Portrait by Tao Nguyen

Friday, March 27, 2015


My former husband was twice deployed to Vietnam. I have memories of how changed he was when he returned. He looked the same, but looks can be deceiving. I had no idea what was going on inside his mind. While he was overseas he wrote letters about missing me and looking forward to coming home, but they never revealed anything about what it was like being there. His fear. His trauma. These were his guarded secrets. Years later, long divorced and both of us remarried, we finally had a long phone conversation about his Vietnam experience. It was cathartic. We cried.

I wrote “VANILLA GRASS, a novel of redemption” about the challenges Veterans past and present face with flashbacks and depression as part of their daily struggle with PTSD. Until recently, post deployment integration has offered little help readjusting after coming home from war. Thankfully that’s beginning to change. This is so important because there are 22 reported military suicides daily. It's a national tragedy.

“VANILLA GRASS” shows the healing power of dogs for those struggling with PTSD when conventional attempts of therapy have failed. With their heightened senses of empathy and instinct, dogs are capable of bonding with humans to become their emotional healers. With this book I’ve attempted to raise awareness of the challenges our veterans and active military are coping with in their day-to-day lives. The story also exposes current problems with a fictitious group of at-risk teenagers who are promiscuous, talk slang, swear, smoke pot, rob houses, and have no goals. I’ve written how through example, the importance of community banding together to make a positive change in these kids’ lives brings forth surprising results.

The "star" of my book is Sage. She was a nine-month-old abused Golden Retriever puppy, blind in one eye, being chocked to death by a chain around her neck that had been slipped over her head when she was much smaller. I rescued her on her "last day" at the shelter and she lived five happy years with our two other Goldens who became her canine pals. Sadly the early abuse she suffered cut her life short. I have resurrected Sage in my novel because her courage and spirit made her the perfect companion for my Vietnam Vet battling PTSD. Writing about her brought her back to me for a little while. I miss her every day.

"VANILLA GRASS" is available from the usual online retailers and directly from Robertson Publishing. You can also purchase it from my website www.lesliebratspis.com and there's a "shop now" link on its Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Leslie-Bratspis-Vanilla-Grass/1459047377684683?ref=hl

Thank you!
Leslie Bratspis

Twitter:  @LeslieBratspis

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