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Former Marine's memories feed book to aid other vets

Jul. 26, 2013 - 08:17AM   |  
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JEFFERSON CITY, MO. — After four years of delving into his own traumatic memories and facing his locked-up demons, a Vietnam veteran has found his “improbable” book is reaching others.

After only three weeks available to the public, more than 800 readers already have copies of “Ghosts of 1968.”

So far, the book has received “exceptional” response, the Jefferson City man said. A Vietnam memorial in New Mexico even requested copies for its bookstore.

“It’s just catching on,” Raul Delgado said. “It’s an unexpected, heartwarming outcome.”

Veterans have been contacting him by phone and email and even in person to share how much the book reached them.

“They’re baring their soul after reading the book — total strangers to a total stranger,” Delgado said.

Delgado, 66, served in the Marine Corps from 1965 to 1969. He was a crew chief on a CH-46 helicopter with the Purple Foxes in Vietnam.

He did not set out to write a book. Rather, his writing began four years ago as a mental health exercise. As friends and professionals read his personal accounts, they encouraged him to publish them.

The book is not a “blood and guts” heroic tale. It is a genuine expression of emotions and feelings warfare produces.

“It’s not just me; it’s how other veterans feel,” Delgado said. “I did not realize so much pain was out there.”

His wife, Jody, added, “because they don’t talk about it.”

Many other veterans similarly wear a mask for everyone and carry the “I’m all right, man” attitude.

For that reason, Delgado hadn’t applied for the veterans benefits due him until he tackled this, as well.

Now, he and Jody hope other veterans will open up about their experiences and seek help, especially the benefits owed to them through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

About 58,000 American service members were killed in Vietnam. Between 1975 and 1981, more than that number committed suicide.

Decades later, statistics show 18 Vietnam veterans commit suicide daily.

“I was involved in most of the major battles that took place in Vietnam during the year 1968,” Delgado said. “I was shot down twice and the recipient of 21 air medals.

“I came home seemingly unscathed, unaware of the toll and effects that war had extracted from me.”

Compiling the book did not “fix” him, Delgado emphasized.

“It is a venue to release tension and feelings that have been bottled up,” he said. “I didn’t know I had it bottled up; I thought I was superman.

“I hadn’t come to terms with what I had done.”

His wife noted that the writing project changed him.

After 50 years, he attended his first squadron reunion. He confirmed many of the details in his essays with fellow veterans who were there with him.

“I just kept playing along, not thinking it would really become a book,” Delgado said.

Then he returned to his hometown, Chicago, where he hadn’t been since returning from Vietnam 35 years ago.

It was an emotionally charged experience regarding hope and forgiveness.

“...Too high. The price was too high,” Delgado closed one of the book’s chapters.

The book is not limited to Vietnam veterans. Jody said those returning from Afghanistan and Iraq may find it helpful, too.

“For all the men, women and their families who have ever been affected by that war, present wars, and those yet to come, I dedicate this book to you,” the book dedication says.

The book also is available for the Kindle and may soon be at local bookstores. Additional local book signings will be arranged.

Delgado is available for speaking engagements.

“Suddenly, I find myself with a responsibility,” Delgado said. “So many veterans have contacted me; it gives me a purpose I didn’t have before.”

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