My Vietnam War book is finally published

It took me more than 50 years, but I finally published my Vietnam War story and the toll it took on me after leading a combat infantry platoon as a 21-year-old first lieutenant.

I self-published with the help of editors who wrote the back cover description. They used a mug shot I had taken some ten years ago while attending a PTSD meditation clinic at Omega Institute for veterans and their families. The clinic introduced me to different forms of meditation that allowed me to eventually deal with the trauma and view the war experience in a more benign and compassionate light.

Highlights from the book’s back cover are below:


The memories of a platoon leader become the key to unlocking his salvation.

Michael J. Contos may have survived the tragedy of friendly fire, but the worst days of the Vietnam War were not over. After years of battling the past and traumatic memories with no reprieve for good behavior, this soldier was ready to make peace. After meeting two Buddhist instructors, Contos was able to view his war experience in a different light. With the help and guidance of his mentors, Contos not only gained a new perspective of war but of life itself.

A devoted dedication to those we have lost, a graceful study of healing and enlightenment, and a determined and disciplined meditation on the Vietnam War, Vietnam War Recall leads readers on a journey, one battle and one breath at a time.

———————-

Much of the book contains posts I had written for my blog on this website called Contoveros.wordpress.com. I searched through the history of anti-war quotes and sprinkled them throughout the book. They include one of my favorite quotes from the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn who wrote:

Veterans are the light at the tip of the candle,’ illuminating the way for the whole nation. If veterans can achieve awareness, transformation, understanding, and peace, they can share with the rest of society the realities of war. And they can teach us how …”

I started writing the memoirs while at a five-day retreat with Barry Kerzin, a Tibetan Buddhist monk who is a phsysican for the Dalai Lama. (See his TED Talk in Phoenixville, PA.) I felt safe and open enough to revisit the war and see myself years later. I started a hand-written journal that became the basis of this book.

While visiting Omega Institute to deal with PTSD with other veterans a few months later, I started typing the journal onto a lap-top computer while meditating with Claude AnShin Thomas, a Zen Buddhist monk who served as a machine gunner on a helicopter in Vietnam. He was helping veterans like me deal with the trauma from PTSD. It was the fourth journey I had walked with him at Omega Institute on a scholarship for veterans. (See Claude’s book on Amazon: “At Hell’s Gate: A Soldier’s Journey from War to Peace.”

I dedicated the book to Lieutenant Victor Lee Ellinger, leader of the third platoon. We had served together until a Viet Cong sniper shot and killed him. I still mourn Vic, at one point in my life, visited his gravesite in Staunton, VA, and saluted him while laying a wreath at his head stone.

Yes, the war is over but the memories will still linger on. At least I can finally put this journey’s writing to bed and hope some readers can benefit from these recollections.

(Book is available on Amazon:

Vietnam War Recall, the Best and Worst Days of my Life

23 comments on “My Vietnam War book is finally published

  1. Ricardo says:

    this is Ricardo Meléndez your computer Expert (610)-710-6269

    You are a fantastic guy!

    I remember you well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • contoveros says:

      Thank you my computer expert friend. It was nice meeting you on Fayette Street in Conshohocken and the chance to renew our acquaintance. I look forward to contacting you again soon.
      Sorry about your Vietnam War friend who helped you in Philadelphia. He passed on and from what you told me He sounds like he was a great and kind veteran.

      Like

  2. Marjon van Kempen says:

    Congratulations, Michael! Wonderful accomplishment!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Nicole Perry says:

    Congratulations! What an accomplishment, and such a gift to those of us who want to understand more. I’ve just ordered your book and hope that you’ll be able to sign it for me the next time we see each other in person! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • contoveros says:

      Thank you Nicole.
      I look forward to the day we can get back together in person and I will gladly sign the book.
      I have been seeing a lot of your activities on Facebook and it brings a smile to me and my feline friends.
      Hope to see you son at the TBC!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Liz RS says:

    Oh . . . I want to friend you on Facebook. Ask me, tis is pathetic, but I think that aI am: Liz Rice-Sosne

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Liz RS says:

    You write very well. You are very articulate . . . I will have to read your book slowly. It has been a while since I have worked with veterans. Hell, I walk up to Vietnam Vets on the street and hug them, they hold such a place in my heart. I am so glad for your healing and relief. I suspect that you can and will play a part in the healing of other veterans today. You have been there but mostly, you have come back. Too many don’t. You have been given a real gift. I am so glad.

