Tim O’Brien, Vietnam veteran, and author of The Things They Carried, once wrote: “Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can’t remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story.”
I believe stories can change the world. I always have and I always will. As a child, reading and writing saved my life. It’s why I became an English teacher. It’s why I wrote Thirty Days with My Father: Finding Peace from Wartime PTSD. I believe stories have the power to help us face our truths, to make us better understand each other, and to teach us the morality by which to live.
Stories can make the unseen seen. They can make the intangible tangible, the general specific. They can strike a chord in people and make them change—make them take action, and even help them heal—the way nothing else ever could.
I didn’t write my book to throw around the terms “post-traumatic stress disorder” or “traumatic brain injury,” or to give you statistics on how many veterans commit suicide. Nor did I write this memoir to talk in general terms about Vietnam—or even to say, simply, that war affects families.
I wrote my book to share with you a different kind of war story–a story to make you feel something deep within your stomach because I need you to truly believe how the invisible wounds of war can go on and on, and how there can be peace and healing. I’m asking you to take a journey with me—a journey through a thick forest of family secrets, war trauma, and stigmas—a forest where everything’s really quiet, except for a sound that’s been impossible to hear until now: The sound of a little girl named Christal who is still trying to save herself with a story.