A review of my new book: The Fourth Pillar

Mr. Terry Irving is a four-time Emmy Award-winning journalist. He edited and reviewed my novel The Fourth Pillar to be published in 2017. As an award-winning writer and producer, he has won three Peabody Awards, and three Du Pont and Telly awards. He worked as a senior live control room producer at CNN, Fox, ABC and MSNBC. He wrote and edited copy for some of the top anchors and journalists in television news including Ted Koppel, Diane Sawyer, Wolf Blitzer, and Aaron Brown. Mr. Irving has produced stories in all fifty States and around the world from Beirut, Hong Kong, El Salvador, the fall of the Berlin Wall and Tiananmen Square.

 

The Fourth Pillar – Reviewed by Terry Irving

First, James Milton Smith is very much the Real Deal. He gets both essemtoa; of writing about war; riveting descriptions of the fear, joy, terror, and exhaustion of real combat and the years of internal battle with the “invisible wounds” that all of those who have truly been on the front lines. His writing was wonderful and my job, as editor, was like that of an archeologist—clearing away the undergrowth. Once that was done, there were vivid descriptions, crisp dialog, and a wonderful sense of humor. Sort of an Angkor Wat of a book. Again, the sequences where he opened his veins and described the painful process of coming to terms with PTSD, there is an honest and wonderfully human story of the “push pull” process of seeking help when all his conditioning fights against it.

Jim is the real deal. From the fleshpots of Thailand, to the ludicrous “secrecy” of a war everyone but the American public knew was being fought. Jim has nailed this story.

With all that, it’s not a simplistic diary of one man’s time in combat, it’s a meditation on the meaning of life and death. The constant process of thought, meditation, and reconsideration that Jim has gone through shows his sharp intelligence which flashes through on every page.

All that and a surprise ending.

It was an honor to work on this book and I would like the reader to understand that “The Fourth Pillar” is very much the work of James Milton Smith alone.

Terry Irving
Emmy Award-Winning TV journalist

 

Excerpt from The Fourth Pillar by James Milton Smith

Sharing an excerpt from my latest novel The Fourth Pillar which is ready to be published in 2016.
-jms-
 

Everything Owen learned about what was going on in Laos was perilous to know. He wasn’t quite sure how dangerous but he could feel the danger growing in the marrow of his uninformed mind. In his mind, the secret war appeared to be executed by different people with different resources and objectives, all conducting their disparate campaigns on the orders of dark-spirited clandestine leaders plotting in dark rooms. Maybe in Saigon. Maybe all the way back in Washington.
 
Owen, thinking of the gladiators who would say to Caesar, Ave Imperator, morituri te salutant, (Hail Caesar, we who are about to die salute you) developed his own credo:
 
“We the young soldiers, the expendables, delivered at their behest–our actions to harvest war’s evil deeds–the sowing of the seeds of war and the reaping of death that will mark us forever with the unrelenting punishment of remembrance. The politicians and secret leaders will mark the orders they gave ‘Top Secret’ and redact us from the false documents they created, and they will sleep like babies. It is by design, a secret war. A Redacted War.”

Veteran’s Day 2015

Remembering Fellow Warriors This Veteran’s Day

It seems ages ago.
And yet it still goes on.
More wars, since our own as young men and women.
Aren’t we always with those we left behind?
Then, when we were still “pressing on” to the next objective.
Nothing deterred us from our orders, and our duty.
The warrior code embedded in our souls… Timelessly it seemed.
We were then moving forward, not looking back, as done eons ago.
Looking back was to accede to defeat or worse, to surrender.
Our Rubik cube of patriotism directed at each turn by the miscreant political leaders.
We the rudderless, without virtuous foreign policy in the maze of killing for the enemies natural resources.
As a senior adult, I see us attacking other countries preemptively. Something new in our history. But done efficiently – then leaving those countries in squalor, for over fifty years now.
I surrender now to the idea of negotiation and peace first.
Let the boils and abscesses of war be pricked and oozed upon those who would send us there. Let the politicians send their daughters and sons into harm’s way as we keep setting foot on foreign soil.
And let them not forget, their kids might be re-extended repeatedly.
We voters must make our leaders pay for the destruction reaped by their ugly Siamese twin -War.
War crimes are yet to be prosecuted.
And finally, after fifty years we the common citizen must live with what we created.
A pissed off world. We needn’t spend too much time wondering why.
Our military is in virtually every country in the world with bases and troops.
Does it seem odd, that we allow no one from any other country – friend or foe to be here in the U.S.?
Foreign Policy should not be based in the acquisition of foreign resources as its sole goal.
Arms sales and preemptive wars – a boon to so few here at home.
We the people led by so few.
Those that lead us to so little good overseas and at home.
A spent treasury and needlessly spent lives?
No?
Then go yourself to these foreign lands, there will be plenty of weapons to pick up for your indulgence.

