RAW MAN

Click below to listen to Freds interview on the Mid Day edition of KPBS

Raw Man The Book

Fred and Herman

Raw Man cover Dec 1

Paperback: 276 pages
Publisher: A Word withYou Press; First Edition edition (January 15, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0988464632
ISBN-13: 978-0988464636
Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars

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Epilogue

On August 2nd 1964, I was a sophomore at Montebello High School, driving over the old wooden bridge on Bluff Road to visit my best friend, Scott. As I reached the center of the bridge, a newsflash came over the car radio that the North Vietnamese had just attacked the USS Maddox in the Gulf of Tonkin. The first thought that entered my mind was: I’m going to war. I forgot about it by the time I pulled into Scott’s driveway.

Five years later I found myself a soldier in the United States Army in the jungles of Vietnam. What came out of that experience defined my existence. I went there a boy and came back a raw man. Aged beyond my 21 years and unprepared for the troubled years to come.  I was witness to death, cruelty, and a war so brutal that I was scarred from the time I first searched a dead body to the day I discovered that our military managed to kill 430,000 South Vietnamese civilians.

In 1970, it was no surprise that 65 percent of American servicemen abused drugs. We were sent there alone, and returned home alone, 58,000 of us in body bags.  Those of us who survived carried back a collective shame to a nation that hated us. Yes, it is true: I was spat upon and called a baby killer at the San Francisco Airport.

My time in the field left me with deep, chronic back pain and PTSD so severe that I have had episodes where I have actually felt like I was back in the Nam. Like so many combat veterans, I found myself continuing to self-medicate upon my return to civilian life. There was nobody that I felt I could talk to about my experiences. Who could possibly understand? I found my way back into the music business and none of my new, or old friends ever heard me speak a word about Vietnam. It was a shameful secret that I kept to myself. I became a Winter Warrior. First came the heavy drinking and eventually the hard drugs arrived. I sank lower and lower into the depths of alcoholism.

In 1974 I was given my first miracle. I met and married the most beautiful, caring, and sympathetic woman, Lynda Gomez, without whose unconditional love and support, I doubt that I would be alive today. She breathed fresh hope into me and stood by my side through the darkest days of my life, always doing her best to love a broken man. She gave me the precious gift of three wonderful children. Always running through my mind was the thought that God would take one back to settle the debt of taking that boy’s life in the Nam. After years of replaying the events of that fateful day in my mind, I am certain it was me, and not Benson, who fired that fatal round.

There were problems with the births of all three of our children. We lost a fourth. Did God collect my toll? My daughter was born with a 50 percent chance of survival. A doctor asked me if I was ever exposed to Agent Orange. I thought of that old crop duster flying over us and nodded my head. Our youngest son, Nathan, was in neo-natal intensive care for close to two months. He fought for his little life and still, I could not get sober. At the time of this writing, he is a healthy young man of 27.

Twenty-seven is a big number for me. Having thrown all of my medals, ribbons, and awards into that coffin at the peace rally in Griffith Park in 1970, I realized that the war was over for me and now I had children. I wanted to have something to leave them to remember me by. The year was 1987. I was driving down Beverly Boulevard with a beer between my legs when I saw a building with a sign that said: “Vet Center.” I had driven on that road hundreds of times and never noticed it before. The thought crossed my mind that maybe they could help me recover my medals.

I walked in the front door and was greeted by a friendly woman. I explained my dilemma and she straightaway told me that yes, yes she could get them from St. Louis. I was pleased and slightly buzzed. She searched my face and saw right through me.

“I have no problem helping you with your wish, but are you willing to do something for me?” she asked.

“Anything.”

“We are a separate entity from the VA. We receive our funding solely on the amount of traffic we can generate. We are an outreach program and as long as you’re here, would you mind filling out a small questionnaire?” she maintained that trusty smile and I told her I would be happy to do it. 

What could it hurt? I asked myself.  We sat across from each other at her desk, and she pulled a form from her top drawer. She handed it to me along with a pen. I opened it up and saw the standard questions: Name, rank, years served, marital status, all innocuous questions that I quickly answered and turned the page. The first question on the next page made me break into a cold sweat.

