I have been honored this Veterans Day through a recorded interview about my book on the Vietnam War for a program called “Good Morning Conshy” where I share the broadcast with two companion pet managers for what is known as PACT. Many of the animals had assisted veterans who could no longer care for their pets and needed help for animals they viewed as their children.
We all had contacts with Conshohocken, a small borough just outside of Philadelphia, and learned that the interview would be recorded and made available on U-Tube. Watching it, I noticed how white-faced I look after recovering from a stomach illness. I am glad I wore my “boonie hat” that I had saved from the Vietnam War. It shows one silver bar that was subdued to prevent the enemy from spotting an officer. I wore it only once before and that was at Omega Institute at a five-day meditation retreat for veterans with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.)
[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of “Vietnam War Recall”
Like many other young men of the time, author Michael Contos found himself in the military, headed to a turbulent region of the world to protect democracy. After completing Officer Candidate School, Michael was deployed to Vietnam to lead a platoon of infantrymen on missions while evading the formidable Viet Cong forces. Here, he describes the worst day of his life that led to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a debilitating condition that would threaten to consume his life and linger for decades; a day so jarring that he would not talk about, even with his family.
Upon returning home, his experiences in combat haunt him, so he seeks the help of spiritual leaders to help relieve the symptoms of PTSD. The story is told in the first person through flashbacks, introspect, and excerpts from the author’s blog. Through the narration, readers get a glimpse into the personal turmoil that many of our veterans face after combat.
The best part of this book is the intimate and emotional description of PTSD; a young leader, not afforded time to grieve or debrief from his experiences, lives with the nightmares, flashbacks, and anxiety that seem to permeate every facet of his life. These intense feelings are captured clearly by the author. I also love the way the daily humdrum of military life is portrayed, and the descriptions sure bring back memories for this veteran. The cadences, the euphoric feeling when you realize your parachute is perfect, and the anticipation of the return to the United States (DEROS) is very real indeed! A little humor, typical of military camaraderie, is also peppered into the pages of the story; I had to chuckle when I read about some familiar but important advice: never crap alone in the field!
Although the messages are powerful, the book does seem a bit repetitive at times. Other than this, there is nothing negative to say about the story, its purpose and voice are truly a gift to an audience who does not truly understand the realities of war and its crippling effects on our young servicemen, not only the ones who gave their lives but also those who returned bearing unseen scars. I happily give Vietnam Recall: The Best and Worst Days of My Life4 out of 4 stars for these reasons. The book appears professionally edited and is divided into chapters of appropriate length.
I particularly recommend this book to readers who love historical accounts of war and those who seek insight from a primary source about mental illness. Those with family members in the military will appreciate the insightful glimpse into the psyche of those who have chosen to defend our way of life. There is some moderate profanity, along with explicit descriptions of trauma and wartime peril; those sensitive to these topics may not want to read the book. For all others, the book is a penetrating account of one man’s journey towards healing and peace. All who read this story will undoubtedly be moved by the author’s gipping words as he relives the most difficult moments of his life. He speaks for the countless others, who remain silent.
I knelt at the gravesite while bowing my head and closing my eyes to pray yesterday morning. I was visiting Calvary Cemetery of West Conshohocken, the burial site for Father William E Atkinson, an Augustinian priest who passed away in 2006 and is now being considered for canonization by the Catholic Church to be named a saint.
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.
I look forward every day to reading the news of an indictment against the former president and/or an update on all of the civil lawsuits against him.
You know they’re coming. All the highly experienced lawyers need do is to simply confirm their concrete and rock-solid facts before going to court and contacting the news media for reporters to share the information on the law with the entire world.
I have protested more in the past several months than I had ever exercised that American Constitutional-right in my entire life and feel really good about my actions!
I protested the attempted curtailment of postal services at the Conshohocken Post Office and knelt for eight minutes and 46 seconds at the Montgomery County Courthouse in protest of the police killing of George Floyd.
As a veteran of several military bases, I would vote to change the names of all the facilities named for generals who fought for the Confederate army during our nation’s Civil War.
