Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Vietnam Vet returns to Vietnam to heal

Vet will be among 20 people, including seven other veterans, who will be in the country on Veterans Day

By Paul Fattig
Mail Tribune
MEDFORD — When Michael Phillips returned from Vietnam in 1971, the Army veteran didn't exactly march back into society.

"When I got back, I didn't associate with my family, I didn't join the VFW or anything," said the Medford resident. "I came close to getting married several times but each time managed to mess it up. I partied a lot but it was very hard for me to get close to anybody.

"I thought I was invincible because I had survived the war," said the former Army specialist fourth class who drove in a combat convoy in Vietnam and into Cambodia. "But my PTSD was causing severe depression."

His diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder, which he and counselors say led to drug abuse and homelessness over the years, also is the reason he is returning to Vietnam on Nov. 3.

"I'm not going back there with a lot of feelings of guilt or anger," he stressed. "I'm going back there to learn how to help other veterans heal, although I anticipate there will be moments when I have my issues."

Phillips will be among 20 people on the trip, including eight veterans, their spouses and several others with ties to Vietnam or the war.

The trip is the result of Phillips attending a Soldier's Heart presentation by noted psychotherapist Ed Tick in Medford in February of this year. Phillips later attended a retreat for veterans on Orca Island in Puget Sound conducted by Tick, who is known nationally for helping veterans with PTSD. He leads groups of veterans back to Vietnam each year as part of the healing process.
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