“Did you ever kill anyone?”

I started trembling softly. The questions were all along the same line and when I reached question seven, my heart stopped and a tremendous force screamed within me and I felt the dam about to break.

“DID ANYONE EVER DIE IN YOUR ARMS?” The dam burst with such incredible power that I almost knocked her off her chair. I broke down crying like I had never cried before. Before long I was telling her that I was an alcoholic and cocaine addict. I had never uttered those truthful words before. She stood up and embraced me and I cried some more. All the hurt, guilt, shame, and remorse that I had carried around for the last seventeen years came to the surface simultaneously and like a mass jail break, they broke free together and laid siege to my soul.

Her name is Natalie Matson and on that day in May, she saved my life. She told me that I was suffering from post-traumatic-stress-disorder. She called it PTSD. The words meant nothing to me for I had never heard of such a thing. I just knew that I carried a deep hurt within me and I had been stuffing it back down inside with Jack Daniels for so many years. I wanted to be a good husband. I desperately wanted to be a good father. Some force was holding me down in chains. I have heard that you hit your bottom when you throw the shovel down and quit digging. I threw that shovel all the way back to An Loc.

She told me that the only way I could deal with Vietnam was sober. I had no idea of what she was talking about. We sat and talked for over an hour. I told her of Herman. I told her about Teddy Jones. She listened. We made an appointment for the following week and she asked me if I could go that long without a drink or a drug.

“I don’t know,” I answered honestly. She told me to try it one day at a time. Today I have close to ten thousand one-days-at-a-time clean and sober. I got hooked into the Vet Center and all of the programs that they offer. I spent the last two years of the 80’s and almost all of 1989 attending de-briefing groups. I did this group and that group and any sponsored event. I found my new platoon in that group of Vietnam Veterans attempting to stay sober and work through PTSD. There were no secrets among us. Some of us made it. Some of us did not. As in Vietnam, some of us died. Our team leader was himself a combat veteran. Ed Carrillo guided us through our trauma. Gradually the demons were replaced with thoughts of hope. We found that in helping each other, we helped ourselves. Within my first three weeks out of the Army, I became a life-member of Vietnam Veterans Against The War. I remain active in VVAW to this day.

I was driving down the street one day and I saw my buddy, Tim, a former medic with the 101st Airborne, walking out of a gun shop with his six-year-old son. I made a U-turn and pulled up next to him and we slapped hands and smiled, and Tim looked like he didn’t have a problem to his name. I left him standing on the curb smiling with his boy and went on my way. The next day they told me that he went straight home and blew his brains out right in front of his son. This is PTSD.

Twenty-two veterans commit suicide every day in this country. If this book helps touch one life, it has done its job.

Raw Man cover Dec 1

Paperback: 276 pages
Publisher: A Word withYou Press; First Edition edition (January 15, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0988464632
ISBN-13: 978-0988464636
Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars

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Raw Mans 1st Review!

Politicians sold us the Vietnam War as a just war, a necessary war.  A massive stack of well researched books has since debunked the blatant lies and warped thinking which led us into that war.

Fred Rivera’s Raw Man, stripped of all the usual machismo and chest-thumping hero worshiping faux patriotism one often finds in personal accounts of soldiering, gives a brutally honest, soul searing glimpse into the reality of that most stupid of wars, and what it did to the bodies and minds of those who were so callously exploited to serve such dubious imperatives.

As an Australian soldier at the time (and therefore ally of the US), I served in Vietnam with the 9th Battalion Royal Australian (Infantry) Regiment,1968-69, first as a machine gunner and later as an instructor with a Mobile Advisory Training Team training ARVN forces.  After reading Raw Man, all I can say is:  “Wow!!! Fred Rivera told it like it was, man!”

