“Radioman” Shows Veterans the Road Home Is Passable

radioman at del arte

Radioman will run two weeks in January at the Del Arte Theatre in Blue Lake, CA.

Writings by a Humboldt County Vietnam veteran have inspired a play which not only is being produced locally but may be picked up for a much broader audience.

In 1968, Eureka native, Eric Hollenbeck was drafted and sent to Vietnam. He’s since returned and been at the Blue Ox Millworks for nearly five decades.  However, the road home has not necessarily been smooth nor easily traveled.

In 1992, Hollenbeck wrote a series of poems cleansing his soul of some of the grief and memories that came flooding back that weekend.  Those poems were published as “Uncle Sam’s Tour Guide to Southeast Asia.”

Then, through Hollenbeck’s coincidental friendship with producer Lester Grant, playwright James McManus became involved in 2015; and the theatrical production entitled “Radioman” has emerged from those poems and the stories of younger generations of returning veterans as well.

“Radioman” will be showcased at Del Arte Theatre in Blue Lake for two weeks in January. Hollenbeck says the January performances aren’t “Radioman’s” official premier because producers from larger cities will be at the local production to see the play and may opt to “pick it up.”

You Are Not Alone

Hollenbeck said from “Uncle Sam’s Tour Guide to Southeast Asia” through the writing and production of “Radioman,” he and his family have been on a long journey of recovery and homecoming.  And Hollenbeck is clear about his mission, why it’s important, and why he hopes the play will be produced for a wider audience.

Hollenbeck said first and foremost he wants to tell “returning veterans ‘You are not alone. Many have traveled down this path before you, and many stand ready to help you with your journey home.’ ”

Secondly, Hollenbeck said he wants to inform family and friends of veterans so they can “understand this road the vet is on.”

“Trying to come back from that reality to this reality is a treacherous journey,” Hollenbeck emphasized. And he said that his wife, Viviana, and both his daughters have monologues in “Radioman” because the psychological wounds of war hurt them too.

War is Hell

When asked if he felt the Commander-in-Chiefs’ assignment of troops in Vietnam, and the many military actions since then, have been wise or ethical uses of the minds and bodies of United States military personnel, Hollenbeck said, “Now, you’ve asked the right question. That’s it right there.”

Referencing Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s 18 hour documentary “The Vietnam War,” Hollenbeck said he couldn’t watch it because it never asked why the United States was involved in Vietnam. “That’s the only question in my mind.”

Hollenbeck said President Eisenhower warned us of the dangers of a standing military and the “military industrial complex” in his Farewell Address given in January 1961, just seven years before Hollenbeck would be drafted.

Then Hollenbeck quoted the last stanza of “Uncle Sam’s Tour Guide to Southeast Asia.”

And, as for the justness of any war,

One must never forget

War is as far from godliness

As we humans can get

Thus, pick this option carefully

With the weight of a heavy heart

For sanity is the casualty

The minute war does start.

 

The homepage at RadiomanThePlay.org describes the project’s evolution,

The Veterans Monologues Project

A Theatrical Production Built from the Writings and Stories of Veterans from Vietnam War to Today

While at a conference in Colorado in 1992 Eric Hollenbeck spent two days pacing back and forth along the streets with a small cassette recorder.  As he paced, poems poured from him as he purged his memories of his time as a soldier in Vietnam. He served in the A Shau Valley in 1968 during some of the most intense fighting of the war. The poems took on the rhythm of his strides and became Uncle Sam’s Tour Guide to Southeast Asia.

With the inspired input of Lester Grant, of The Grant Collection, the concept of a play was born. Nationally known playwright James McManus was brought on board and met with and collected stories from many veterans in several cities. Jim traveled to Eureka to experience Eric, his wife Viviana, and the magical place they have created, Blue Ox Historic Village. Over pizza in the cook shack, Jim was welcomed by the veterans who were involved in the building of the Lincoln Hearse replica as they shared their personal take on war and life.

Radioman blends these stories which represent soldiers from the Vietnam War through to current military conflicts – across race, gender, rank and file. The stories from the jungles of Vietnam, the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, Blue Ox Historic Village and President Lincoln’s funeral procession and re-enactment, have love as a common theme. This is the love that allows the survivors and their families to make their journeys towards healing and redemption.

You can watch the Radioman trailer here.

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24 comments

  • Thank you Kelley for the good morning read.