I offer such action with a heavy heart because of the link I still have with the facilities that helped to create the soldier I had become and the lessons learned in the US Army. Continue reading →
Today is Vietnam Veterans Day and the Year of 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of my deployment in the war zone. I was a 21-year-old second lieutenant placed in charge of a platoon of some 25 men, many of them still in their teenage years and drafted like I had been. Continue reading →
I exercise daily and try to get enough steps each day to add up to two miles. That’s around 6,250 steps if anyone is counting.
Well, my I-phone is counting ‘em. The steps, that is. And the miles. Continue reading →
It’s been 10 years since I wrote my first post for this Contoveros Blog and looking back I feel a little like Ken Burns, the producer of PBS specials on such things as war, music and other all-American things. Continue reading →
God works in mysterious ways.
Put another way, the Universe will conspire to bring about what you really want and need in life, even though you may not know it when the Divine Intervention takes place.
Or even like it. The intervention that is. And on first blush, it may even seem bad but you realize on reflection it had to have happened for you to progress in life. Continue reading →
Joy filled my soul as I read that the 12 boys trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand were thinking of entering a monastery in honor of the former Navy Seal that gave his life in an effort to save them. Continue reading →
Memorial Day always brings back memories of the Vietnam War and one of the soldiers I served with who I called a friend and a true “comrade-in-arms.” He was Victor Lee Ellinger, a fellow who lived in Staunton, VA. He was shot and killed by an enemy sniper while leading a platoon some 50 miles outside of Saigon. Continue reading →
Writing has opened me to a world above and beyond my five senses and I feel like an HG Wells whenever I revisit the past and recall what life was like when I was fortunate enough to stop the world for a few brief moments and write about something. Continue reading →
Father Koenig put the gloves on me when I was ten years old and directed me toward the kid who was my same size but some two years older. That kid – Billy McLaughlin – kicked my butt. But I never cried or gave up as I swung wildly at him in efforts to land my own punches. Continue reading →
She stared at me as I walked from the courtroom and I felt her hate bore into me. Her whole posture seemed to drip with contempt and what I could only feel at that moment was a curse from her whole being. Continue reading →
I didn’t want to go to Vietnam. Who did back in 1968? I was never a gung-ho type of a guy even though I’d go a little berserk when a buddy of mine got attacked by some bully at home or in school. Continue reading →
My mother hit me upside the head when she caught me drinking beer in the Big Moose bar up the street from where we lived.
I was 16 years old at the time and sipping a Ballantine beer with a friend from Dobbins Technical High School. Someone must have ratted me out as my good friend Joe Walsh and I — both young white guys — drank in the African American bar in a section of Philadelphia called Brewerytown. Continue reading →
I took a leave of absence from my work as a newspaper reporter to serve as a union organizer for The Newspaper Guild years ago. I had helped to negotiate several contracts at the Pottstown Mercury, and only took the job when I was overlooked for being made a copy-editor at the paper. Continue reading →
I wanted the driver who cut me off to crash and burn.
For a brief moment, I thought of praying that he would immediately die for cutting in front of me as I was doing 60-miles-an-hour on the expressway behind a car just five lengths in front of me. I beeped my horn and flashed my high beams at the driver. I relished in the hatred I felt burning inside of me. I loathed him from the bottom of my heart and wanted a bloody accident to befall ‘em. Continue reading →
Thích Nhất Hạnh looked at me from the most sorrowful eyes I have ever seen and I understood what it was like for a person to feel all the suffering the world is experiencing.
I had attended a five-day silent retreat at Blue Cliff Monastery in upstate New York with some thousand others who meditated morning, noon and night. Someone would ring a bell as you walked through the monastery grounds and just like clock-work, everyone would stop what they were doing and rest in the present moment. Continue reading →
To me, it’s a big deal for it is something I haven’t done in quite a while. You see, I got prostrate problems. I got diagnosed with it while at the VA hospital and I take medication every night, but no matter what I do, I still have to get up in the idle of the ight and take a pee. Continue reading →
There is a message I receive every time I travel to the IKEA store and visit the “As Is” department. I get a feeling that the Universe is telling me to open myself to the message the Swedish furniture store wants to share with the rest of the world.
