AT HELL'S GATE is a first-hand account of how the dehumanizing experience of war, along with the experience of family trauma and violence passed down from generation to generation, can create a perception of reality in which atrocity becomes commonplace. At a time when American soldiers are returning home from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, injured both in body and soul, Thomas' s memoir of serving in Vietnam and returning home is especially relevant.
In this raw and moving memoir, Claude AnShin Thomas recounts the story of his service in Vietnam, his subsequent emotional collapse, and how he was ultimately able to find healing and peace. Thomas volunteered for duty in Vietnam at the age of eighteen, where he served as a crew chief on assault helicopters. By the end of his tour of duty, he had been awarded numerous medals, including the Purple Heart. He had also been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people, witnessed horrifying cruelty, and narrowly escaped death on a number of occasions.
But upon his return to "normal" life, he hit rock bottom and was unable to function. Like many Vietnam vets, he struggled with post-traumatic stress, drug and alcohol addiction, and even homelessness. He suffered intense flashbacks, and thought regularly of suicide. He was not alone. Roughly 58,000 Americans were killed in Vietnam, but, according to a former director of the Veterans Administration, over 100,000 Vietnam veterans have committed suicide in the years since.