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Searching for healing through writing

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Lanny Martinson, the former Lake County man whose story captured the attention and hearts of the world last year when his Vietnam-era dog tags were returned to him after 45 years, has released a book.

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A work of fiction, “After the Rush” is interwoven with Martinson’s own recollections of experiences in Southeast Asia and his subsequent efforts to handle the traumatic memories that followed him back to northern Minnesota after the war. The title refers to the exhilaration, the “rush,” of adrenaline that he experienced on the battlefield.

“Once home, Jack’s greatest desire is to feel the rush he felt in combat,” reads the description on the book’s back cover. “His unrelenting struggle with survivor’s guilt and (post-traumatic stress disorder) leave him needing to find the person he once was.”

Martinson said he wrote the gritty account at the urging of his wife, Delphine, and daughter, Bobbi.

“Delphine thought it would be a good form of therapy for my PTSD,” Martinson said in an interview last week, on the 46th anniversary of the day his patrol walked into the minefield where he lost his leg and four of his fellow Marines. Martinson decided to put pen to paper.

“I agreed with her because after five years of group therapy at the Vet’s Center in Duluth, I learned the best thing was to talk about it and not try to bury it. In the book I decided to try and explain how a person gets PTSD and how it affects not only them, but also their family and friends,” he said.

The journey back in time and place was challenging and emotional, but Martinson said that there also were some moments of unexpected revelation.

“There are parts of it that were quite difficult to write because they brought back some very bad memories. There were a few times when I would find myself typing with tears in my eyes, but I managed to get through it,” he said. “I do believe Delphine was right. Once I got through it I found that talking about some of the things was easier. Writing also made me think of things I had forgotten over the past 46 years.”

Last year, when news broke that Martinson’s dog tags had been found, media outlets from all over the world wanted the story, and Martinson was barraged with requests for interviews. He received messages from across the globe, and a television crew from Australia flew in to cover the event where he was reunited with the memento of his military service. He was writing his book during that time, and people who had learned of him were eagerly awaiting its completion. Now available online from Barnes and Noble and Martinson’s own author’s website, the book soon will be offered on Amazon and in stores.

Martinson said he hopes to visit Lake County in a few months to visit friends and family and fulfill the requests he’s received for autographed copies of his book.

“It is my intention to make a trip back home in September at which time I thought if anyone would like me to sign their book I could do so. I decided on September because after living here for five years I would be freezing,” the Sugarland, Texas, transplant quipped.

As for the book’s release on Memorial Day, it was a coincidence, if you believe in coincidences. Martinson said it was unintentional, but “I couldn’t have picked a more fitting day.”

On Wednesday, he remembered the men who were lost that afternoon on Hill 861N near Khe Sanh, and he posted this message on his Facebook page:

“I try to take a bit of time on this day to remember not only all the men involved but two of my friends that died. I guess I have come to grips with it in some way but I think it’s good to remember them. They deserve it.”

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