My greatest concern when I placed the political signs on my lawn was whether they would offend someone in my neighborhood. I live in a working class section of Pennsylvania, some 15 miles outside of Philadelphia. It was dependent on steel and manufacturing for many years but eventually saw a decline as jobs left the little borough of Conshohocken for elsewhere. Continue reading →
I am free. For once in my life I can say to the Universe that I am a free man and will always be a free as long as I remember not to put on the shackles that tie me to this material world. Continue reading →
My Uncle Mike was a grizzly white haired Greek who spoke little to no English when my father invited him to stay in our house in North Philadelphia. I don’t know if he really was a blood relative, but he was one of the meanest mother-humpers I had ever come into contact with as a child. Continue reading →
I wanted to shoot the political sign I saw outside of Philadelphia the other day but ended up feeling sorry for all of us who react violently against the person we demonize on the other side of the aisle. Continue reading →
I had my recurring dream again last night. For several years, I have gone to work at the daily newspaper dreaming the deadline for submitting copy was just minutes away and I had typed nothing about my story for the day. Continue reading →
I was unashamed of the tears that fell while watching the father of a young soldier describe the sacrifice his son made for America the other night. Khizr Khan, a Muslim immigrant, spoke with pride at the Democratic Convention and I couldn’t help but see my father in him and the love all parents felt for children called by our nation to defend it. Continue reading →
Playing is something I do quite well, if I do say so myself. I enjoyed it ever since I was a kid and don’t see how I could truly enjoy my life if I didn’t incorporate some sort of play in my daily living. Continue reading →
I cried when I saw a woman comforting a black police officer who was helping others get hospital treatment from an assassin’s attack in the streets of Dallas last night. The cop was like many I knew in the legal profession, good guardians of the peace who laid their lives on the line every day to protect us civilians, particularly those of us in the inner cities. Continue reading →
It was Saturday morning, May the 19th of 2012. I awoke that early morning feeling well rested. Since the beginning of the new year I had started working Monday thru Thursday, having Fridays off. In the past, when working a full week my Saturdays were spent sleeping in and catching up on the many hours of sleep lost during the week. Continue reading →
“Don’t do it Michael,” my ex-wife told me when I began planning for a debate between the candidates running for lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania in 1978. I didn’t listen to her and I spent too much time and money in an effort that failed miserably and kept my dreams of entering politics a nightmare that I never again wanted to materialize. Continue reading →
I’ve never been so proud of being an American as I was the past week when some forty members of the Senate held an unprecedented filibuster and it was followed up by Congressional Democrats who took the House Chamber hostage for a“sit-in” protest against our nation’s inability to halt the sale of high-powered weapons now being used for mass destruction. Continue reading →
Why is anger my “go to” emotion? Why does it crop up whenever I’m confronted with something I don’t understand or something I feel threatened by?
“Crop up” is not the right phrase to use. My anger “erupts.” It goes from zero to sixty within the span of a mini-second. It always seemed to be that way, even as a kid. Now at last I think I know why. Continue reading →
If you could go back in time to attend a Meet-Up in Jerusalem with the famous rabbi from Nazareth to share some bread, wine and good conversation, would you sign up and go?
How about traveling back some 2,600 years to give a listen to the Four Noble Truths in northern India by a fellow who some claim had reached enlightenment? Would you agree to meet weekly to discuss life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Continue reading →
I typed this over and over again, hoping that I’d learn the fine skill of typing as I sat in a class with all girls. Young women, I should say. I was the only male in the Delaware County Community College course of study and I never once felt out of place or unusual.
I wanted to be a journalist, you see. So, I figured I had to learn the fine art of typing in order to file my stories. Continue reading →
My second wife stopped breathing shortly after they placed her in the emergency vehicle en route to a hospital some eight years ago. The day was six-months to date of her first bout with an emergency wagon when she fell in our Conshohocken, PA, home suffering a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
She remained in a coma for more than five days then. This time, however, they were more certain that she would not recover from her latest, unplanned date with Miss Fate. A nurse or a social worker at the Hospital suggested I contact a priest to say the last rites for Wendy. Continue reading →
My son, Nicholas, just didn’t seem to understand how much pain I suffered in Sutcliffe Parkwhen I took him to see fireworks on clear and starry night sky on the Fourth of July some years ago.
