Fighting PTSD Through Poetry

Oil and water may not mix, but war and poetry?

For one veteran of numerous combat engagements -- in Vietnam, the Falklands, Afghanistan and elsewhere -- his own poetry helped him emerge from the abyss of post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD.

That warrior’s dramatic and unsettling poems, plus the PTSD experiences of two local residents who faced the bloodshed of Vietnam, constitute “Their War Never Ends,” an evening of readings and discussions about PTSD here at The House on Wednesday, August 10th, starting at 7pm.

The poet is Col. John Vidal, a special forces officer whose mostly covert role took him around the world for nearly 35 years. His surviving wife, Constance Slater, says “he would wake up with nightmares” and “wouldn’t recognize me,” because “I was the enemy!” To help, Slater handed him a notebook and pen, demanding he write about his innermost demons. The result is an extraordinary posthumous volume of John Vidal’s poems -- “...and the Blood Won’t Come Off” -- which Slater herself spent years editing, and has just published. She will read extended selections from the book at the August event.

Also speaking will be Vietnam combat vets -- and Catskills residents -- Charlie Breiner and Gary Zellweger, both delving into their own unique PTSD experiences. Breiner was part of the infantry’s famous Americal Division, quartered in the Duc Pho area, in 1967-68 and including the massive Tet Offensive. Zellweger was sent to Vietnam as a draftee in 1968 for his own stretch of hard-combat duty, and returned home facing a lengthy aftermath of emotional turmoil.