by Dr. Charles L. Houston, Jr.
Like all of us, after Jenny La Sala did the deed, she second-guessed herself, wondering if she had made a terrible mistake by mailing her ex-husband the collection of her father’s World War II letters. She had self-published the letters in Comes a Soldier’s Whisper. Her dad had been in the 101st Airborne, seeing combat on D-Day and in the Battle of the Bulge.
Her marriage to her first husband, Jim, a Vietnam veteran, had disintegrated after 14 years. With his drinking, their marriage became “a shadow of what it had been.” She commented she had been “too naïve” when they were first married to connect his Vietnam service and their later marital troubles.
They had maintained “an uneasy truce” for 30 years and now she thought, “Should I have let sleeping dogs lie?” No response for weeks and then one day, he called. He told her he couldn’t put her book down. He said, “It’s like your dad is writing to me about me. I could relate to everything.”
Jim said that her Dad had been a better writer in his correspondence than Jim himself had been when he was overseas. He mentioned letters he had written to his mom when he was serving in Vietnam. Jenny said, “Wait, you have all your letters you wrote home? You never told me! Do you think I could read them?” After a silence, her husband said, “I guess I don’t see why not.” Once she started reading the letters, she couldn’t stop, and neither could her ex, Jim, who was reading them for the first time since writing them. He admitted it hurt to remember, but it was good, too. He then admitted he’d left out the “hard parts” in the letters to his Mom. Jim said he’d sought help from the VA, after a buddy committed suicide. He had been diagnosed with PTSD and was seeing a counselor.
After a discussion, they decided to publish his letters, hoping they might help another veteran, and their book was called Vietnam and Beyond: Veteran Reflections. She also shared Jim’s book on Facebook. Their daughters saw a change in their Dad in this process, saying, “Dad’s like a different person now. He laughs more and he’s not combative.” Jim even admitted in a television interview, “This book has changed my life.”
Jim commented how the cameras are there for the reunion, but “the cameras don’t stick around for the aftermath.” Jim said, “Some things take 50 years to understand. Our story is one of them.” Jenny has shared how there was a healing between her and Jim. Her prayer that God would use her grief for goals had been answered in ways she never even imagined.
It is never too late to reach for help in life’s battles. If you are interested in learning more, check out jennylasala.com.
Dr. Charles L. Houston, Jr. is the Senior Chaplain with the Georgia Department of Public Safety (Georgia State Patrol/Motor Carrier Compliance Division). http://www.chaplaincharles.org