From Amazon: Muddy Jungle Rivers is a close-up look at life on a gunboat during 1968, the bloodiest year of the Vietnam War. It’s the story of a seven-man crew captained by a volatile pro-war enlisted man. Like Philip Caputo’s "A Rumor Of War," this narrative takes the reader into frustration, rage, terror, death, betrayal and the search for redemption. Muddy Jungle Rivers has 29 chapters, maps and photographs. Today’s generation watches their peers returning from combat and cannot understand why their loved ones have changed after being blanched in the cauldron of war. In Muddy Jungle Rivers the reader will glimpse the genesis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Steve Almond wrote the foreword for Muddy Jungle Rivers.


Expressive Writing: A Path to Post-Traumatic Growth

Bemidji, MN

Wendell Affield served two tours in Vietnam, the second with the Mobile Riverine Force where he was wounded in an ambush. Affield is the author of four books and a member of American Legion Ralph Gracie Post 14 in Bemidji, Minn.
2022 is the 10th anniversary for my Vietnam War memoir, MUDDY JUNGLE RIVERS. I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the early 1990s. I come to therapeutic writing as a person who has dealt with trauma memories for more than five decades. I discovered that writing my memories helped make sense of my Vietnam experience.
After retirement, in my first college class, I recall the writing prompt: “What would you like to write about?” My response startled me. “I want to write about life on a riverboat in Vietnam. About decomposing bodies and bodies blown beyond recognition. About soldiers, sailors and Marines dying. About friends drowned, sniped, burned, maimed. About crawling a riverbank toward a medevac chopper and nightmares. About loss and guilt.”
I learned the power of poetry. British poets were most compelling. Sassoon, Graves, Owen - Owen wrote with a power I hoped to emulate. Over the next several years, I wrote hundreds of stories and poems and revised them thousands of times. I wrote in first-person point of view, in the voice of a 20-year-old member of a seven-man riverboat crew. As I gained tools to tell my stories, an interesting thing happened. I began to make sense of my experience.
I believe that one is not “healed” of PTSD, but can learn to integrate old trauma memories into total life experience and move beyond. There will always be a trigger - olfactory triggers are powerful. A whiff of diesel fumes or decomposing flesh, I’m back on the rivers of Vietnam. But there is life beyond PTSD.
Post-Traumatic Growth is a theory developed by psychologists Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun. Growth after trauma ( PTG recognizes five primary areas of positive response: appreciation of life; relationships with others; new possibilities in life; personal strength; and spiritual change.
In our local Veterans Writer Group I facilitate, we are currently working our way through "The Posttraumatic Growth Workbook." I encourage you to explore writing your trauma memories. On paper, you can organize and rearrange memory fragments. No longer will they be a jumble of snippets ricocheting around in your head.

Muddy Jungle Rivers - Wendell Affield

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