Bringing Vincent Home

In the summer of 1969, Kitty Duvall learns that her son Vincent has been wounded in Vietnam and is being evacuated to the burn ward at Brooke Army Medical Center.  She leaves her home in Baltimore, where she has been holding steady for the sake of her family, and takes her place at Vincent’s bedside.  From her perspective on the burn ward, at the painful heart of a military hospital, Kitty tells a story of profound wounding, medical heroics, death, and survival.  Vincent is a soldier in a particuliar war, during a particularly turbulent period in history, and yet Kitty’s reflections on what it takes to tend to wounds–physical, emotional, spirtitual, and political–will resonate for readers in the present day.

Excerpt from Bringing Vincent Home:

It was late afternoon, and I’d just dropped the last piece of chicken into the skillet, when the phone rang.  I assumed it was mother, who often called around that time of day, right after the soaps.

But it was not my mother.  It was an official, military voice informing me that Vincent had been injured and that they’d be flying him from Vietnam to Japan, and from Japan to the burn ward in Texas.  I was so upset, my hands still covered in flour, that I scribbled the words on the bottom of the calendar next to the phone:  Japan, Brooke Army Medical Center, burn ward –terrible words in blue ink, under the picture of three German shepherd puppies in a basket.

And I remember staring at the flame under the old black skillet, thinking about the pain of just one little spit of grease on the forearm.  I had no idea where Vincent had been burned–his arms, his hands, his face?  I only knew I had to get to to wherever he was, and see for myself.

It was three days before I could fly to Texas, and when I got there it was as though I’d been yanked from the life I’d always known and dropped onto a blinding hot tarmac.  The air of San Antonio felt suffocating and strange–the air of someone else’s life, not mine.  Everywhere I looked there were people in uniform, reminding me oddly of Penn Station in Baltimore during the forties, those years that members of my generation will always refer to as “The War,” as if there were no other.