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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

City man pens book that speaks to veterans

Vietnam vet hits road to help heal wounds

By Brian McCready
Milford Bureau Chief
— A year ago, Elliot Storm was like millions of other Vietnam veterans.
Every day served as a reminder of not only the battle fought there, but the mental battle he fights daily.
Storm, 61, was wounded in action three times in Vietnam, receiving three purple hearts.
But what pierced his heart the most was the pain and rejection he received from family and friends upon returning home.
Instead of receiving a hero’s welcome, Storm and a majority of veterans were branded “baby killers.”
“The difference is our scars were not caused by the war. They were caused by the homecoming we saw. We were all ‘baby killers,’” Storm said.
Storm was able to finally obtain some peace a year ago when he penned a book about his ordeal, “These Scars Are Sacred.” In the book, he goes into the issues of post-traumatic stress disorder in relation to Vietnam veterans.
The book, which includes experiences of other soldiers as well, focuses in part on the welcome the soldiers received when they returned home from service. The cruel way the soldiers were treated led to flashbacks and other post-traumatic stress symptoms.
“The book is intended to heal and inform,” Storm said.
Timothy J. Kelly, Department of Connecticut Disabled American Veterans hospital service coordinator, said once he picked up the book, he couldn’t put it down.
Kelly said Storm’s book came out at the right time because the VA sent a memo telling doctors not to treat anyone for PSTD, and to diagnose them as having a personality disorder.
“It’s good we’ve educated people as to what it is,” Kelly said.
Once the book was out, Storm became a regular on the speaking circuit with other veterans.
Storm’s first big break came when he was invited to the Groton Naval Base where he held his first book signing. Storm has been invited to the Naval War College in Newport, R.I. He’s spoken to a group of students and professors from Quinnipiac and Yale universities. Storm also has spoken at the University of Michigan, and an Indian reservation there purchased his books. Storm has also has spoken to the American Legion in Pennsylvania.
At the University of Michigan, he spoke about how a veteran cannot understand a war protester, which he said made the professor nervous.
“You can protest the war, but a veteran sees a protester as being against them,” Storm said. “Those protesters caused our scars, not the war. I see it happening again (to veterans of the Iraq war).”
He’s been invited to the VFW state convention as a guest speaker, and is planning a summer tour of 17 California Border’s Bookstores.
He’s also done several books signings at Border’s bookstores in the state and was invited to Fleet week in New York.When Storm goes to speak or to a book signing, it also includes a lecture and PowerPoint presentation. He begins in the 1960s and explains what post-traumatic stress disorder is, and he said no audience is too small for him.
“Sometimes, I’ll go 40 miles to speak to 10 people, but then those 10 people will speak to 10 more people,” Storm said.
He’s sold more than 2,000 books directly to veteran groups, which does not include sales from book stores and Amazon.
Storm’s wife, Deborah Trumpower, says her husband is definitely a busier man these days, and the book has brought him a level of peace, but “we’re still up in the middle of the night.”
Storm says one of the reasons he has sleepless nights is because he has “survivor’s guilt,” and wonders why he is alive when so many soldiers died.
His wife provides a soothing answer.
“You were spared so you could get this message out that these scars are sacred,” Deborah Trumpower said. “This has helped mellow him. He’s not truly healed. You’re focused on helping people.”
“Any vet who reads my book will find a piece of themselves in it,” Storm said.
Milford Mayor James L. Richetelli Jr. said the book serves to remind people that regardless of how they feel about the war, they need to support the men and women who are there to defend our freedoms.
“Elliot Storm is a credit to the Milford community. His book expresses his passion for the way veterans were treated,” Richetelli said.
“His book helped make a difference in the way veterans feel about themselves. It’s a straightforward book that at times doesn’t sugarcoat things.”
Storm said he came home in 1969 and was immediately greeted by protestors, and family and friends that once embraced him now shunned him.
“My mom said a crazy person came home,” Storm recalled.
He said most of the Vietnam veterans stayed to themselves, and didn’t want to share their experiences.


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