Jan Cavanaugh A Bloodied Tapestry
The American War in Vietnam
From A Civilian War Veteran's Perspective
1967 - 1969
JanStephen James Cavanaugh, Ph.D.


Civilian War Veteran's Perspective, American War Vietnam, Corp II, South Vietnam, 1967-1969

The story I tell is drawn from personal journals written during my time in war...as background for recall and reflection. Journaling is a habit I took up in Maryknoll Catholic seminary and unwittingly gives witness to the story I tell.

What is written herein is a series of essays that interweaves a tapestry of memories that criss-cross my time in South Vietnam 1967-1969. The American War as the Vietnamese named it.

JanStephen James Cavanaugh, Ph.D.

The price I paid for my war nerves in Vietnam 1967-1969 was not evident to me until 1990. As part of my professional training in treating war trauma, I was attending a PTSD workshop. I remember listening to the story of a navy medic, a veteran of Vietnam. Suddenly out of the blue it hit me, his story was my story. He was telling his story and how he had disowned his PTSD. He all these years suffered disordered sleep undiagnosed because he thought himself "a lowly medic" and not worthy of war stress disorders. As a lowly civilian in that war it hit me, and my body heaved in grief as I wept in recognition. From then on, I identified myself as a Civilian Vietnam War Veteran. This was the beginning of my being able to tell the story that I now invite you to read. A story that contains the normal struggles of my life: my high idealism and the terrifying realism of war, of loving friendship and of deep betrayal. Nothing in itself that unusual or fantastical...but my story, just the same.

I know that the writing of my story is about me needing to tell it, not sure why. In truth I am frightened that I will not be able to well tell it. I do believe that if the story is well told it will create a sympathetic view of "the enemy" who most often starts within. To love and to forgive ourselves and others for our participation in "bad times" past. Each side was fighting for cherished beliefs, and as a principle of war committed to get the killing done as quickly as possible. Misuse of the principles of war lead to unending and unwinnable wars. We notice violations of these principles in our present times. Suggesting these times could end badly.

I am guilty of participating in the sins of war. We all are.

As a way of healing from the pain of war I imagine each side offering an apology for the horrible deeds and atrocities committed. Confession is good for the collective soul, for war is barbarism unleased. Such a mutual apology would go a long way to healing the psychic wound still at core of the American/Vietnamese relationship. We are beautiful peoples who need to heal old wounds. And I do see that taking place...I read stories of old enemies meeting in peace in former battle fields...a mutual respect...old soldiers on both sides eating and drinking in good company.

June 10, 2021
JanStephen James Cavanaugh