  • I wonder how senseless military adventures our leaders would send our defense forces into if their sons and daughters HAD to serve as well on the front lines. I’ll bet it would be a lot fewer.

    It’s one things to send faceless strangers into harms way and another to do the same with your own loved ones.

    Bluster is cheap when others pay the bill.

  • Kelley, this was a great write up. Thanks! I’d like to paste up the part that hit me as most important to see again, and again, and again.

    War is Hell

    Referencing Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s 18 hour documentary “The Vietnam War,” Hollenbeck said he couldn’t watch it because it never asked why the United States was involved in Vietnam. “That’s the only question in my mind.”

    • Mr Willson?
      Either way, thank you for the feedback.

      Radioman popped up from the blue on my radar yesterday, but this theme from the Vietnam war era, and it’s absence in the modern dialogue, has been on my mind lately.
      Since the Vietnam War, and the shaming of those veterans upon their return in the later years of the war, America is careful to honor and respect it’s veterans. However, we don’t talk about honoring our youth by not turning them into veterans unnecessarily.
      We aren’t questioning our foreign policy and what we might do to rely on fewer troops to achieve our goals.

      • No, not Mr. Wilson.

        Just a reader that is happy you asked an important question.

        His answer from the poetry was equally important.

        Before Eisenhower’s warning was a great short book, “War is a Racket” by Smedley Butler, ret Marine Corps Maj. General.

        Check it out sometime.

    • Pretty much. That’s the 262 million pound gorilla in the room. No one in main stream media or, for the most part, both “parties” questions the premise of being the worlds corporate policeman and living under a continuous state of war and conflict. We are staying with my in laws for the holidays, they like to watch fox news at high volume on a 72″ TV with a whole house sound system while eating breakfast. It is, to say the least, fascinating. This morning a commentator was talking about how great john McCain was, how he would never pull out of Syria, what a great diplomat and mover and shaker the man was. This asshat was from some neocon think tank or something. The woman interviewing him said “haven’t we all but eradicated ISIS there, isn’t it less than 1% of it’s former self, and that’s why we’re bringing our troops home?” the dude replied “but there are other factions of evil there, many of which are on the rise in the region, like the Sunni and Shia radicals”. She replied ” well, if that’s the case, shouldn’t we have our troops everywhere?” The dude litterly gulped, stuttered, and said “we just don’t want to make the same mistakes Obama did”.

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  • Looking forward to seeing this in a few weeks.

  • This story makes me want to read the rest of the poems and see the play my dad went to the Korean conflict so I carry some emotional scars I like that we have a Humboldt County chapter of Veterans for Peace and I am wondering about the mold issues in the veterans hall and Courthouse been a while now hopefully it is not getting worse how is the roof probably need to get some professionals in there and maybe the county could help with some funding hopefully you could get it squared away soon had some really good times there thanks to the vet’s if it is finances that are holding it back maybe you can start a go fund me account We Believe in peace

  • You say the leaders who want these wars should send their children into them. I believe the leaders from the President on down that want these wars should be the ones on the front line and then their children.

    • If there is ever a draft again, I believe that every adult who has never served in a COMBAT role, under fire should be in the lottery. No exceptions, not the president of Google or GM, not the lead Soprano at the Metropolitan Opera nor the Secretary of State. All employable adults including retired people. Anyone whose number comes up works for enlisted soldiers’s pay and benefits; if your job is considered vital to defense and you really feel morally bound to do it, then you do it at enlisted pay and benefits. All additional benefits including stock options get contributed to the pool of veterans benefits. I would also consider a deferment for primary caregivers who might receive a pay raise at enlisted pay and benefit rates.

      Now, don’t get me wrong. . . I don’t believe in involuntary servitude in any form. I oppose “drafts” But the tax rate on the lives of those killed and disabled in war is 100%. If we are willing to do that in any form for any reason everyone should be in the pool except those who already went through the experience. If people are healthy enough to run for Congress they are healthy enough to serve in war for three or four years. Just think of the cost savings if the CEO of Boeing gets drafted and the benefits to the government if Warren Buffet’s income is commandeered.

  • Thank you for sharing your past and your insights with us.

    War is a Racket is another good read that shares honest insights. It should be required reading. https://archive.org/details/WarIsARacket

    Soldiers trained with honorable intentions.
    Unfortunately the politicians didn’t.

    Ever notice how WW1 began just one year after the politicians signed up for the Federal Reserves which is neither Federal nor Reserves?
    Ever notice how we’ve been in wars ever since then until now? Same with other countries.

