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Review: Ed Tick—Sacred Mountain: Encounters with the Vietnam Beast Volume One: 1979—1984

By Remy Benoit

Over the decades many people have come to me and asked What can we do to help our Veterans?

There are several things that can be done. One of them is to listen—without judgment, with open heart.

The other is to acknowledge that to date, for the most part, we have not listened because we really haven't wanted to know the truths that they know about war. Perhaps this is a strange kind of denial, of self-protection, of sticking our heads in the sand and hoping that the ripples, waves, indeed, tsunami of war stuff won't find or touch us with its insatiable taste for blood and destruction.

Perhaps we have tried not to know how war is the instrument of knowing this:

Everywhere death cutting life off in its most ordinary moments.

A long time ago, yesterday for so very many, we waged a war in South East Asia. We called it the Viet Nam War; the Vietnamese called it the American War—one in a succession of many.

Whatever you call, or called, it—a war, a police action—the greatest weight of it was, and still is, carried by those who served—willingly or drafted.

Dr. Ed Tick was not one who went to serve in the green. He did not set a course to treat Viet Nam Vets, but, ironically, was in his own way drafted to do so. Since that day when he was drafted to speak for Vietnam Veterans of America, Ed has served on the front lines—courageously walking point toward healing, toward knowing and living with what one of the Viet Nam Vets calls The Beast: The Beast that lives inside all who have known war.

Can you learn to know it—do you have the courage to look it in the eye and acknowledge it? Can you come to a place, a place Veterans of combat know only too well, where you can at least begin to understand this truth:

The ordinary was not only dangerous but mutilated, disfigured.

There is an undercurrent in Sacred Mountain: Encounters with the Vietnam Beast, also in Dr. Tick's War and the Soul, and that speaks to the fact that we cannot resolve the overwhelming problems of our Veterans, then or now, until we acknowledge that we do all we can as non-participants, consciously or unconsciously, to refuse to even try to know the truths of war.

War is a monster and we prefer to hide from it in the dark of our own ignorance. Yet, as we well know, no monster can be challenged, or defeated, until we bring it out into the light and face it head, soul, and heart on.

Sacred Mountain: Encounters with the Vietnam Beast is the first in a series of books which we will discuss here that tell the story of Dr. Tick's continuing journey to bring peace to the minds, hearts, and souls of all who serve for us, usually without any signs of national gratitude, concern, or care.

His words in this book, the words of the Viet Nam Veterans with whom he has worked, are relevant today to those who are serving now, who served in Desert Storm, who, indeed, have served in any combat zone where death is omnipresent, friends are lost, civilians die, the trappings of civilization lie in smoldering ruins, and duffel bags come home filled with PTSD, TBI, and a thousand other injuries at mind, soul, heart, and body level.

What can you do to help Veterans? You can read Sacred Mountain: Encounters with the Vietnam Beast and War and the Soul. You can learn why we need to listen not only to what our Veterans can teach us, but to face our own reluctance to acknowledge the horror that war is.

Perhaps if we do those things, perhaps, we can learn to insist that war must be the last, not the first, resort to problems. Perhaps we can learn to insist when a war is not being properly managed, when it sucks in a continual blood sacrifice to its insatiable gods, that what is happening must be re-evaluated.

What can you do to help Veterans of all our wars? You can demand that your President and Congress adopt a just foreign policy in accordance both with our Constitution and all treaties to which were are signatories. You can refrain from jumping on bandwagons and demand adequate, rational, and honest intel. You can let the VA know that you insist that it provide the best care, with respect, with concern, and with celerity. Those who serve don't have to wait months to be sent into combat zones; they go when, and as often, as they are sent. It is simply not right, not decent, not moral, that they should have to wait for grudging care, or sent off to war too quickly and without absolute necessity.

Whenever you were during 'Nam, you were in some way part of that war—fighting it, supporting it, protesting it. It was in you, and still is now, just as our currrent wars are. We are a national family which has let issues and wars divide us. None of us can heal if we do not all open our eyes to the fact that, in country or at home, when your country is at war, indeed as it is now, you are at war—voluntarily or not—all of it becomes a part of you because whether you are fighting it, or supporting it, or protesting it, ITS HORRORS BELONG TO YOU TOO.

Veterans know that; as civilians we must come to the place where we know, acknowledge and accept that awful weight.

Perhaps the day we take our heads out of the sand and face that Beast, not just here, but world wide, we will learn to begin to chose life. Perhaps if we listen to our Veterans, as Dr. Tick does in Sacred Mountain, we will hear them talking with us about that verity. Can we learn to see in the dark underground that they know? Can we learn that even there, especially there, there are sacred places?

Words have power, for what is right, or for what is wrong. Let Dr. Tick's inspire you for what is right, for what is sorely needed in reference to how can you serve Veterans now. You can help serve their needs by demanding, without hesitation or compromise, that they have earned the right to the care they have been promised. You can hold General Shinseki. to his promise to see to this at the VA You can hold our new President responsible for this.

You can hold democracy, and keep the promise we make to those who serve, in your hands and use your voices. You can begin to understand this:

As the horrible becomes ordinary, so the ordinary becomes horrible.

I truly don't see how you could not want to help those we have sent to war—they are family, they are us—after reading : Sacred Mountain:Encounters with the Vietnam Beast Volume One: 1979—1984. and War and the Soul.

Courage has been defined as showing up, no matter what. They showed up in hell; can you show up now for them?


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This item is part of historian, author, editor, and educator Remy Benoit's ongoing weblog for Veterans, writers, students, and others who believe in learning from and making history; including thousands of articles and posts and the free writing seminar, Using History for Healing and Writing.

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