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


Healing and Hauling PTSD

• Healing and Hauling PTSD •

If I don’t stir the memories of fire,
Having first fully-faced the language of understanding minds,
My spirit, some would think, most probably had been fully shocked.

I am left with but embers remaining
Which, albeit glowing, are kept inert.

Thoughts, surreptitiously arriving – triggered as such –
But hardly ever these days.

What once before, those embers when stoked, meant conflagration –
I choose now, and will not give oxygen to any fraught memories
That might disturb
Where I rest now –
In cooler soil of a resolved spirit.

And my spirit’s seeds once known, before war, are now again
Finding rebirth and renaissance in soil of my choosing –
Within my following trailer of composted and healing memories,
Now the nurturing
Of my soul.

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.


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

Coming Home After the War

A poem to understand the thoughts of the returning vet.   From a forthcoming book of poetry to be released in 2016.


• Coming Home After the War •

It’s the same, but smaller somehow.
Me, having left a disturbed world behind for someone else’s overhaul.
Me, feeling reprimanded and helpless –
Now, abiding in a world that has forgotten my youth, as well as me.
Misplaced, feeling my lack of a mundane social wherewithal.
I can look up my comrades from war, but I know their stories all too well
It can be read without words from the sadness in their eyes.
Can I hide this showing in my eyes?
Will my memories hide and rest behind my gaze?
My internal voice seems above,
Above the voices I hear in this small-minded society’s petty balderall.
Perhaps I might be more aware, but it is of things that spell inconvenience
And horror to the unassaulted unknowing people here and out there.
And so, I must live within my unspoken soliloquy
Mute and privately.
I share the murmurings of my memories in a private place
And burn the pain from my soul, before my fireplace
Still alone, but looking into healing, by staring back at pain’s face
Trying to find the peace within those who know nothing of war
Or me.