At first, I enjoyed the rockets zooming into the air. They were a colorful red, white and blue explosions that took your breath away with gasps of wonder and awe.
Soon however, they took on a menacing demeanor, however, as each blast began to remind me of the Vietnam War and the rounds of mortar fire that fell on me and my platoon some 30 years earlier. Continue reading →
I see my life through the eyes of a kid who grew up in Brewerytown, swashbuckling my way through fights on the streets and later the jungles of Vietnam before finding my true calling as a spiritual clarion who wants all North Philadelphia children to return to their God-given Nature of Love. Continue reading →
I never wanted a cigarette as bad as I did when I got thrown into a “lockup” after getting kicked out of the courtroom by a judge whose ire I had raised by raising my own voice at him. Continue reading →
“I don’t know” is soon to become my life-long mantra.
It has helped me immensely in calming the “monkey mind” after a wonderful Korean woman introduced it to me and it took a full day for me to understand its profound ramifications.
For me, saying “I don’t know” is a way of humbling myself and admitting that I know very little about the world I live in and what really matters in the scheme of life. No matter how hard I try to “get it right” through searching and throwing myself into one spiritual path after another, the end result brings me no closer to any definite answer and it’s okay to let it go and simply say “I don’t know” to the world.
That’s one of the prayers I would recite as an altar boy at St. Ludwig’s Roman Catholic Church and I’ll never forget it ‘til the day I die. Don’t ask me what it means. I never figured it out, but I loved to say it! Continue reading →
Korea awaits me next week as I travel more than a thousand miles to find myself and discover reasons why I am still here on planet earth.
Yes, I’m joining a group from Philadelphia, New York and Chicago that will fly to Seoul, South Korea, to take part in the centennial celebration of the WON Buddhism founding by its master on April 28th, 1916. Continue reading →
Collegeville may or may not have been named after a religious school called “Ursinus” in the central part of Montgomery County. . . Or some long ago seminary school. I really don’t know, but I rode through it when traveling to one of the last outdoor movie theatres, the one located in Limerick, Pa, a drive-in movie just outside of Pottstown. Continue reading →
I went within and felt nothing this morning. I knew this day would come, but I thought I would put it off until the day I’d die. Yes, I thought I’d have enough juice within to tell my story until I took that last breath.
But Life fooled me. It hit me upside the head, showing me you can’t take anything for granted. All things are subject to change. All phenomena is transitory, all is impermanent. The only permanence that exists is the Love I believe that energizes us and the world we all live in. Continue reading →
Describe three sources of inspiration in your life that keep you aiming to be a better you.
— Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra’s Free 21-day Meditation
My calling in life is to help others come closer to the Light. I firmly belief that we all came from the Light, and that we all want to return to it. I want to share my experiences with the Divine so that others can see how Love’s energy can raise from life’s difficulties a simple schmuck like me.
If I had a magic wand I would wave it and remove all of the hate in our land. It would take away the hurt all felt throughout the ages of man from the beginning of time when Cain killed his brother and when a stupid Esau sold his birthrate to his brother Jacob for a lousy bowl of soup. Continue reading →
One doesn’t have to go on a diet to lose the excess weight of a lifetime of living. All you need do is to lighten your mind, get rid of burdens carried from childhood when the trauma of difficulties and missteps caused you to stumble and lose faith in your God-given direction.
“Lighten up,” is what someone told me once, and that is exactly what I have tried to do after experiencing Holotropic BreathWork and listening to the new “Weight Loss” meditation offered by Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra today. My struggle has ended and from now on, I will be harmony with me, myself and I. Continue reading →
My host in Freiburg, Germany, escorted me and her husband on a shamanic journey as we laid on the carpeted floor in their guest room and she guided us to the “lower world.” She drummed for a good 15 minutes, never letting up the beat as she walked around us covered by blankets with eyes closed and our hearts open. Continue reading →
The shaman applied pressure with his fingers and thumbs to the side, back and front of my skull. He told me to let him know if he caused me any pain.
