In November, 2009, I met Edward for the first time at the Journalism & Media Faculty of Hà Nội University of Social Sciences and Humanities.
A female student of mine named Ngọc cheerfully introduced to me a gentleman:
“This is Edward from the US, my adoptive father.
He wants to thank you for teaching me how to be a journalist.”
Edward Tick holds his book “The Golden Tortoise: Việt Nam Journeys” in hands at his house in Albany, the capital city of New York
That day, Ph.D holder Edward Tick, founding director of the US-based non-profit Soldier’s Heart, led a group of American veterans to pay a visit to the university.
Edward has annually traveled to Việt Nam since 2000 to offer psychological treatment to US veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after they were involved in Việt Nam War.
People with PTSD often feel frightened, sad, anxious, and disconnected.
The American friend then gave me a book titled
“The Golden Tortoise: Việt Nam Journeys”
which is about his journey to Việt Nam, aiming to heal American veterans’ wounds caused by the war.
“I heard that the sacred turtle still lives in Hồ Gươm (Sword Lake) [also known as Hồ Hoàn Kiếm (Returning Sword Lake)],”
“I have walked around the lake several times and bought some greenstone turtles from Việt Nam which we used to decorate our house in the US.
It seems to be a fate that I met Ngọc.
Does Kim Qui (The Golden Turtle God) help me find her?” he added.
Kim Qui is a golden turtle god that lives in the lake in Hà Nội, known as Hoàn Kiếm Lake.
It was mentioned in two important moments in history.
The first was during the reign of the An Dương Vương King where Kim Qui gave one of his claws to the king from which a magic crossbow was made to help the king protect his kingdom of Âu Lạc (the name of the Vietnamese state from 257 BC to 207 BC).
The second revelation was sixteen centuries later, where he bestowed the legendary sword Thuận Thiên to help Lê Lợi (founder of the Le Dynasty) rebel against the Ming occupation of Đại Việt (official name of Vietnamese dynasties beginning with the rule of Lý Thánh Tông (1054-1072).
A group of teen girls gather at Hoàn Kiếm Lake in Hà Nội
Philosophy of war & peace
Edward loves Hà Nội since he falls in love with Kim Qui but he hates war.
Though he is a citizen of the US which waged war against Việt Nam, he spoke frankly in his first email to me:
“Dear friend, I’ve never stopped protesting the Việt Nam War and I’m always sorry for any pain that our country caused to your country.”
In fact, Edward has devoted all his life to healing the spiritual wounds of returning Việt Nam War veterans.
To treat the veterans with PTSD, Edward brings them back to their former battlegrounds in Việt Nam to help bring back memories as well as giving them an opportunity to get in touch with the Vietnamese psyche and legends including the legendary Kim Qui that represents Vietnamese people’s philosophy of war & peace.
Legend has it that King Lê Lợi helped repel the invading Chinese forces with a sword presented to him by a deity in the form of a giant turtle living in the lake.
So the lake was named Hoàn Kiếm which means “returning sword”.
So, Edward insisted that “unsheathing sword and returning word” reflects a sound philosophy of the Vietnamese people about war and peace.
In 2010, Edward brought more than 20 US veterans back to Việt Nam and he himself spent several days attending the grand ceremony on the 1,000th anniversary of Thăng Long -Hà Nội (1010-2010).
I was invited to set up a schedule for them.
During an interactive session that year, Edward explained in detail how he treated PTSD and shared that he got some amazing results which received strong supports from the US government.
When I visited his house in Albany, the capital city of New York, a greenstone turtle on the doorsill caught my eyes.
He and Kate – his wife – welcomed us in the way Vietnamese people often do:
Burning incense sticks and giving them to guests.
We later put them on the incense burner on the ancestral altar on which photos of ancestors on his paternal and maternal side were placed.
In the living room, Kate set a table of Vietnamese tea for guests, both Vietnamese and Americans, and played Vietnamese songs.
Their house’s walls are decorated with paintings of Hoàn Kiếm Lake while more than 10 greenstone turtles sit along the bookshelf and staircase.
Edward pointed at one greenstone turtle, saying:
“That is the Turtle God from Hoàn Kiếm Lake, our guardian angel, that I picked up from Hà Nội.
It helps protect my house.”
“All the turtles in my house are Turtle Gods in Hoàn Kiếm Lake,” the couple said with a smile.
He talked about Kim Qui at all seminars we attended at the University of Albany.
As far as I know, he introduces the sacred turtle and philosophy of Vietnamese people about war and peace anywhere he has been to.
NGUYỄN THỊ MINH THÁI