What readers and reviewers are saying about A Soldier's Heart
"A veteran recollects his traumatic experiences serving in the Vietnam War and the emotional reverberations appearing long after in this memoir.
Gauvin grew up in northern Maine, raise in a strictly Roman Catholic/French Canadian family. The sudden death of his father, Hector, loomed large over his teenage years. When the author attend St. Thomas University, he was shiftless and distracted, no longer the hardworking student of his high school days. He decided to enlist in the Army under the impression that his chosen specialization--X-ray technician--and a longer enlistment would keep him out of Vietnam, where war raged. That proved false; he was sent to Saigon in 1968 and assigned to the Wound Data Munitions Effectiveness Team. This "exclusive team" studied the wounds of fallen American soldiers. In effect, it meant the performance of autopsies on the warriors, work so ghastly and demoralizing it was generally kept a secret. The experience exacted a terrible emotional toll on Gauvin, a suffering he recounts both candidly and poignantly: 'After a year in Vietnam, I feared I had lost the foundation of beliefs I had built my entire life upon. Was there really a God? And if there was, WHAT THE HELL WAS HE THINKING?' The author would marry, start a family, and find financial success, but he was dogged by PTSD, a condition that expanded from mood swings to 'all-out rages.' In addition, he was diagnosed with diabetes, a disease that may have been tied to his exposure to Agent Orange while in Vietnam.
Gauvin’s struggle is lucidly conveyed—he paints a painfully vivid picture of both the horrors of war and the grim consequences. And while the core of his book is a familiar one—there is no shortage of literature on either the Vietnam conflict or its aftermath—his discussion of his work for the WDMET distinguishes his contribution to the genre. For those in search of a different perspective on the ghastliness of that complex war, this memoir is an instructive and affecting remembrance.
A powerful war account, eye-opening and moving." - Kirkus Reviews
"Raynold A. Gauvin's memoir is about the trauma that followed his military service in Vietnam.
For Gauvin, the Vietnam War had a lasting impact. He'd grown up, somewhat shiftless, in Maine, and believed that enlisting for service as an X-ray technician would keep him away from combat. Instead, he was assigned to perform autopsies on fallen soldiers, and was asked to gather data for a wound study. Those harrowing experiences horrified him, haunting him for years afterward.
But before it arrive at Gauvin's wartime experiences, the book covers his family history, too, including an extended reflection on the loss of his father when he was a teenager. It also shares details from his hometown, helping to convey the severing that occurred when his early life and strict Catholic upbringing were interrupted via his receipt of the portentous draft letter. His wartime accounts often remain as attentive to details as these early portions of the book--for instance, relaying the boisterousness of a Vietnamese market. Not all scenes are equally specific, though, and the book includes narrative jumps that represent long passages of time.
Eventually, the war and its procession of fallen soldiers took a psychological toll on Gauvin, shaking his faith and upending his worldview. He shares his experiences with post-traumatic stress disorder, too, including brain fogs, horrifying dreams, dark moods, and instances of screaming rage. Though these accounts represent a shift in tone from light jocularity of the book's early portions, they remain sympathetic and accessible.
The book includes black-and-white photographs that complement its forthright memories and accounts of emotional turmoil. Gauvin also discusses the toll that his traumas took on other, including members of his family, for whom his outbursts ruined entire evenings. But the upset he cause for his children and wife leads to another narrative shift: he recollects how she broaches the topic of divorce, which convinced him to make a change. Afterwards, he chronicles his coping mechanisms, like deep breathing to manage his anxiety and the avoidance of stressors. These leas to a late epiphany, shown in thoughts about personal growth and healing. A final shift in the book broadens it beyond Gauvin's own story to comment on the widespread nature of the trauma that soldiers endure.
