Joint Casualty Resolution Center (JCRC) team in South Vietnam, as agreed to at the Paris Peace Talks. The unarmed team came under attack in an area near Saigon while searching for the remains of an Army crewman who was presumed to have died when his helicopter was shot down in a rice paddy nearby. The site was thought to be secure and authorized, but later the Vietcong denied having been notified of the team’s activities.

rice paddy with people in asian hats and a water buffaclo
a rice paddy in Vietnam

Three days after the American delegate to the Paris peace talks threw Nathan’s blood-stained jacket across the negotiation table and the day after the honor guard lowered his casket into the frozen earth at the cemetery, his Christmas box came. The doorbell rang and I ran stocking-footed downstairs where Mom slumped against the front door crumpled faced and still dressed in her flannel nightgown, the night’s snow wisping over her pale legs, Nathan’s box on the porch behind the postman who knelt beside her.

Betsy, in the book

After Nathan is killed in action in Vietnam, Betsy, her younger brother, and their heartbroken parents cope with his loss in differing ways. Betsy’s grief leads her to become a candy striper volunteer at a local VA (Veterans Administration) hospital, where her life intersects with an elderly wounded veteran in a complex and compelling way.

soldiers at a remote military base
My husband Raymond, upper left, served at LZ Cindy (landing zone), near the village of TraBong

Into this mystery, Scott Kaufman inserts a menagerie of other characters- a head nurse with a secret, an assortment of wounded veterans, a pot dealing hospital orderly, and a conniving politician with a longsuffering wife. He weaves a complex story through which their lives intersect. And often collide.

Most people know and understand what war does to countries- changing boundaries, toppling governments, destroying infrastructure, wasting the land, bankrupting economies. Revanants speaks to the human cost for communities, families, and individuals-driving families apart, killing dreams, interrupting plans, wounding bodies and emotions, and destroying hope. On a global scale, war may be justified but in Revenants it is futile, wreaking havoc on these people’s lives.

American flag waving at a Vietnam Veterans Wall replica
Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall replica

The narrative reads as if it had been written in the 1970s with the vernacular and historical references of that era (which I can attest to since I lived it). The author bluntly expresses his disdain for wars and the governments that wage them. This may offend some readers, as may the way he portrays and refers to ethnic characters, especially the lone Black character (referred to as a Negro, as would have been the acceptable word in 1973). While this sounds offensive to 21st century ears, it helps create the setting for the events and enhance the impact of the book’s message.

So with that caveat, I recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn about and understand that difficult era in our history, through which many of us spent our youth. The WWI veterans are all long deceased and the Vietnam vets are now in their 70s. We can only hope they will eventually find the respect and peace that the “Great War” veterans were denied.

The author, Scott Kauffman

Scott Kauffman is an attorney in Irvine, California where he focuses practice on white collar crime and tax litigation with his clients providing him endless story fodder. He wrote a legal suspense novel IN DEEPEST CONSEQUENCES and just this year released SAVING THOMAS. He graduated from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio and was in the upper ten percent of his class at Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon .

As a NetGalley reviewer, I received a digital copy of this book and agreed to write a review.

NETGALLEY MEMBER PROFESSIONAL READER

exploring the HEART of remembrance

Thanks for reading my review of this book and for remembering and appreciating the sacrifices of real veterans and their families. If you’ve never visited a military memorial or museum, I encourage you to do so. Whereever you live, there is likely one near by

I appreciate all of you who are following Watercress Words, and if you aren’t I invite you to join the wonderful people who are. You can meet some of them in the sidebar, where you can click on their image and visit their blogs. Use the form to get an email notification of new posts. Don’t worry, you won’t get anything else from me.

Dr Aletha

Raymond published a book about his combat experience in Vietnam. You can read it on any Amazon Kindle E-reader or a free Kindle app on any device.

Battle for Tra Bong Vietnam: Events and Aftermath

A son remembers, a nation mourns on D-Day

I often think today how lucky I was to have had a father wise enough to save his own life by channeling his PTSD pain into paintings and sketches, (rather than) losing himself from unwelcome suffering. He often expressed to me that he never feared death, but instead viewed it as yet another adventure.

In the United States and in Europe, people observe June 6 as D-Day. On June 6, 1944 Allied troops invaded Normandy,liberating France from Nazi occupation and ultimately ending World War II.  

Remembering D-Day by the Numbers
(source-The American Legion Magazine) 
  • 156,000 troops from Allied nations, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Norway, and others 
  • 5 beaches along 50 miles of Normandy coast 
  • 6000 ships
  • 50,000 vehicles
  • 11,000 planes
  • 12,004 killed, wounded, missing or captured 
Remembering D-Day by a man, his art, and his son

I learned about D-Day from my late friend Bill Hart, who died in 2014. Bill served in the U.S. Army during World War II , and his unit was part of the force that invaded Normandy.

Bill wrote an illustrated memoir about his military experiences. Through his written and visual account, he left us a first hand account of an experience that changed his life and changed the world.

In this updated version of a previous post, I share some of Bill’s art and memories of Bill shared by his son Terry (my thanks to Bill’s wife Greta who graciously gave me permission to share from Terry’s social media post)

He was a true artist and entrepreneur who always enjoyed laughing and meeting new and interesting people. He was wise enough to not limit his conversation to only sports, religion or politics most men comfortably slide into. But instead, he always talked about real thoughts and feelings as well as the history of his Irish roots.