I felt some discomfort, but it wasn’t intolerable and so I said nothing and let him continue the process as I sat in a chair in front of more than a hundred people attending the symposium on “What is Healing? – Archaic Traditions Meet Ways of Experiencing Modern Consciousness Exploration and Psychotherapy.” He was the principal speaker, having taught the participants to dance and sing in two large circles in the room where we had met. Continue reading →
We’ve all experienced love in one form or another. Most remember the romantic love that may have flourished when we were young and felt the longing to receive the touch of love from another person.
Love also appeared in our lives as infants as our loving mother held us, cradling our small bodies with her hand behind the back of our necks. She held the spot where the brain and skull come into contact with the spinal cord, the neck area.
Jaya Herbst, a lecturer certified by the European Association for Transpersonal psychotherapy – Eurotas, said there can be healing in the touch of one person upon another. But first there must be an intent, a “will” to love to help with the touch, be it to smooth the crying of a child or to hug a grown up who needs the physical contact to know all will be just right in that moment.Continue reading →
Don’t take my word for it. Scientific research has discovered that the active conditions of anxiety and agitation causes unhappiness. Becoming quiet and stilling the mind lowers blood pressure and relieves the stress that’s produced in our busy lives. Continue reading →
I feel like the character in a comic strip who has had a cloud over his head with nothing but calamities and obstacles blocking his every move. No matter what he did, he’d be thrown off stride, be it from a torrential rainfall or an avalanche along a sunshine-filled pathway. Continue reading →
I got the best sleep I’ve had in years last night and I owe it all to treatments I have received for not only what ails me, but what has been blocking my lower brain from connecting with my upper brain.
For the past five days, nothing greeted me when I got out of bed.
There was no ache, no pain, no reminder of how bad my back has become after so many years of walking, running and standing on this earth. Not to mention, jumping out of an airplane five times, landing badly my first parachute jump and hiding it from the military instructor who would have kicked me out of jump school had he suspected I injured myself. Continue reading →
I grew up in a two-story row house in North Philadelphia in a mixed neighborhood where we played in front of the fire-plug and got ice from old ice-trucks that made their way up the tiny one-way street. Continue reading →
I’m enjoying life and and feel a peace and calm I didn’t know I’d ever experience again. It’s like falling in love for the very first time. I look forward to each new day filled with hope and a smile for whatever life presents to me. Continue reading →
When will I develop enough faith to believe things happen for my well-being? And when can I truly trust my instincts and live more peacefully in tune with what the Cosmos is manifesting just for me ?Continue reading →
The word, “Contoveros” in Latin means “Singer of Truth.” I didn’t know that as a child when I learned that it was my father’s real last name. Someone at Ellis Island shortened it to “Contos.” One of my wives once told me that the new word means “Short.” Continue reading →
“Think before You Speak”reads the sign that my new best friend gave me for Christmas. She thought of me when seeing it, she said. She knew how many problems I have had with boundaries. Or, rather, lack of boundaries. Continue reading →
Reiki, the universal life energy, opened me to one of the most vivid dreams of my lifetime last night. And as my Reiki teacher once told me, “Write down your dreams . . . There could be a message in store for you.” Continue reading →
“What am I doing here?” I asked myself as I sat in a cushioned chair with some 50 other people early this morning on the last day of 2015. I was here at the invitation of a woman I hardly knew, a minister, that enticed me to join the world in a planet-wide prayer for peace. Continue reading →
I experienced something scientists have labeled “Post-Traumatic Growth” twice in my life and some forty years apart. Both led to major changes in my life and a new look at life like I never had imagined it to be. Continue reading →
I didn’t know how much joy there could be in grief until sorrow encompassed me and a warm flow of unconditional love spread throughout my entire being. Someone I knew experienced a death in her family and it hit me like a proverbial ton of bricks when I learned of her demise . . . Continue reading →
Mental illness scares the shit out of me. The very term conjures up images of some crazed guy with wild, straggly hair and a demon-like smile of malevolence. Steven King kind of comes to mind when I think of someone who might be a little touched in the head. A Stephen King character, that is. Not Stephen King. Continue reading →