Secrets Brought Home

Secrets Brought Home is James’ first novel.

 

Secrets Brought Home

• Learn more about Secrets Brought Home.

 • Read Reviews of Secrets Brought Home.

• Available for purchase on Amazon.com in Paperback and Kindle formats.

Secrets Brought Home by James Milton Smith is about a Marine who served his country in Laos in the years leading up to the Vietnam War, fighting in the U.S.’s Secret War. The story is about the soldier’s combat experience, and his struggle facing PTSD from combat and integrating into society upon return to civilian life. The returning vet was convinced he could not tell of his wartime experiences because he wasn’t sure he understood his own reactions to his recurring conflicted emotions. And that was compounded by the realization that he could not keep his flashbacks sublimated. His needed counseling and tools to cope with “the lion in the thicket.”

What is PTSD?  And how does it manifest itself in the main character of the novel?  Owen O’Brien’s journey will provide insights into what the returning vet with PTSD deals with almost daily.  These insights might help one realize the magnitude of this national concern.  The following statistics will serve as the dawning on our Rockpile.

Whose problem is it for all those living around Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

  1. The returning veteran
  2. The family
  3. Society
  4. Our government
  5. Veterans Administration
  6. Law enforcement
  7. Medical profession
  8. Psychiatric counselors
  9. All of the above

It can be safely said now that  ‘9. All of the above’ has become the clear answer.    We are all becoming aware of the emergence of a mental health disorder common to the returning military personnel from wars. In November 2014, The National Center for PTSD released the following statistics:

  •  Of Vietnam veterans, one in three has had PTSD.
  • And now, more than forty years since the war ended, 15% of the vets are being treated for PTSD.
  • Of the returning vets from both Iraq wars and Afghanistan, approximately 15% are estimated to have PTSD.
  • The Vietnam War saw about 2,100,000 vets serve in the war.  The Afghan and Iraq Wars have sent over 2.5 million service personnel to those wars.
  • In recent years, suicides have been calculated at roughly 22 a day for returning veterans from all prior wars.

Couple PTSD with any combination of alcoholism, divorce, abuse in families, depression, physical rehabilitation, and needed psychiatric help – and it can be clearly seen that PTSD is a national tragedy needing immediate and corrective measures to support the returning veterans from our seemingly endless preemptive wars.

Coma

A coma is losing control.  The slipping-away feeling of our very life essence.  An excerpt from Secrets Brought Home, here is Owen O’Brien’s remembrance of that life-threatening experience.

• Coma •

In a blink I could see.
In another,
Everything disappeared.
No dreams remembered of people, places or things.
A vague memory of loud clanging noises,
That might have been wrapped in an eternity of years.
With closed eyes as blinds drawn to sight.
Rotating scalding bright blinding lights.
Stark bright lights ricocheting around within my imprisoned mind.
Bright red and hot electric white lightning within a kaleidoscope,
Flashing across my defenseless subconscious fears.
All, morphing into an abyss of dark nothingness,
Like a lightning storm passing in the night.
Then slowly, weeks, months perhaps, a dawning within
A DMZ, a demilitarized zone of sorts.
Where time was not occupied fully, not resident to remember.
Then a detaching from the void, a pulling toward, like on a rope,
From that which had held my suffocating muteness.
A gradual awakening, hurting, as if earned at too great a cost.
A Pyrrhic victory, won from an unconscious host.
An awareness not yet seen, with eyes glued shut from coma’s sand.
And my voice unable to discourse, throat frozen from inertness.
Emaciated, I reappear.
Like a phoenix rising, but from a colorless fire.
And then the shock,
My mind asked, my voice lost to sound,
Which world am I in?
Is this a cosmic joke, sins yet for me to pay? I am afraid to ask.
Yet I hear kind voices probing me.
Will I again disappear before I can reply? Again into that empty well?
Is insanity and disassociation my cross to bear?
For my part in that Secret War.
This time, whatever spirit you are, I have your rope.
Pull me in, and keep me near.
Hold me dear, for the life I knew, and want again
I think