A Soldier's Heart is an affecting memoir about the traumas that war inflicts." -Joseph S. Pete, Foreword Clarion Review
"In a generation of men and women that answered the call to serve our country by serving in Vietnam, A Soldier’s Heart: The Three Wars of Vietnam captures the compelling story of one man’s life, interrupted and radically changed by the war. It is an honest, heartwarming, haunting, gut-wrenching and redemptive saga that covers the tapestry of Ray Gauvin’s life from childhood and rich heritage to coping with growing up and adjusting to life’s complexities. In stark contrast to this is his military service, the horrors of war and the life-long struggles in trying to live and understand what he experienced. The things that shape our lives either help us or hurt us. How we deal with them reflects an outcome of turmoil or peace. No one who has experienced war remains unaffected, but this book helps us understand there is hope and healing, and life goes on. A must read for anyone who served in war." - Bill Honaker, Author, The Dead Were Mine
"There have been many excellent books about the Vietnam War and its impact on those that served. Ray Gauvin has not only added to those works but he has filled a gap in the literature with a very vivid account of his Tour of Duty in Vietnam and its lasting effects on him, which military veterans and their families will relate to. Whilst Hollywood has shaped much of the world's view of the war and special operations veterans have recounted incredible feats of gallantry, it's Ray Gauvin's account that pierces like a javelin with a unique picture of his incredibly difficult work for a medical unit (WDMET) that many scholars of war haven't heard of. Ray's assignment in Vietnam is hard to comprehend and the long-lasting emotional damage that it cause him is clear and pulls at the heartstrings, but his work there, whilst almost unbearable for him, has since helped save lives in both military and civilian environments." -Brett Emblin, Vietnam Gear, http://www.VietnamGear.com
"A Soldier's Heart is a fine story, and well-told. It serves an important role in shedding light on the men who worked in mortuaries and their own form of PTSD that many faced after coming home from Vietnam. It is an honest story showing a veteran facing many life challenges after the war and ultimately defeating them and coming out at the other end as a generous, respected citizen known for an over-all life well lived." -Bill McCloud, VVA Magazine
"Ray Gauvin shows unequivocally that you do not have to be on the front lines to experience the horrors of war and its effect on the human psyche. Trapped in a job no unwilling person should have to face, seeing day in and day out the casualties of war, the mangled bodies of our soldiers, the author is forced to see visions that can’t easily be unseen later. His shocking assignment in Vietnam certainly set the stage for a PTSD environment for even the most hardened soldier, let alone someone new to combat. When exposed to such horrific images, such as he was, you can’t ever unsee them. They are seared into your brain forever. You can only find help to deal with them. You also see how PTSD affects not only the veteran, but also the family, friends and business associates. You don’t need to be injured in war to feel its affects." - COL (Ret) Judy Carroll
"Of the millions of the United States service personnel very few have written biographical capsules of their pre-military life, wartime activity and post war experience. The relatively few exceptions are usually the work of officers, frequently field grade with well-known famous names. Enlisted ranks writers are poorly represented. This book is an exception to that circumstance and additionally discusses in some detail a military unit, Wound Data and Munitions Effectiveness Team (WDMET) completely unknown to the general public and also to most of the military. This book is unique in many ways: it provides a personal biography of the author; it deals with the work of a clandestine military organization defining purpose and application; it deals with war zone post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)." - MAJ. C. Darrell Lane, MD, Major MC USA
"Ray's "voice" throughout it is amazingly compelling and authentic. It serves not only as a history of experiences in Vietnam, but also as a wonderful history of Aroostook County itself-- Chapman Street!!!! The first chapters are as fascinating-- and important-- as what follows-- and the photos are incredible. This is important work, not just for the remarkable (heartbreaking) experiences in country-- but the snapshot of an individual and families and the culture of the County." - Dr. Ray Rice, Ph. D, President, University of Maine at Presque Isle
"Ray Gauvin’s new book A Soldier’s Heart is a must read because it is an informative book for people of all ages. It will educate our young people and intrigue the old. Ray’s book in the beginning was a walk down memory lane for me as I grew up in Ray’s neighborhood and we were friends. Interwoven into this narrative is Ray’s very interesting American and Canadian background. As I read on, however, I quickly lost my heady feelings of memory lanes as I encountered the realities of the Vietnam War in this youth narrative and its impact on Ray’s life and that of other young men of this terrible era. However, his story is not all doom and gloom because he didn’t let it become that. His story is infused with his sense of humor which can generate a laugh for the reader even during these trying times as a young soldier. Ray truly has a soldier’s heart!" - Ms. Susan Bailey, College Professor, Childhood Friend
