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Helping soldiers to heal

Father-son trauma is subject of new Estes book

REVIEW, TIDINGS PHOTO: CLIFF NEWELL - Author Jack Estes displays his new novel A Soldiers Son, a book about a father fighting to prevent his son from repeating his own experience in the Vietnam War.

Serving in the Vietnam War turned Jack Estes’ soul inside out. He has been on a journey to find healing ever since.

Now, the Lake Oswego-based journalist has written “A Soldier’s Son,” a novel about a desperate crossroads reached by a father who served in Vietnam and a rebellious son who joins the Marines and goes to Iraq. Meanwhile, the father’s wife is threatening to leave him because he refuses to do anything about his post-traumatic stress disorder. Will history repeat itself? Will the son experience the same trauma that so drastically changed his father’s life? Will the Vietnam War ever really end for this American family?

Estes wants to help people like the father, the mother and the son, and that is why he wrote, “A Soldier’s Son,” released July 15.

“My mission in life is to honor the memory of American soldiers and help them heal from the trauma of war,” he said. “I do this through writing.”

“A Soldier’s Son” is a mission accomplished. It’s a mission that took 10 years. It started out as a screenplay and won an award, but no project ever developed. But Estes liked it too much to give up, and he turned the screenplay into a book.

“It’s the best book I could write, from a literary standpoint,” Estes said. “It was personally fulfilling. It was cathartic. It allowed me to examine PTSD on a deeper, personal level.”

One of the most striking things about “A Soldier’s Son” is how it shows the crossover between two wars in a remarkably vivid way. A father is filled with fear that what one war did to him, another war will do to his son. This lets the book speak to the current generation of soldiers, as well as Vietnam veterans.

“There are differences, but there are many similarities between the soldiers of my day and the soldiers of today,” Estes said. “Feeling alone; feeling a distance between themselves and society; anger and depression; suicidal thoughts; missing the adrenaline surge that you felt in war, the surge that helped you stay alive. That is why veterans do things for thrills, like riding a motorcycle 100 miles an hour.”

Estes’ book has hit the mark. A Kirkus Reviews magazine article that just came out praised Estes for creating rich and complex characters, witty dialogue and vivid battle scenes that pull readers into the action.

Estes’ favorite comment, so far, though is by Karl Malantes, also a Vietnam veteran who suffered severe post-traumatic stress disorder. His best-selling novel “Matterhorn” was called “one of the most profound and devastating novels to ever come out of Vietnam” by The New York Times. Malantes highly recommends “A Soldier’s Son,” saying that it ranks with such war classics as the “The Naked and the Dead,” written by Norman Mailer.

Classic status might also be accorded to Estes’ first book, a memoir called “A Field of Innocence.” One reviewer wrote that the story of a soldier who served in Vietnam had never been told in such a pure and truthful manner.

Although he did not die in battle, the Vietnam War still threatened to kill Jack Estes. But he had a hero in his life, his wife Colleen O’Callaghan. An ordinary person who faced the obstacles she faced in helping her husband would have turned back a dozen times. But O’Callaghan did not stop until she brought Estes a life-saving measure of healing, and she even helped to found an organization to help all Vietnam vets suffering from PTSD, called Fallen Warriors Foundation. She and Estes went on to produce the film “Wounded Spirits,” about four veterans coping with PTSD.

Estes’ quest to heal his fellow veterans shows no signs of ending. He is already writing another novel about four soldiers in Vietnam, which he expects to be published at the end of next year.

Events planned to promote “A Soldier’s Son” include the Northwest Book Festival from 10 a.m.-5pm. July 30 in downtown Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square (Southwest Sixth Avenue, Yamhill Street, Broadway and Morrison Street) and a book launch party from 7-8 p.m. Aug. 4 at Annie Bloom’s Books in Multnomah Village (7834 S.W. Capitol Highway). The book is available on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Kindle, and various bookstores.

For more about Jack Estes and his writing, go to jackestes.com.

Contact Cliff Newell at 503-636-1281 ext. 109 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..