Three years into studying architecture at the University of Illinois, in 1966 my draft status was changed from a student deferment to 1-A, and I joined the army to learn to fly helicopters. I spent a year in flight school and served as a combat helicopter pilot with the 1st Cavalry Division in the Vietnam War. In the spring of 1968, I was severely injured and spent 10 months in the hospital, after which I was assigned as a flight instructor at the Army’s training base at Fort Rucker, Alabama. Discharged in 1970, I spent the subsequent 12-years on an odyssey of healing and transformation of the warrior spirit—the story told in my two-volume memoir, of which Journey to Myrtos is the first book. I re-integrated into American society in 1982 and spent the subsequent 26-years teaching mathematics, English and history at the secondary level.
I hold a BSc in mathematics with minors in history and art, post-graduate work in education and doctoral work in the History of Consciousness. My first book, Nurturing the Souls of Our Children: Education and the Culture of Democracy, is a reworking of my doctoral thesis. That book is currently being prepared for re-publication as two volumes. I retired from teaching in 2006 and have spent the past nine years lecturing on education. Additionally, I have a lecture based on this memoir. “The Warrior Spirit and the Trauma of Mechanized Warfare” was first presented in 2013 and has subsequently been presented at the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich Switzerland, as well as to several Jungian and veterans groups around the United States. Offers to present the lecture are welcome.
“...the author offers a highly intellectual Vietnam War memoir that's more poetic than most pain-wracked soldier stories. His ruminations on mythologies, metaphysics, and human sexuality--both classic and modern--have one foot on the battlefield and the other in New Age philosophy...”
– Kirkus Reviews
In this memoir, Mitchell (Nurturing the Souls of Our Children, 2005) describes his Vietnam service and his political, sexual, and philosophical awakening during a subsequent European journey of self-discovery.
Mitchell, the product of a nomadic childhood, attributes his early, magical outlook on life to his “Druid” ancestors; it led him to dance naked on moonlit nights beneath the gaze of the “Goddess of the Moon.” In the 1960s, he was fired up by thoughts of battle—inspired less by Cold War–era, anti-Communist fervor than by a primordial, warrior-spirit calling, à la Achilles at Troy. He put up with dehumanizing boot-camp drills so that he could have the chance to fly helicopter scout missions. But he was struck by the Vietnamese countryside and culture, feeling that the enemy Viet Cong had a personal intimacy with nature that the mechanized, “soulless” American side lacked. (In this, he claims to have foreseen America’s defeat.) When an air crash left Mitchell badly burned, he accepted an honorable discharge without ever having the “catharsis” of taking a foe’s life. Restless, he studied the classics and traveled through Europe, where a life-changing love affair with a dashing, confident German actor finally allowed him to embrace same-sex eros (love) over the siren-song of thanatos (death). In Greece, he had a dream-vision of the goddess again, hinting at a journey of rebirth: As he puts it, “the transformation of the warrior into serving the Eros spirit is the objective of the heroic struggle in the soul between love and death.” As this passage shows, the author offers a highly intellectual Vietnam War memoir that’s more poetic than most pain-wracked soldier stories. His ruminations on mythologies, metaphysics, and human sexuality—both classical and modern—have one foot on the battlefield and the other in New Age philosophy and a gay coming-of-age story. Although this book clearly and eloquently springs from the heart, armchair commandos will find their helmets spinning at the diversity of its target acquisitions.
A genre-blending mission report from an atypical disillusioned Vietnam vet.
Pub Date: Dec. 14, 2011
Page count: 206pp
Review Posted Online: May 18, 2016
Writer, Lecturer, Actor
Favorite line from a book
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Passion in life
creating and playing a character in an adventurous drama
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