    Things are finally changing.
    Even the Middle East has made Christmas a National Holiday.
    Yet the protests from the war mongers grow louder.
    The LOVE of money is the root of all evil.

    • In addition, or addendum.
      Ever notice how the 17th amendment was signed into being during the same time the Federal Reserves took over?

      Repealing the 17th amendment would restore the senator’s role of protecting state’s rights.

      https://www.nationalreview.com/2004/05/repeal-17th-amendment-ridhancock/

      Ever since they’ve created that amendment, the senators have taken a role to protect the house of reps instead of protecting the state.
      State’s would return to being responsible for each soldier sent off to war from their state, each Vet needing care upon return.

      Something to think about as we stumble around in the darkness for the power to take care of our own.

  • Things are coming together. Truths are being spoken. Dots connecting. Seeing the picture puzzle maybe for the first time. Tears and pissed off. Healing and closure.

    How proud can one be of the first generation, of 18 y.o. soldiers, who turned their backs and gestured a middle finger to a U.S. Inc’s Commercial war?

    Why of course, the people don’t want war. Naturally, the common people don’t want war, neither in Russia nor in England, nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country. – Herman Boring.

    Attack on American soil is covered in the constitution. Foreign wars are not.

    All war$ are banker’$ war$ presented to the masses based on False Evidence Appearing Real (FEAR).

    We had your backs here at home – Four Dead in Ohio.

    So many young men didn’t return. So many were maimed. So many today reach out for medical needs at Veteran’s clinics and hospitals, only to find that They do Not have your backs.

    We’ve all been had. But the jig is up. It’s taken 150 years of fraud, deceit and illusion, to arrive at this place of despair. Politically it’s not going to turn around any time soon. Unifying and sharing one another’s non-partisan part of the solution, more and more, until we ‘arrive at the beginning and know it for the first time.’

    “In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms. Our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.” Declaration of Independence. July 4, 1776.

    The sentiments and statements of America’s founders make it clear that this nation has enjoyed a love and appreciation for the rights and freedoms recognized in Natural Law that is unique in the annals of human history. No other people have such a heritage.

    ~ in gratitude,
    always in gratitude

  • unbridled philistine

    I worked with Eric along time ago and not all his stories of Nam where bad! Some were positive, exciting, and very entertaining. Some good does come from war.

    • yes good does come from certain parts of battles and war, however the good i believe comes despite it not because of it. when i deployed it was to stop a genocide, something that never wpuld have had to happen if the war never started. while i will always be proud of what we did there despite all the nay sayers and rhose that dont or never will understand . i often wonder why we arent teaching lessons learned ? why are people still so stupid as to wish so badly to force their will on others at such costs ?

  • Hi all, I want to complement Kelley for her story and comment on Humor in Combat. Here is a link to a talk I gave on that subject…. Eric Hollenbeck
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zcMzznDGFcY

    • Thank you Eric.
      And thanks for the link to your del Arte story.

      Just remember, Damn is the middle name, and you heard it here first. LoL

      If war is sanity’s demise, perhaps humor is its salvation.

  • Love you guys, all of you. Your comments and links and service and poetry, I’m glad to live where I do. ❤
    Eisenhower’s speech, for those that have never read it

    My fellow Americans:

    Three days from now, after half a century in the service of our country, I shall lay down the responsibilities of office as, in traditional and solemn ceremony, the authority of the Presidency is vested in my successor.

    This evening I come to you with a message of leave-taking and farewell, and to share a few final thoughts with you, my countrymen.

    Like every other citizen, I wish the new President, and all who will labor with him, Godspeed. I pray that the coming years will be blessed with peace and prosperity for all.

    Our people expect their President and the Congress to find essential agreement on issues of great moment, the wise resolution of which will better shape the future of the Nation.

    My own relations with the Congress, which began on a remote and tenuous basis when, long ago, a member of the Senate appointed me to West Point, have since ranged to the intimate during the war and immediate post-war period, and, finally, to the mutually interdependent during these past eight years.

    In this final relationship, the Congress and the Administration have, on most vital issues, cooperated well, to serve the national good rather than mere partisanship, and so have assured that the business of the Nation should go forward. So, my official relationship with the Congress ends in a feeling, on my part, of gratitude that we have been able to do so much together.