    Like

  6. Pat Donohue says:

    Michael, I’m so happy for you that you got that out and in print! I also come from that time and was crushed by the number of students that never came back from there after high school. I also helped organize a picnic for vets from the Philly area, some in wheelchairs, and saw the after effects on many more young (and even not young anymore) men. It broke my heart to see their physical and mental devastation. I wouldn’t have guessed it from you, though, as you were always upbeat and great to be around. Glad you’re keeping busy with your grandkids; they make life much more joyful. I’m ordering a book and would love to have you sign it when you can come to a MeetUp get together again. (It’s been on hold due to Covid.) Keep smiling, singing and writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • contoveros says:

      Thank you Pat. I really miss you guys and lol forward to getting back together when the COVID stuff dies down and we can enjoy MeetUp again.
      I will gladly sign the book and give you a big hug and thank you for all the Vietnam veterans that you helped on their safe return home.

      Take care until we meet again.
      With lots of love,
      Michael J

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Abby Cohen says:

    this is excellent news. congratulations!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. contoveros says:

    The following comments were exchanged on Facebook:

    Stephen Koelsch
    I will have to give it a look. My brother John Koelsch experienced the same situation. Thanks!

    Michael J Contos
    Some 20 percent of persons who served in the Vietnam War suffered from PTSD. I think the same might apply to those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    ————–

    Calliope Joy
    Big CONGRATULATIONS
    …thank you for sharing this and I will be ordering…

    Michael J Contos
    I hope to autograph the book when we get together in Queens or some other New York City borough my cousin.

    ————–
    Andrea Hornett
    Congratulations, Michael! Well done.

    Michael J Contos
    I guess our little writing group paid off for me with our practice sessions on a weekly basis.

    Andrea Hornett
    I’ve been re-living 1975 this past week as I watch a chaotic exit and betrayal of trust. Shudder.

    Michael J Contos
    It seems like the Vietnam War pull-out all over again . . .

    Andrea Hornett
    Exactly. Ambassador Martin wouldn’t let them make any plans in Vietnam and the ridiculous government in Afghanistan wouldn’t let them make plans for rescue. DE JA VU all over again.

    —————

    Cyndi Smith
    What a great accomplishment, I look forward to reading it.

    Michael J Contos
    There were some tough times in writing some of this, particularly, with those involving PTSD. But like the Good Book says: “This too will pass!”

    Cyndi Smith
    I give you a lot of credit for pushing through the tough times, not easy. I miss you at the Sharing circle. Hope you are well.

    Michael J Contos
    Hanging in there with a two-year-old, a four-year-old as well as an 11-year-old and an 8-year-old grandkid in my house.
    Talk about a tough time!

    Cyndi Smith
    That’s a houseful!! But rewarding.

    ————–
    Rae Theodore
    Congrats, Michael! I was always enthralled by your Vietnam War stories.

    Michael J Contos
    I miss the old writing group. You guys gave me such an incentive to keep at it and I finally did with this effort . . .

    Rae Theodore
    We miss you, too. But good to see you are still at it.

    ————–

    Lisa Baxter Horwitz
    Congratulations!!! This is great news!

    Michael J Contos
    Thanks. I can’t wait to see you guys in person when this pandemic winds down a little bit. Now that would be a scary book to write: “What did you do during the pandemic Dad?”

    Lisa Baxter Horwitz
    Yes, it would be but I hope to hear all those stories! I can’t wait to be able to hear them all.

    Michael J Contos
    I’ll need some deep meditation for some of those stories!

    —————

    Dominic Condo Sr
    Hey Michael
    Let me know how to purchase a copy of the book if I can’t find it in a book store.

    Michael J Contos
    You can link to Amazon.com and provide the title of the book: Vietnam War Recall by Michael J Contos. Thanks for your interest and enjoy the reading!

    —————

    Kitty Blanchard
    Wonderful, congrats

    Michael J Contos
    Ah shucks, my lady. ‘Twas nothing us striving writers like to do every now and then!

    —————-

    Sheila Zawediuk
    Congratulations !!!

    Michael J Contos
    Your comment brings back so many fun-filled and uplifting memories that I want to get back into our little group and just smile more! Thanks . . .

    Sheila Zawediuk
    Michael J Contos meeee tooo! I miss a certain Camaraderie that I felt one being with people at Innersource.

    ————-

    Bruce Saul
    I will be ordering this from Amazon. I now know at least three people who have been published
    Michael J Contos
    Cool, my Brewerytown neighbor. I still remember living on 31st Street when I got drafted and went off to serve with Uncle Sam. You did too and so did so many others from our North Philadelphia neck of the woods.