~ Gerry Binder

Australian Veterans For Peace

REUNION UPDATE

You will not believe what happened and what is happening. Five years ago three Iraq veterans started a closed facebook page titled, Veterans With PTSD. They felt that by communicating with others suffering from the horrors of war, they could start to heal themselves. In 2014 I joined and as I journaled, they found that they liked what I had to say being older and more experienced. They made me Administrator. One of the three is Sgt. John Marek and he and I developed a friendship that grew from facebook postings to phone calls. When Raw Man was released in 2015, he bought book #1 in the Author’s Limited Edition. He loved the book and our friendship grew. At the beginning of April, he wanted to send me a gift for the help he feels he has received from me. It was an etching of Herman’s name from The Wall but it was missing. John called me and we both went into shock. He is Military Police and asked me if I wanted him to find Herman. I said yes and he issued a BOLO for the Detroit area that came out with so many Herman Johnson’s that he decided to contact the Blackhorse Association and they had a HJ living in Warren MI. He sent a three-man team to the address and they reported signs of live with no occupant. He sent them out again three days later and received the same report. John asked me if we wanted to continue and I told him to shut the op down and give me the address.

 

I was in shock, emotionally topsy-turvy and wrote him a letter and carried it in my car for three weeks before having the courage to send it one day. Why so scared you may ask? I felt fraudulent. The most traumatic event ever to happen to me in the last 47 years was not real. Memories had twisted and turned into shapes so foreign to me that I could not accept them.

 

THEN HE CALLED.

 

The first words out of his mouth were, “Fred, my nigger! It was the 20-year-old best friend that I lost in Vietnam. We talked for five hours that first day. He said that I was a crazy killing machine. That scared the shit out of me. I don’t remember being overly aggressive. He was adamant that I was “a crazy motherfucker.” Before I told him about the book, he talked about how we set up trip flares and claymores every night. Then he said “We even took acid!” I told him I wrote a whole chapter about it.  That’s when I told him about my book and how he died in my arms. He said “Fred, I did die in your arms. I was unconscious from taking shrapnel to my head and a head wound bleed like a stuffed pig. That’s why you thought it was the carotid. But I knew you were holding me. Real tight. I heard you screaming at the medics when they tried to pry me loose from your grasp. But Fred I did die! When I came to I saw blue skies and a tag on my toe.”

 

Within days, I was able to get a copy of his field treatment. The medic stated that he treated Johnson for a head wound, dressed it and returned him to the line to resume his duty as a machine gunner due to the intense enemy attack. I was able to locate the medic who is now an MD and he wrote an affidavit, I wrote one, and Sgt. Marek wrote one and I obtained the form to get Herman the Purple Heart that he never received. Herman signed me over as console and I contacted his Congressman, spoke to an aid who when I told him the story, was knocked out. It seems like just the day before he saw Herman walking in the parking lot of the aid’s apartment complex carrying an armful of photos. Seeing him struggling, the aid stopped and asked him if he needed help. Herman went on to tell him this bizarre story about finding his best friend from Vietnam who thought he was dead. The aid presented Herman with the same medallion that I have of the 50th Commemoration of Vietnam. Can you imagine the look on the aid’s face when he went to work the next day and found my email in his inbox? This was too strange. There was something at work in the Universe beyond our comprehension.

 

Congressman Levi realized this and just this morning Herman met with him and took him all the paperwork that I had prepared to obtain the Purple Heart before July 9.

 

Wait a minute. What is July 9? Oh I forgot to tell you that in 1995 I was one of the first American veterans to visit Vietnam. I met a wonderful documentary filmmaker named Richard Chisolm from Baltimore. We have been friends since then. After speaking to Herman, we decided that we had to meet. We had to see and touch each other’s faces. Herman told me that the first words out of his mouth when he came to were “Where’s Fred?”

Richard agreed to film the reunion and Herman and I decided to meet at the Wall. We are raising money via GoFundMe an internet platform for raising money. My publisher and I are going to write a new book about our lives intertwining during the last 47 years.

 

Friends and family have been more than generous. One donated all round trip airfares for Lynda and me, Sgt. Marek, Herman, and my publisher Thornton Sully. Another has paid for 5 suites for 5 nights at the River Inn in DC. We have raised $2,000 on GoFundMe to cover the film crew. We still need a few more dollars to cover food, transportation, and incidentals. If you can afford $25 please help us to be financially secure on this once in a lifetime event.