    II

    We now stand ten years past the midpoint of a century that has witnessed four major wars among great nations. Three of these involved our own country. Despite these holocausts America is today the strongest, the most influential and most productive nation in the world. Understandably proud of this pre-eminence, we yet realize that America’s leadership and prestige depend, not merely upon our unmatched material progress, riches and military strength, but on how we use our power in the interests of world peace and human betterment.

    III

    Throughout America’s adventure in free government, our basic purposes have been to keep the peace; to foster progress in human achievement, and to enhance liberty, dignity and integrity among people and among nations. To strive for less would be unworthy of a free and religious people. Any failure traceable to arrogance, or our lack of comprehension or readiness to sacrifice would inflict upon us grievous hurt both at home and abroad.

    Progress toward these noble goals is persistently threatened by the conflict now engulfing the world. It commands our whole attention, absorbs our very beings. We face a hostile ideology-global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method. Unhappily the danger it poses promises to be of indefinite duration. To meet it successfully, there is called for, not so much the emotional and transitory sacrifices of crisis, but rather those which enable us to carry forward steadily, surely, and without complaint the burdens of a prolonged and complex struggle-with liberty at stake. Only thus shall we remain, despite every provocation, on our charted course toward permanent peace and human betterment.

    Crises there will continue to be. In meeting them, whether foreign or domestic, great or small,there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties. A huge increase in newer elements of our defense; development of unrealistic programs to cure every ill in agriculture; a dramatic expansion in basic and applied research-these and many other possibilities, each possibly promising in itself, may be suggested as the only way to the road we which to travel.

    But each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs-balance between the private and the public economy, balance between cost and hoped for advantage-balance between the clearly necessary and the comfortably desirable; balance between our essential requirements as a nation and the duties imposed by the nation upon the individual; balance between action of the moment and the national welfare of the future. Good judgment seeks balance and progress; lack of it eventually finds imbalance and frustration.

    The record of many decades stands as proof that our people and their government have, in the main, understood these truths and have responded to them well, in the face of stress and threat. But threats, new in kind or degree, constantly arise. I mention two only.

    IV

    A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction.

    Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peace time, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.

    Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United State corporations.

    This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence-economic, political, even spiritual-is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

    In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

    We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

    Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.

    In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.

    Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been over shadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

    The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.

    Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.

    It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system-ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.

    V

    Another factor in maintaining balance involves the element of time. As we peer into society’s future, we-you and I, and our government-must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.

    VI

    Down the long lane of the history yet to be written America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.

    Such a confederation must be one of equals. The weakest must come to the conference table with the same confidence as do we, protected as we are by our moral, economic, and military strength. That table, though scarred by many past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of the battlefield.

    Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative. Together we must learn how to compose difference, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose. Because this need is so sharp and apparent I confess that I lay down my official responsibilities in this field with a definite sense of disappointment. As one who has witnessed the horror and the lingering sadness of war-as one who knows that another war could utterly destroy this civilization which has been so slowly and painfully built over thousands of years-I wish I could say tonight that a lasting peace is in sight.

    Happily, I can say that war has been avoided. Steady progress toward our ultimate goal has been made. But, so much remains to be done. As a private citizen, I shall never cease to do what little I can to help the world advance along that road.

    VII

    So-in this my last good night to you as your President-I thank you for the many opportunities you have given me for public service in war and peace. I trust that in that service you find somethings worthy; as for the rest of it, I know you will find ways to improve performance in the future.

    You and I-my fellow citizens-need to be strong in our faith that all nations, under God, will reach the goal of peace with justice. May we be ever unswerving in devotion to principle, confident but humble with power, diligent in pursuit of the Nation’s great goals.

    To all the peoples of the world, I once more give expression to America’s prayerful and continuing inspiration:

    We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races, all nations, may have their great human needs satisfied; that those now denied opportunity shall come to enjoy it to the full; that all who yearn for freedom may experience its spiritual blessings; that those who have freedom will understand, also, its heavy responsibilities; that all who are insensitive to the needs of others will learn charity; that the scourges of poverty, disease and ignorance will be made to disappear from the earth, and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love.

  • Thank you Erik. I linked to it above, but this is better for some.

    This speech, and the concerns expressed in it, have stood up to Time. They are only more relevant fifty years later.

    • Yep, couldn’t resist posting the text. There is video somewhere as well. It’s strange, so many people in my life have been mentioning this speech lately, very apropos to this time in history.

  • It’s the people who do not fight the wars, starting the wars…

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