“Memorial Day”, a post-war story

(VOVworld) – American war veteran Brian Delate, who is also an actor and author of the play “Memorial Day”, said the play has many details from his real life and stories he has been told by other American soldiers about their pain and torment. VOV reporter Lan An accompanied Delate to a meeting with the play’s Vietnamese audience.

Brian Delate talks to Vietnamese audience after the show

Brian Delate talks to Vietnamese audience after the show

The play delivers to the Vietnamese audience a perspective on the inner world of Brest Westmoreland, an American war veteran who fought in Vietnam and is struggling with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a mental disease suffered by many American veterans. The play’s main character echoes the author’s own life, a draftee infantry sergeant in the Vietnam War. He was stationed in the central province of Quang Ngai from 1969 to 1970. “Well, when I first came home as I described in the play, it was a mess. There was a lot of violence, a lot of fear. I didn’t know who to trust, where my life was going. And I could not reclaim what I had left, it was gone. The memories were put way for a long time. On September 11, I witnessed a plane going into the trade center. It basically brought it all back to the surface”.

The story takes place in the night before Memorial Day in a small apartment in New York. Brian plays the role of veteran Brest Westmoreland, who is in the room, preparing to kill himself. Rapid-fire, haunting and intimidating memories drive the character to the verge of suicide, just shoot of pulling the trigger. He thinks of acquaintances he met in Vietnam, and the horrific scenes of troops scurrying on the ground, of helicopters, burning, destroying, chasing, and shooting. People’s artist Le Khanh plays a ghost who witnesses the characters’ inner struggle. “Brian, the author and main character, has recreated on the stage what he had to experience in life. The spiritual issues made a strong impact on me. We tried to reach deep spiritual elements, hoping that the audience will understand what we are doing, bringing an absolute sacred feeling to them”.

Besides the frightening memories, there are some pleasant moments when the character recalls letters from his relatives, sharing and missing his family and life in the US. The soldier longs for the day he can come home. Critic Nguyen Thi Minh Thai told VOV: “Both the winners and the losers suffered in the war, including emotional disorders. In Vietnam those who suffered most were wives and mothers”.

Members of SHI organization

Members of SHI organization

The Vietnam-US Society, SHI organization and the Youth Theater sponsored the “Memorial Day” project to raise funds for Vietnamese Agent Orange/dioxin victims. It is part of cultural exchange activities to boost reconciliation and mutual understanding between Vietnam and the US. Poet, doctor Edward Tick, who co-founded SHI organization, said only healing the war wounds of the US and Vietnam will help war veterans recover from posttraumatic stress disorder: “Art is a magic bridge, where we can meet each other and understand each other’s hearts and spirit. And art allows us to talk about many things that we find very difficult – even intolerable – to talk about. But when we put it in the art form, everybody can tell it and receive the story. More than just a success, I think we are making history together”.

After the performance, Brian said that he wrote “Memorial Day” to make those who haven’t experienced war understand how some people have endured post-war torments and pain.

Lan Anh

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