 

 

Please visit:  https://www.gofundme.com/23zqxwyc

HE IS ALIVE

Friends, family, and followers. For 47 years I have believed that my best friend Herman  Johnson died in my arms on September 6, 1969. Somewhere in Texas a great MP named John Merek read Raw Man and we teamed up together to help Veterans With PTSD. John wanted to give me a gift for all of the good that has come out of my book but in the process, he discovered that Herman was not on the wall. Being a policeman, he looked in Detroit and with some help, he located Herman in Warren MI. We started talking and decided to meet in July at The Wall. I also discovered that Herman never received his Purple Heart. I contacted Herman’s Congressman, Sander Levin and he is helping to expedite this long overdue medal. Please help us raise money for our trip to DC

Cormac McCarthy

I recently received a strong endorsement from Richard Wallach the head of the Cormac McCarthy Society. This is an honor to be recognized by such a prestigious group of scholars.

I have been invited to speak at next years Cormac McCarthy Society convention in El Paso. Here is what Rick had to say,

I found out about this novel during the usual New Year’s correspondence with Society members about renewing their annual memberships. Fred mentioned in the course of renewing his that he’d written a novel, parts of which were influenced by elements of Blood Meridian. Several critics, notably Barclay Owen and John Beck, have related Blood Meridian to the Vietnam War because it was largely composed while it was going on, so I found the proposition doubly interesting and ordered a copy of Fred’s book.

Let me say first off that it’s a terrific read. I went through its roughly 250 pages in only a couple of sittings; the language is clean, sinuous and propulsive and the narrative just barrels along. It is structured loosely around Fred’s letters home to his family from the war, letters he discovered his mother had saved, literally every one of them, while he and his sister were sorting through her estate after she passed away. Those epistles were the collective mnemonic device Fred used to return himself to the battlefield. It couldn’t have been easy. As I mentioned to Fred earlier today, it turns the very difficult trick of feeling immediate and current, not retrospective. On the few occasions I put it down I felt wet, muddy and bug-bit, and often shaken up, as though I’d been in some of those hellish combat situations right along with the narrator. As a war novel, it’s as different from, say, Going After Cacciato as Johnny Got His Gun is from Gravity’s Rainbow. It has its humor, but it’s never cartoonish even if it is often nightmarishly surreal.

These days, when some dogs are barking loudly for “boots on the ground” in Syria and Iraq, this novel is, among many other things, a tonic reminder of the ugliness and futility of war.

I’m recommending the book to everyone who wants to see the judge’s philosophy in action. I expect that Fred will be along soon enough to talk about how McCarthy’s work helped him organize and structure some of the most powerful scenes in his novel.

Morning is a Canvas

And I am left with agony. So perfect that it enhances my gratitude. It gives life to my humility and generosity. My resilience and perseverance are made stronger and brighter and in the end, my portrait is full of wonder, generosity and kindness that would not be present without my pain.

Peter Himmelman Musings

Self Portrait 8-8-14 copy

Morning is a canvas, broad and tall. “Do with me as you will,” it says.

So I take all the shades of anger, from rage to grousing, and set them aside —for later perhaps, but not for now.

The three large tubes of regret and melancholy too, I hide them in a drawer.

And over here, under a cloth, are seven different hues of conceit and pettiness. They go into the locked cabinet.

Recrimination briefly catches my eye, but I set it aside as well.

And soon, I am left with these:

Hope, resilience, wonder, generosity, vigor, action, kindness, perseverance, humility, and gratitude.

I dip the edge of my brush in hope, and touch it to the canvas.

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Raw Man Blues Show (Best of)

Since the beginning of July, I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to put Raw Man into an audiobook like format on 949thebridge.com. My friend and former staion  owner of KRTM in Temecula bought a radio station in Oregon with his lovely wife Micky. When they owned KRTM in Temecula, I had the Nightcrawler Blues Show every Sunday from 6-8 PM.

Now I am proud to say that the Raw Man Blues Show has entered it’s seventh month on The Bridge. Please listen on the internet on your computer, phone, or other listening device. Simply go to http://www.949thebridge.com and press play any Sunday from 6-8 PM. I now have a direct link on this page to the show. Remember,

“It’s The Blues Baby!

