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Sunday, March 05, 2006

Poetry in Motion: Using Art to Process PTSD

Art has the ability to broach topics that are often more difficult to process head-on. Poetry is one such vehicle. Last month I posted a poem written by leftvet along with a link to a resource for veterans who happen to enjoy writing. Tonight, I'd like to post a few more lines of verse that will provoke and elucidate, make you cringe and perhaps even weep. Feel free to share your own creations in comments if you'd like.

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for more...

The following poem was written by the tireless Vietnam vet and advocate Sarge Lintecum. It is a brutal and frank piece of work. When I asked for permission to reprint part of the poem (I intended to leave off the last three stanzas not wishing to offend others), Sarge explained, "I'm going to guess that you are not a veteran because the verses you want to omit are very important to my poem." He went on to gently educate this writer.

I've included Sarge's explanations in the hopes that it will bring about a deeper understanding as well with other non-vets who are trying to get their heads around this issue. Not having gone through the experience of war myself, I appreciated the extra time Sarge took with me, explaining things fully. Thank you, sir.

P.T.S.D. Love Poem - © Sarge Lintecum 2003
(Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Poem)

I love you through my anger,
In between my fits of rage.
I want us to be happy,
But I just can't turn the page.

I see in you the answer
To every time I've prayed.
Then I get mad; you leave the room;
I wish that you had stayed.

My love just wants to hold your hand,
But my anger doesn't care.
I feel the weight you carry.
It really isn't fair.

I gave our country everything
The day I went to war.
I thought the cost would be my life,
But it turned out to be much more.

I look into my child's eyes,
And I see a child burned
By Napalm lying on the ground,
Without a lesson learned.
Without this verse the veteran will think his PTSD causing memories are worse than other vets.

So now they send the young folks
To act like war is fun,
Without a thought of how they'll feel
When their killing job is done.
Without this verse you would leave out the lack of help from the government that was a bigger slap in my face than "Charlie" (Viet Cong) ever gave me.

When folks go fill their gas tanks
I think they all should know,
A veteran's future happiness
Is drowning in the flow.
Without this verse you would leave out the underlying reason for the war that is easily hidden from the public but not the veteran.

Please visit Sarge's website,, and read of his own struggle with PTSD. If I may share one more bit of his advice:

One more thing I'd like to pass on that has helped me gain control of every day of my life, rather than having PTSD control my life, is this -- Somewhere along the way, I realized that the tortured life I was leading was ripping off my brothers on the Wall because they gave up their lives and I was throwing mine away. It was then it hit me that if I were to spend my entire after-Nam life torturing myself, feeling bad about myself, and making life miserable for the ones I love, I am dishonoring my brothers on the Wall.

So think of how you'll feel when you tell them all about the life you had after Nam, because that's the first thing they're going to want to know about when we see them again. They're going to want to hear that we all had happy, wonderful lives, just like the life they had imagined having if they had made it home and, I for one, am going to have a hell of a fun story to tell them.

If you'd like to join in and thank Sarge for his work in PTSD education and assistance, please email Sarge and say 'thanks'...

And check out Sarge's 'day job' as a master blues harmonica player. He and his wife, Leslie, do student outreach in the Arizona/SW California area, helping kids cultivate their love of music and poetry; Sarge also travels the country performing at veterans' events and blues concerts.

Thank you for your service to our country in and out of uniform, sir.

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