"Gauvin's story will take you in from the beginning. As someone who has been employed by Ray for several years, I found myself riveted by the story of his time growing up in Aroostook County, a County that is also my home, albeit we represent different generations. Even more hypnotizing than his experience in Vietnam is the coming-of-age story that frames the novel as a young man finding his way through many hardships, disappointments, but also moments of joy and triumph. I found myself at times smiling and at other times with tears in my eyes as my heart went out to him through all the experiences and moments of struggle. Not only is this a stunning tale of a human life trying to make sense of all the craziness of the world, but it is more importantly a testament to the fact that we all have ghosts in our past, and it's OK to ask for help in dealing with them. In fact, it's essential to our well-being and the people we love to do so. You won't put it down." -Dr. Sarah Bushey, Adjunct Professor, University of Florida
"A Soldier’s Heart is a firsthand account of the lifelong struggle to heal the less understood wounds of war. From a strong rural upbringing through the transition of boy to man we gain detailed insight into the preparation of Soldiers and the sacrifice that comes with service to country. Ray Gauvin recounts a truly traumatic experience in Vietnam and the struggles of living with the resulting wounds. His resilience, loving family, and willingness to seek help most certainly saved his life." - LTC (RET) Greg LaFrancois, Medical Service Corps, US Army; CEO Northern Lights AR Gould Hospital
"A must read for those who lived through the Vietnam War and after. The life changing experiences of a growing boy to a soldier, husband, father and successful businessman are well documented in this heart felt and personal memoir of a soldier’s soldier. As readers, we can only appreciate and sympathize with their struggles through life after their experience of war. Ray was one of the lucky ones who relied on his instincts, and a very understanding and loving wife to get him through the nightmares that followed him through his life. To quote Clausewitz in his military analysis entitled On War, 'we are destined to relive the horrors of war if we don’t take the time remember our history'. What we do have is the history, what we are lacking is the commitment to do something about it for the hearts of our soldiers." - COL Don Tardie (RET), FA ARNG
"How do you reconcile the before and after when you’ve experienced the trauma of war? With an expert eye, Ray Gauvin conducts a thorough examination of his own life experiences and the world events that impacted them. He prods, he documents, and, in the end, he bears witness to what can be hardest to understand and make whole: the heart of a soldier." -Rachel Rice, Marketing and Communications Director, University of Maine at Presque Isle
"This book is such a value to me and will be to any veteran that may have participated in the ravages of war as they were just 'doing their duty' to serve their country. I found myself reliving my life through my junior and high school years in Presque Isle as Ray guided me through my memories of so many similar experiences in my schooling. His descriptions of post-Vietnam PTSD were so vivid and real that I was tearing up many times as I read." -Scott Smith, Captain, U.S. Marine Corps
"Beyond studying the fascinating life of the Gauvins, A Soldier's Heart provides a vivid look at the Vietnam War and the experience of young men facing conscription-induced military service. It also studies the post-war consequences of wartime trauma and how one family survived PTSD and used its lessons to help provide a lifetime of service to its community, and especially, to benefit a newer generation of young men and women." -Donald N. Zillman, Emeritus Professor of Law at the University of Maine Law School
"Aroostook County residents know Ray Gauvin of Presque Isle as a successful businessman and generous community leader. He often describes his gifts and service to the community as ways of 'giving back,' but few people know the depth of experience from which his gratitude grows, until now. A Soldier’s Heart: The Three Wars of Vietnam, is the story of success generated by determination to overcome unnamed obstacles, first as a teenager, then as a veteran. When [the author] enlisted in the U.S. Army for three years, he elected to train as an x-ray technician to obtain a valuable skill and perhaps avoid combat. When he arrived in Vietnam in 1968, he learned he had been assigned to a 'hand-picked' exclusive team … for the largest research study in wartime history. He was 22. [This book] is a memoir that gives voice to victims of not only Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but also cultural discrimination and learning disabilities." -Kathryn Olmstead, Author
"A powerful and emotional read of an extraordinary life that simultaneously recalls both the resilience and fragility of the human spirit. Ray Gauvin’s incredible journey, captured in the pages of A Soldier’s Heart, is part history lesson and cultural awakening. But mostly, the story is of how one person who served family, country and community faced adversity, tragedy and trauma all the while persisting, using his keen entrepreneurial spirit to rise to the heights of professional success while never forgetting where he came from and the importance of paying it forward. This page-turner is just what we need at this time of challenge and uncertainly as a nation and world. It is a much-needed reminder of the precious life we are gifted and people surrounding us we are blessed with, as well as a reminder to be kind and understanding, as we cannot fully appreciate the experiences lived, and impact made, on those we encounter and embrace in our short time on this planet." -Jason Parent, MSB, CCAP, Director/CEO, Aroostook County Action Program
"[This book] is about the many people who served in Viet Nam and what they and their families faced when they returned. On many levels it was also personal to me. On another note, the book was very well written, it was real and didn’t gloss over the realities of what you experienced and had to deal with after." -Donna Lisnik, Teacher, High School Principal