Bill’s son, Terry Hart
D-DAY VET REMEMBERS NORMANDY
Fighting the war in Europe

As a young 18-year-old, he volunteered into World War II seeking adventure way before he was called to serve.

Terry Hart

In 1943, Bill deployed to England, and prepared for the invasion. What he thought would be a grand adventure turned into a nightmare which he vividly captured in his book.

Several days into the fighting on the beaches at Normandy, he was assigned to pick up and transport the bodies of fallen soldiers. Thereafter, as he worked his way across France and Belgium into Germany, he found himself dodging enemy soldiers, liberating concentration camps, dealing with angry and defeated POWs, and famished, humiliated civilians struggling to survive.  Bill described what he saw and felt this way.

2 SOLDIERS AND A JEEP
“At night I would think about the poor GI’s family when they got the news of his death. I tried not to think too much about this “dead guy” job. It seemed to go on forever.
For the next month and a half I was really alone, not attached to any outfit. I found my own food, water, gas for the Jeep and slept alone beside the Jeep in an open field. I shaved with cold water in my helmet and used my Jeep mirror to see.
The Germans were always near. I was scared I would be killed or captured. “Who knows where I am? Who would tell my mother if I died?”
In the beginning it had been exciting being alone with the invasion action all around me. But now I have panic attacks and nightmares of the dead bodies waking me as I sleep in the open field alone.
Most GI’s have other soldiers around them to feel safety in numbers. I had no one. I can’t get their dead faces out of my mind. I wait for the bright morning sun to erase the terrible images.”
Fighting and winning war within in Terry’s words

“He had many adventures to talk about later in his adult life. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay area he jokingly said he wanted to be the big fish in a smaller pond and made a tactical decision to move to Tulsa Oklahoma and to start up an ad agency “Ad Inc.” And as fate would have it, meet the love of his life Greta and started a family, and had three sons (Patrick, Tim, and Terrance)

A few years later he renovated a classic 1920’s Spanish style two-story house and built a large Art studio off the side. Including a photography darkroom and printing stat camera in the basement.

Many years later he admitted suffering PTSD from his unwanted WWII memories, and found a way to deal with his pain by painting his military experiences “as seen through his own eyes”. And then later wrote and published a book full of illustrations. ”

SOLDIER LYING ON THE GROUND
“Later I forced myself to stop thinking about the “dead guys” experience and eventually forgot it.
62 years later, in 2006, when I applied for compensation for war injury during the Battle of the Bulge, the woman who interviewed me kept telling me I was leaving something out, something from my past.
I finally remembered after much writing about my remembered events in the 1944 and 1945 war period and was diagnosed with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).
I believe, the greatest event of the 20th century took place during the June 1944 D-Day Normandy Invasion. I am very proud of being a small part of that great historical event that will always be remembered.”

Quotes and drawings from Bill’s memoir, D-DAY VET REMEMBERS NORMANDY (copyright) used by permission of his wife

MAN IN A NORMANDY D-DAY HAT
Bill Hart, World War II veteran

 

“As I was starting my own career in Dallas TX, I would make trips home to see him and my mother as often as I could. And would always enjoy laughing together, plus having real man-to-man conversations at his favorite coffee place McDonald’s…haha.

I often think today how lucky I was to have had a father wise enough to save his own life by channeling his PTSD pain into paintings and sketches, (rather than) losing himself from unwelcome suffering. He often expressed to me that he never feared death, but instead viewed it as yet another adventure. And looked forward to seeing his tough Irish Uncles and Father in heaven along with meeting Jesus.”

Terry Hart posted these memories of his father on the fifth anniversary of his father’s death, the day after Christmas 2014. My husband and I loved Bill and Greta and were honored to attend the graveside ceremony where a military honor attendant presented his family with the flag which draped Bill’s coffin.

 

Bill’s artwork and copies of his book are available to purchase from his wife. If you are interested, contact me here and I will put you in touch with her.

 

POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER-PTSD

Once known as “shell shock” or “battle fatigue”, post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, has become the most common post-military service disorder. Although it also occurs in civilians who experience severe trauma, it has  been defined, studied, and treated among current and former service members.

PTSD develops after exposure to or experiencing significant traumatic events such as interpersonal violence, death or  threat of death, serious accidents, disasters and combat.

There are 4 types of symptoms-

  • Intrusions, such as flashbacks, nightmares
  • Avoidance- isolating oneself from people and/or certain situations
  • Negative mood changes, such as irritability, anger and depression
  • Hypervigilance- being easily startled, always on edge

PTSD can also lead to depression, anxiety, alcohol and substance abuse and suicide.

It is also frequently associated with traumatic brain injury (TBI)  and chronic pain.

The National Center for PTSD (Veterans Administration)  is dedicated to research and education on trauma and PTSD, working to assure that the latest research findings help those exposed to trauma. They offer extensive information and resources at this link

PTSD: National Center for PTSD

Shop To Help Veterans! Every Purchase Funds At Least One Meal For A Veteran!

exploring the HEART of health for veterans

I appreciate all of you who are following Watercress Words, and if you aren’t I invite you to join the wonderful people who are. You can meet some of them in the sidebar, where you can click on their image and visit their blogs. Use the form to get an email notification of new posts. Don’t worry, you won’t get anything else from me.

Dr Aletha

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