    —————

    Jim Hubmaster
    Congratulations Mike!

    Michael J Contos
    Hearing from you makes me want to sing a little more. Perhaps a little something called “I’m a Happy Man!” That’s the song that you sang as lead singer for our Doo-Wop group. The Five Jaunts – our singing group – were really something else, weren’t we?

    Jim Hubmaster
    Yes, they were my friend!

    ————-

    Terri Kiral
    Congratulations, Michael J. Your stories through the years have always been deeply touching. Looking forward to reading your latest offerings.

    Michael J Contos
    Thanks and good luck with your writing endeavors. I got some of my book ideas while sitting across the table at our writing sessions.

    ————–

    Bill Reinecke
    I don’t recall you talking about your war years when we worked together. What a gift to share your journey with trauma through insight. Thanks for writing this, Michael.

    Michael J Contos
    Bill, I see your name and I get flashbacks. Good flashbacks to The Hill School and the old Pottstown Mercury newspaper, which is the smallest daily newspaper in the United States with more than one Pulitzer Prize. I didn’t know I had PTSD at the time we worked together in the mid to late 1970s.
    I had what my first wife called “anger issues” and didn’t get help for “anger management” until my second wife suggested it. Apparently, both were wrong and I didn’t realize it until meeting up with other Vietnam veterans with similar issues years later.
    Good chatting with you. Boy, I still miss Nick Day and the stories we all shared as young news reporters…

    Bill Reinecke
    OMG, Michael. I look forward to reading what you’ve written. Mind, for me, is either uppermost or all there is. Since you’ve sought counsel with the Buddhists, I figure you get me. I did Zen for many years and then other approaches. We all have “anger issues,” I believe, and I’m glad for you that you found your trauma was much more than just that…

    Michael J Contos
    Namaste!

    ————–

    Frances Eberwine Holod
    I will make sure my brother Jim gets this book

    Frances Eberwine Holod
    Congratulations Michael wish you the best of luck with your new book

    Michael J Contos
    Hope to see you at Holod’s the next time I travel for plants and flowers outside of Conshohocken. Jim and a lot of the fellows from the old neighborhood served with distinction in the military. It was the thing to do for all of us . . .

    Frances Eberwine Holod
    Michael J Contos HOLOD’S IS MY BROTHER IN LAWS PLACE…RAY AND I BOTH WORKED THERE…I GET DOWN ONCE IN A WHILE…

    ————

    Patty Kline Capaldo
    This is wonderful, Michael J Contos!
    Congratulations!

    Michael J Contos
    “Just Write” helped to encourage me to stick with the writing and I wish I could get together with you guys once the pandemic eases up. Thanks, Patty!

    Patty Kline Capaldo
    Oh, that means so much!

    ————-

    David Thiruselvam
    Congratulations Michael. I will be ordering a copy.

    Michael J Contos
    “Trust me, I’m a lawyer,” he said on Facebook with a smile and a glint of cross-examination in his eyes.
    Good to see you my friend from the Philadelphia Defender Association . . .

    ————-

    Bill Reinecke
    Michael, the Amazon link takes me to Amazon.au instead of the US site. Makes it more difficult to find you.

    Michael J Contos
    OOPs. I went back and changed it. I didn’t know the link I first provided was for Australia until my 29-year-old son pointed it out to me. I hope the new link works but at a certain age that I am now, you just never can tell.

    Bill Reinecke
    Isn’t that the truth? Thyroid med been berry berry good to me. Like that

    Michael J Contos
    You too? Barbara Bush and I suffered the same thyroid condition. Who knows? I might have gotten it while reporting the news at The Pottstown Mercury.

    ————-

    Rose DeLone
    Good for you!

    Michael J Contos
    Boy, I really miss you guys but at least I can see your smiling face on all the pix you share on Facebook and simply wish that I was with you. You make me laugh and feel good about life. Hope to see you and the old writing group sometime soon.

    Rose DeLone
    I try to post pictures that uplift the soul!

    ————

    Tamara Ambros
    You are so dedicated. If I buy a copy would you autograph it? That means you would have to visit with an old schoolmate.

    Michael J Contos
    You’re on, my little Dobbins High School classmate. Fourteen young fellows who went to Dobbins paid the ultimate sacrifice in the Vietnam War. However, the largest number of students in the country to have died in the war was 64. That’s the number of young men who once attended Edison High School in our North Philadelphia neighborhood and never made it back home alive.

