by Mark Sandman.
I look forward to reading an historical account of an armed conflict with a certain amount of anxiety and trepidation. As most of us already know who have been through these kinds of experiences it is always a two-edged sword to read a veteran or soldier vividly recall the sights, the smells and the thoughts of their own private hell. When known already that reading these vivid recollections is asking our own selves to relive our own vivid memories, because stimulation of any one of our senses is one of the strongest reminders of our past (our memories). Reading personal accounts of individual combat experiences is an event in itself for us and Mike has pushed all the buttons for me once again with his new book Return to Tumbledown, causing me to relive my own combat exposures fresh and vivid. Remembering times I thought to be long ago dead and buried with the passage of time.
Return to Tumbledown really asks a lot of the reader emotionally, especially when we must read through the book peering into the Falklands-Malvinas hell through the prism of our own combat exposure and traumatic experiences. It all comes rushing back smack into your face as I read “Ossie” Osborn’s night time combat experiences and his narrowly escaping a “friendly” grenade thrown in his direction mistakenly. Then I read about Nicol unable to accurately call in artillery support. All the confusion, all of the chaos, all of the fresh and pungent smells you recognize but don’t dare to really think about too long. All training, order and discipline seem to evaporate in the eternal hellish instant that is night time combat. I bounce around from page to page trying to find a light moment and it is not there. It is at this point that I feel I must take my first break from reading precisely on page 91. I open the book up again to find Cocks and the Right Flank pinned down by “friendly” machine gun fire. What the hell is going on, were these guys somehow with me in the A Shau Valley in Vietnam? Time has ceased to have any relevant meaning for me at this moment, so I stop again and take another break. I think “Mike you asshole you have to stop writing this stuff, it is not helpful.” So I continue to skip around the book and find McTeague’s haunting post-war account and this does a real J O B on my head.
Jeremy’s recollection of his “welcome home” are timelessly accurate and sadly they reflect what many of us have had to endure when we came home. “Hey Mark (Jeremy) the Giants won the World Series isn’t that wonderful?” or “Jeremy (Mark) the Spanish just won the World Cup.” Yeah Jeremy welcome home and get your shit together because life goes on. My own memories of moment to moment depression have now flooded in and I start to think once again how fucking hard it was most days to just put one foot in front of the other and move, when your head feels that heavy and dull not much makes any sense and Jeremy does a Wonderful job of communicating this level of despair to the reader.
Return to Tumbledown clearly illustrates the value and importance of Veteran Peer Support and our motto. That when all is said and done, “nobody can do for us (the combat veteran) the way that we can do for each other.” That we must always keep in the back of our own minds, that we are there for each other in our greatest time of need. Stating the origin of this attitude in a crude and awkward way, we are truly all members of a small and exclusive club I refer to as the “brotherhood of the gun.” We have these experiences seared into our core, the very essence of our being. In the end, what we do not do for each other, somebody else must do for us. Return to Tumbledown has worked its way inside me like very few things can. I do not wish to relive my own personal events like this but I will and I am a better person for doing so. Read it and come away thinking no more war.
(Mark Sandman is a US Army Vietnam War veteran, psychologist and practitioner for combat veteran peer support).
The book, Return to Tumbledown: The Falklands-Malvinas War Revisited, was published on 10 June 2012 by CCC Press, 80, Sherwin Road, Nottingham, NG7 2FB. It is priced at GBP 19.99 and can be purchased on-line by inserting the title Return to Tumbledown into Google and clicking on the link “New Ventures”:
Postage is free to any part of the world.