Vietnam vet pens book about coping with trauma and depression
March 17, 2016
Chuck W. Newhall III is not the stereotypical Vietnam veteran depicted in the movies.
He is the co-founder of New Enterprise Associates, which was instrumental in financing changes in the world’s health care services and pharmaceutical/biotechnology industries.
Newhall is also the Chairman Emeritus of the Mid-Atlantic Venture Capital Association.
But all of that doesn’t mean he never felt the effects of the Vietnam War. Newhall, who prefers to be called Chuck, has struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder for more than 40 years.
That’s why he wrote "Fearful Odds: A Memoir of Vietnam and Its Aftermath," a book he self published last year.
Newhall will give an art talk about his book on Thursday, March 24, at St. Regis Deer Valley’s Deer Crest Club at 7 p.m. The event will be presented by the Kimball Art Center.
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"I feel very strongly about this book," Newhall told The Park Record during a phone call from Bermuda. "It’s an honor to tell other people about it."
The book was 14 years in the making and a cathartic exercise for Newhall, who earned a Silver Star and two Bronze Stars with Valor while serving with the First Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division in the A Shau Valley.
"When I started working with my agent, Ed Tracy, I couldn’t tell the story without crying," he said.
The book not only addresses the nightmarish situations Newhall faced in Vietnam, but also the traumas he experienced after he got home.
While war is the foundation, "Fearful Odds" is actually about how trauma can lead to depression, Newhall said.
"It could just as well have been about spousal abuse, dying of cancer, being in the wrong café in Paris or being in an earthquake or typhoon," he said. "In my case, the depression was brought on by post-traumatic stress disorder. Then when my first wife committed suicide, leaving me with our two boys who were ages three and six, that brought back the same depression. I think it contains a way of coping with depression and PTSD, whatever you want to call it."
In the three months since the book has been published, Newhall has received numerous emails expressing gratitude from people who suffer from depression.
"The most common comment is that the book has saved their lives because they were going to commit suicide before they started reading the book," he said.
In addition to addressing depression, the book is about the importance of good leadership, and Newhall met three great leaders while in the service.
"One was man named Lural Lee Blevins," he said. "He was a forward artillery observer who was supposed to have left Vietnam, but he stayed to call in the artillery strikes that saved our lives. On the last day, he took a bullet in the head."
The second was a captain named Peter Quirin.
"He taught me how to lead from the front," Newhall said. "He taught me how to get people to do what they believe was impossible."
The last was First Sgt. Robert M. "Top" Hantsen, who had fought in many battles.
"Most first sergeants stay in the back, but this man was out marching and outlasting all of the 18-year-olds," Newhall said. "He was a magnificent leader and showed me how to care for the people you work with."
Another one of Newhall’s leaders served on the home front. She was his grandmother, Evangeline Abbott Newhall, who sent him to a military boarding school.
"She felt she did a poor job with my father because he was too dependent on her," Newhall said. "So, she wanted me to suffer extreme adversity so I would be strong." Before Newhall left for Vietnam, his grandmother told him, "Come back with your honor or don’t come back."
"She was a very principled woman who was very gentle and loved art, but had a steel core," Newhall said. "If I hadn’t had that kind of training I did at the school and under her guidance, I never would have been able to what I’ve done in my later life."
All of that is depicted in Newhall’s book, which he said is finding an audience.
"I’m planning to give more than 10,000 of the books away to veterans and have sold 2,500 copies," he said.
Since he self-published, the most effective way to sell the book is to talk about it, so he’s grateful to the Kimball Art Center and executive director Robin Marrouche for the art talk opportunity.
"I know Robin Marrouche, we share a common interest in art, and had given her a copy of my book," he said. "I believe this book, at the very least, can help someone who has experienced trauma live a better and more productive life. I believe that this book, at its best, can save a life. And that’s worth fighting for."
The Kimball Art Center will present an Art Talk featuring Charles W. Newhall III, the author of "Fearful Odds: A Memoir of Vietnam and Its Aftermath," at St. Regis Deer Valley’s Deer Crest Club on Thursday, March 24, at 7 p.m. A reception and cocktail party will follow. The event is free and open to the public, but RSVPs are required. To RSVP or for more information, visit http://www.kimballartcenter.org .