Last month, I met a truly inspirational man.
Despite his name dropping abilities or musical prowess, his story sparked my own like a match to the box. While knowing that my father went to Viet Nam, I was unaware of how this affected my upbringing, my parents’ marriage, and my views of war. It sounds so contrived, but it wasn’t until I met Fred Rivera as an intern at A Word with You Press that I realized how I am a child of that war, and part of Fred’s story as well.
He calls his story Raw Man.
I am a part of the A Word with You Press team currently fundraising for the publication and marketing of Raw Man, his memoir, but I am starting to believe that our paths crossed for much more important and personal purposes. My time on this project has affected me greatly. He has affected me.
Talking to Fred is like sitting at the knee of that really cool older uncle that can’t go to the park and play football with you, but will regale you with his stories of his time at the field in such a way that you find you were with him all along his journey. His writing of Raw Man came when he was pinged by the time bomb called PTSD. As he fought with pain from wounds he sustained in combat, he walked in on his father filling in a crossword puzzle. That simple morning encounter took him back to the battlefield in an instant, where he found he was still raw to the bone, to the soul, to the essence of himself.
“I fought and lived in the jungle… [but] when I was wounded and sent to the hospital in Saigon, I found my way to… the military entertainment branch.” He paid his dues in music which altered his course after he paid his dues in the jungle. “Music is what saved my life in Viet Nam”, he said. Being both a musician and writer, I doubly appreciate that his musical expression was with him through the roughest parts of his life, and when music was no longer the necessary vehicle, he began to write. When his old injury resurfaced in 2002, he went through eight operations. “I spent months in bed with nothing to do but read… I was reborn into the world of American Literature. I feel that this is the schooling and preparation that I needed to write my own book.”
Fred wrote about his time in Viet Nam as a catharsis, and in 2010 Fred committed to the task of sharing his work in progress, which is how he came in contact with A Word with You Press. At the time, AWWYP held a weekly writer’s group that met on Wednesday nights in Oceanside, California. “Viet Nam left me in chronic pain and there were some nights that I felt I just could not make the forty minute drive but I never missed once. I believe that this is the kind of drive and commitment that one must make to art whether it be music or writing.” Thornton Sully, owner of A Word With You Press, believed in Fred’s story and pushed him to believe in himself and write his book. “Without his support and belief in me nothing would have happened with my book… that is the most precious gift anyone can bestow on another human being.”
Fred’s story is a gift. And because he did the work, I was able to meet and work with him. In just a few hours of time this man has, simply by being alive and telling his story, made me think of Viet Nam in a new and profound way. I’ve had discussions about it with family members, learned secrets about who was in denial about PTSD in my family and who wasn’t. I am inspired by his perseverance and humility, his sense of family and honor, and also his pain.
I can’t wait to read and review his published book here on Examiner. I am looking forward to sharing Fred’s story with you.
For more information about Fred Rivera’s publication, or to donate to his Kickstarter Campaign, you may email Thornton Sully directly or go directly to the campaign by clicking here. You may also read the prologue of Fred’s Story in the A Word with You Press contest, Once Upon A Time, which ends June 1st, 2014. Submissions are still being accepted.