Grady Smith Has More to Say…

  • September 21, 2012

The author of Blood Chit follows up on his earlier Q&A with Tom Glenn

On 13 September, we published Tom Glenn’s review of Grady Smith’s Blood Chit and a question-and-answer between the reviewer and writer, both Vietnam vets. Smith responded to those articles with the following:

One additional comment re treatment [of Post Traumatic Stress Injury]: Clinicians and psychologists are now reaching back to the ancient Greeks to see what their experience with PTSI was during the Trojan and Peloponnesian wars. This results in comparisons of today’s vets and their issues with the ancient classical archetypes, and this in turn generates a more cogent grasp of what’s happening now. This comparison can also provide the wider community with clarity about the vets’ situation. One instance of this reachback is psychiatrist Jonathan Shay’s (MD, PhD) work. In Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character, he examines the causes of PTSI in a crosswalk between Achilles in the Iliad, 27 centuries old, and the vets that Shay treated at the Boston VA hospital for many years. His subsequent Odysseus in America: Combat Trauma and the Trials of Homecoming deals with typical problems of readjustment and reentry — everything from alcohol and drugs (the Lotus Eaters) to sex (Calypso) to wanting to grasp the true meaning of what happened in Vietnam and why — to know the truth, all of it: the sirens’ song.

Author Grady Smith

Another instance of reaching back to the classics is a project called “Theater of War.” It presents staged readings of ancient Greek tragedies dealing with wounds that won’t heal (“Philoctetes”) and post-combat suicide (“Ajax”). This project is designed for troops, for medical communities and for the public at large, and is used as a springboard for discussion and greater understanding. I’ve seen it in all three types of venues — in an auditorium full of Marines at Henderson Hall, at the UVa Medical School in Charlottesville, and with wider community-based groups. Here in Washington, Woolly Mammoth presented “Theater of War” in two separate performances on two different occasions for a running total of four nights. Some really good discussion developed after the readings, and sometimes you could see the lights go on when people in the audience began to grasp the full implications of combat trauma. As far as I’m concerned, the Pentagon owes Woolly and Howard Shalwitz some sort of recognition for this distinguished service to vets and the military, and to the larger DC community — if that hasn’t happened already.

To read the review, click here.

To read the Q&A, click here.

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