In his new book, The Warrior, Phil Davidson candidly discusses post war problems that every veteran and their families face, and solutions.
When I landed in Saigon in 1972 I thought I knew about the dangers that were ahead. After all, I knew it was a desperate place. Fighting and dying had been going on long before I arrived there. As an Infantry officer, a Captain, I had been well trained. I could set ambushes, call in airstrikes and shoot my way out of a gunfight with the best of them. I had also hardened myself against my subordinates, and intellectualized that taking casualties was for the most part unavoidable. I also accepted that I might be killed or wounded, though I had made my mind up that I would never be captured.
That was what my handgun was for. But what I had not foreseen nor planned for was the ‘darkness.’ I had just snuck into my hideout from a night ambush mission when I received a secure radio call from my Six from his lair near the Mekong to be ready to be extracted in two hours. Two hours. As the chopper lifted off leaving my little team waving to me I expected to be back after receiving another one of ‘those’ missions. Instead I was put on a plane and sent home.
PTSD – A Ravishing Disorder to Life and Family Existence
Arriving in America a couple of days later I was a man from space. Seventy-two hours earlier I had been in a firefight. Now I was picking ghostly insects from my meal at home. Two weeks later I was a ski instructor for the Northern Warfare School in Alaska. It was there during those cold clear nights that I began experiencing the ‘dreams.’ They came at night, like an ambush team, while I was weak and vulnerable, while my ego was resting. Images of the jungle, the people I knew, and the things I had done. And after awhile, I began to have waking dreams. Yes, the ‘Thousand Yard Stare.’ While you were driving, while you were talking, while you were eating, while… I fought the dreams with things I don’t want to write about. I left the Army. But the dreams never left.
They accompanied me while I was driving in my patrol car after I had become a police officer. They took the place of script as I studied my law books. When I would walk down the street a car backfiring or some loud noise would invoke an embarrassing response from me wherever I was and with whomever was with me.
I trusted no one and everyone and everything was out to get me. I even joined the National Guard to be able to act out my subconscious desires. I was at a point that I was at the end of myself. I couldn’t form personal relationships and felt alienated from everyone and the society I was in. The darkness had taken me. I was alone and suicidal. War brings horrible consequences to those that have served. Suicide is a tragic reality and I am glad that I was spared death, yet “veterans comprise 20% of national suicide with approximately 22 veterans dying by suicide every day. Three out of five veterans who died by suicide were diagnosed as having a mental health condition.” I had no family left to fall back on and the institutions I had made myself apart of were not setup for understanding the human condition of their employees. It was the hand of God that transformed my life.
The Lasting Impact of God’s Unseen Hand
As a small boy I had been a member of a church, a small group that meet in the basement of a larger house. One of the deacons was leaving, a plain man with a friendly smile and solid voice, he gave the children, and there were three of us, Bibles as parting gifts. That was when I was twelve. I still had the Bible. My grandmother had kept it for me and when I left home after joining the police force she handed it to me. She didn’t say anything but she knew.
One night for some reason, to this day I cannot tell you why, I thumbed through it. My eye was caught by the story of David. I read it. And in my mind his story was similar to mine. Over the days I formed a bond with David. If God loved a man like David, a man that he said was of his own heart, then there was a chance for me. After a while, when the darkness came, David drew his sword of light and cut it away. David had put himself to the task of being God’s servant. He didn’t run from evil, he faced it. I decided to find out what the darkness was. I read everything I could about what I was experiencing. And I found out it had a name-delayed stress syndrome.
Once I focused my life away from my problems I began to see that many of my fellow police officers were showing symptoms of the darkness. I was now an instructor at the Police Academy and had recently received Master’s Degree in clinical psychology. I began teaching officers how to cope with the darkness, now labeled, post traumatic stress disorder. Thus began my journey of teaching others to defeat this malady. In 1982 I was appointed to President Reagan’s Vietnam Veterans advisory committee, where I centered on PTSD. In the years to come I knew that I wanted to write about PTSD and what it had done to so many soldiers.
The Warrior is Especially for Men in Arms
But I also wanted to write about what had happened to me; not my experiences but my being saved from the darkness by what I know was God’s grace. Some would call it redemption. But how would I do this? I wrote The Warrior. The Warrior is a novel about redemption. Not redemption in the classical sense that has been written about many times. How would God redeem warriors? Warriors who had been sentenced to live in the darkness for questionable conduct. God would come to them as a warrior. I wrote this book as a ray of recovery for men in arms.
I knew that this concept might be foreign and perhaps offensive to many religious readers. But I felt it was a story that I had to tell. My central character is a man named David. I patterned him from the Bible’s David. And like King David, The Warrior’s David was a failed human being. David and his team were called upon to carry out Phoenix missions in Vietnam and all had left the service in disgrace. Years later God comes to them and brings them together to accomplish an impossible task that will redeem them and let them stand in the light of men once more.
I used as a background for the novel’s action, the Falklands War. I’m not sure if there has been any fiction written about the Falklands War. The Warrior is gritty. There is rough language, scenes of violence, but also tales of bravery and sacrifice. I wanted to take the readers, especially Christian and other religious readers to a real world, a world where evil lives and to show how it can be defeated. Christ never flinched from entering places of evil men and danger. I hope readers would find The Warrior a little dangerous but worth reading. Though David’s dreams did mirror PTSD, in the book the reader will find that the true reason that I used the dreams was to provide a lifeline to all that suffer from PTSD. The message was to be open to God. He may speak to you from an unusual place. In the bible dreams are often messages from God. In David’s case that is how God spoke to him.
I am fortunate to have The Warrior right now on Amazon’s Kindle books and on Create Space in paperback. If you have been in the military or have a family member that has been in the military, this book has the power to transform your life, give you something to live for and restore you. It’s not just military fiction, but is writing that has a message of God’s love and redemption. If you or a loved one is in darkness free yourself and allow the message of The Warrior to be a point of life giving inspiration.
Phil Davidson is a practicing attorney and the author of The Warrior. The book is a tale of action, loyalty and redemption. The book is now available on Amazon.