The story I tell drawn from the well of personal journals written during my time in war as a civilian … as background for recall and reflection. Journaling is a habit I started in Catholic seminary, and unwittingly gives witness to my story.
What is written herein is a series of essays that interweaves a tapestry of memories that crisscross my time in South Vietnam 1967-1969. The American War as the Vietnamese named it.
JanStephen James Cavanaugh, Ph.D.
JanStephen James Cavanaugh, Ph.D. was born in Canada. 1943.
In 1963 following a dream he came to the United States of America to study for Roman Catholic priesthood with Maryknoll Fathers.
In 1966 that door was closed to him. He then volunteered first with International Voluntary Service in 1967 and then post Tet 1968 with Catholic Relief Services. He was stationed in South Vietnam, 1967-1969. JanStephen experienced the hell of war first-hand. War marked him. Put him on a path to study war to end war. Beyond the pale there is no greater barbarism than war.
He is greatly encouraged that we live in a time with the tools to mobilize globe earth humanity to vote for leaders across planet earth to birth an Age of Peace.
My story is a story of boy raised in patriarchy and him no more aware of it than the air, but there all the same. Learning the lessons, he needed to survive and maybe thrive.
A Bloodied Tapestry
An early formative memory: I am no more than age five, standing in front of the farm kitchen stove, the only source of heat on a blustery winter’s day. I can feel the heat through my heavy winter clothing, giving me a head start before heading off into the cold. I can still feel the snow cap fur round my face. I can hear the wind whistle through the window cracks. Mother is dressing me to go outside in the bitter cold with Dad. I can see him standing there, also by the stove, getting ready to go and dig the quicksand out of the water trough. In our artesian well-water, there is a fine gray quicksand. This the only source of water for the cattle. If you did not periodically remove this fine gray sand, the trough would fill up with quicksand and be of no use for the cattle to drink. I remember mom looking me in the eye and saying, “You are the farmer.” Much too young to dig the heavy gray sand, but with a small snow shovel in hand standing atop a high snow drift, I dig keeping pace with my dad. I look down at him shoveling the stuff so heavy while the wind and snow are so fierce. I can still feel it biting my face. Digging quicksand on a bitter day is a matter of life and death, and I am learning that lesson.