    ————–

    Silvia Bollinger
    Congratulations!

    Michael J Contos
    It is so nice to hear from a blog post writer from another country. Thanks!

    ————-

    Frank Warner
    Nice work, Mike! Can’t wait to read this. I remember you talking a little about Vietnam when we worked at The Mercury, and apparently, there was a lot more to tell.
    Just ordered your book! Amazon says it’ll be here in four days.
    Hope you’re well and doing well!

    Michael J Contos
    Thank you, Frank. Now the question we all have is when are you going to write your memoirs about your days as one of “Nader’s Raiders” and all the newspapers you served the reading public over the years?

    Frank Warner

    Michael, I’ve thought about writing up something about the Nader years, but I might go in another direction and write about all the hotel conventions I crashed when I lived in D.C.
    I am working on a little childhood memoir — about Army brat days. Retirement does provide the time, but (as you may agree) book-writing is so much harder than writing a news story.

    Looking forward to your book!

    Michael J Contos

    Maybe you could combine all three by breaking them down by different years and different ages but with the main theme for all of ‘em.…Ever hear of NaNoWriMo? It stands for National Novel Writing Month.
    You commit to writing a thousand, six hundred and sixty-seven words a day for the whole month of November. Google it and make the commitment.

    Frank Warner
    Michael, did you do this? And did it produce good results? I do think it makes some sense! 🙂

    Michael J Contos

    Yes. I met with a group and continued to meet on a weekly basis after writing non-stop for the 30 days.
    The leader of the group lived in Limerick and we’d meet in Spring City.
    Check it out.
    “Just Write” is the name of the group. I stopped seeing them right before the pandemic but they may have something on Zoom.
    Good luck!
    —————

    Mel Puncture
    Congratulations! I remember discussing this back at the Won Institute!!!

    Michael J Contos
    You got me pinned down, my dear. Thanks for the acupuncture you provided we veterans and your listening ear this old veteran in particular…

    ————

    Patricia Muronoff Kalafut
    It’s included with my Kindle unlimited membership. I just downloaded it. Looking forward to reading your book, dear friend.

    Michael J Contos
    Let me know how it flows when we get together in the Bucks County group for those of us over 25 years old.

    ————–

    Erica Bartlett
    Congrats. How can I order a copy? I would love to read it.

    Michael J Contos
    Thanks to hear from you. If you go to the very end of the blog post you will see a link to order the book from Amazon. Just click the bold print that says Vietnam War Recall, the Best and Worst days of my life. It will take you directly to the website.
    I hope you find it informative!

    ————-

    Deedee Ibach
    Congratulations Michael love Deedee Ibach

    Michael J Contos
    Thanks. A lot of good thoughts from our writing group went into the creation of this.

    ————-

    Mingo Stroeber
    Me too, Michael J Contos. Congratulations!

    Michael J Contos
    I still remember sitting at your desk awaiting my first rape case in juvenile court at the public defender’s office of Philadelphia. The young fellow was found not guilty in juvenile court and justice was served!

    ————–

    Susan Gellman
    Me too Michael J Contos. Let me know the details, please.

    Michael J Contos
    I see your name every now and then in connection with our old office at the Defender Association of Philadelphia. I miss the camaraderie and support we provided each other. The book is now available on Amazon.com.
    Just type in the title.

    ————–

    Mary Trzeciak
    Congratulations, Michael!

    Michael J Contos
    Thanks for “sharing” this Facebook entry on your Facebook page. Thanks for your best wishes too!

    ————–

    Katy Comber
    Congratulations!!!!

    Michael J Contos
    I have been seeing you a lot on Facebook and enjoy your activities. Thank you and keep up the good work!

    You too! Excited for you, Michael!

    —————-

    Amy Nora Doyle MacLeod
    Congrats, Michael! This is BIG! Very, very big! I can believe it took many years – and probably you learned yet another thing about yourself in each of those years of writing. Well done
    .
    Michael J Contos

    Yes, it took many years to finally get it together. Writing it has helped me process thoughts and feelings that lingered for years. I feel relieved and am happy for the support I got over the years for writing some of it on my blog.
    Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. LaDonna Remy says:

    Congratulations 💗 This is a wonderful accomplishment both in healing and publishing.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Congratulations. I can only imagine how hard this must have been to write, how cathartic, healing…all of it! I’m so happy for you!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Ashley says:

    Good luck with the book! 🙋‍♂️

    Liked by 1 person

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