Join me on the Bridge. Here is a sample:

 

 

The Plight of The Vietnam Veteran 2016

When this Blog was first posted on May 5, 2015, our Publishing Team at A Word With You Press, myself, and everyone involved was ecstatic at watching a manuscript become a book. A REAL BOOK with an ISBN number. WOW! I never took a writing class, composition, grammar,anything of that sort in my life. NOTHING! I had an AA degree in music taken just to support myself after the Nam. What I had was a story. One that in order to tell, would require me to revisit the most horrid, hellish places of my life. I felt that if I could help one person, I would go there.
It is well over a year and sales started slowing down. An order here from Hoyt, Kansas. One from Texas. How were these people hearing of my book?  Today I received an email from WordPress, the place that my website is parked. It told me that most people are finding out about Raw Man from face book and Veteran Websites. It warmed my heart. Thornton Sully my publisher has always said, “Fred, don’t worry about it. Your book has no shelf life.” I finally understood when yesterday we received our second order of books from the University of Idaho.  WordPress also pointed out that sometimes, if you re-post a blog that generated a large amount of interest, you will generate a large amount of more interest. ?
Here it goes.
Welcome to the hundreds of new followers of the Raw Man website.
When Billy Holder set up our site five months ago, I gave a message and made a promise to all who support my endeavor of carrying the message to all veterans suffering from PTSD . First the message: There is hope for all who suffer from this terrible condition for a life free of trauma and suffering. Secondly the promise; that I would donate all of my profits from the sale of tee-shirts to a worthy cause for the veteran still suffering.
Somewhere along the line, the term Veteran was replaced with Warrior. To quote a line from Raw Man, “This happened as everything else happened, without me even noticing it.”
One of the first organizations that I approached with the proposal of donating money was Wounded Warriors. It seems like they felt my donation would be too small and they not only scoffed at my idea but told me, “We don’t help Vietnam Veterans.” I guess we were not Warriors to them but as I say in my KPBS radio interview, “the Vietnam Veteran remains America’s bastard son.” They treated me with much the same disdain as the American public did when we returned  from the war. My friend David Gebhard was kind enough to send me the following link: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/05/04/wounded-warrior-charity-unleashes-hell-on-other-veteran-groups.html   I hope that you take the time to read this article and see why I have decided to donate my money to Veteran’s Village Of San Diego. http://www.vvsd.net/   A cause that has welcomed the donation of Raw Man tee-shirts and where I suggest you consider reading more about them and maybe donating some of your time or money to this worthy cause. Leave no Veteran Behind
Raw Man

RAW

In 1968 I took an oath to protect the Constitution and the United States from enemies both Foreign and Domestic. As far as I know, there is no expiration date. My fellow citizens seem to be crippled by fear that Fox news, Social Media, CNN, and all the other parts of big voice help spread. The fear generated by the opportunist, self centered millionaire Donald Trump is drowning out the voice of reason. His inane rhetoric has polarized the American people with Islamophobia pitting Christians against the 1.6 Billion Muslims in the world. He is an ignorant racist who would have us believe that closing the borders to all Muslims and building a wall to keep out Mexican rapists is not only the answer, it is illegal, non Christian, and the beginning of the backlash that will sweep him from the stage that he has never had the credentials to occupy. It is not only the thoughts of a man with a psychiatric disorder in which the patient experiences delusions of great power and importance but highly Unconstitutional. He has not only never governed, but doesn’t understand such basic facts as: “He who doesn’t understand history is doomed to repeat it.”

One must remember that the struggle of organized religions has been raging for centuries. At most, there are 70,000 idiots called Isil spreading terror against the Western Christian nations. The joke is that they all believe in the same God and don’t realize it.
It seems that in 638 Muslim armies conquered the Holy City of Jerusalem. The Christians did not like this and the resentment in Europe and grew and festered over centuries of fear. This presented a threat to the Papacy and the control of money, power, and World Domination.
In 1096 it exploded into what Historians call the First Crusade. Pope Urban of France called on a Holy war to recapture the Holy City. Does this sound familiar? He formed a Christian Caliphate and promised that if you went and fought in the Holy Land you would be forgiven of past sins and guaranteed a spot in Heaven if you killed Non-Believers. The only thing missing was the 72 Virgins.