The Private War of Corporal Henson

by E. Michael Helms

From the Introduction:

Vietnam didn’t stay in Southeast Asia. It followed former U.S. Marine Corporal Nathan Henson back to the World—his hometown in the Florida panhandle. Seventeen years later, specters from ’Nam still haunt the corners of Nathan’s life and the recurring nightmarish scenes of carnage won’t die. Desperate, he seeks help and joins a support group for Vietnam combat veterans.

Now a new war begins—against Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In a series of gut-wrenching sessions, Nathan faces the ghosts of his past and shares the struggles of others as they confront and relive horrors and dark secrets kept locked inside.

There’s Vic Guerino, a former Army helicopter pilot trying to adjust to the boredom of a grounded life, Dan “Doc” Matthews, wrestling with addiction brought home from the battlefields of Vietnam, and Rene Boudreaux, the loner who withdraws from society with paranoia ruling his every waking moment.

Nathan must conquer the demons of PTSD to win peace in his life, but it’s a harrowing rollercoaster ride through the valley of healing. The path is strewn with heartbreak and humor, hope and despair and love lost and regained.
This is the comeback story of a heroic young man who saw it all, lived through it, and ultimately emerged from the shadows of war.


Trade Paperback
Stairway Press

What others are saying about The Private War of Corporal Henson

““The Private War of Corporal Henson” by E. Michael Helms is a story of the victory of the human spirit in Corporal Nathan Henson. It is about an overcomer at a turning point in life where he can sink, as some of his comrades do, under the burden of PTSD, or embrace another type of battle as an ex-Marine and face the challenge of living and loving fully after seeing a great deal of the worst that life has to offer.

The classic theme of the overcomer who triumphs over all the odds is really what the spirit of the Marine Corps is about. It is what we celebrate in life and is a choice to take a risk and care once more, and grow in depth and character. This book is about a man coming into his own despite great loss and tragedy in his past. The reader cannot help but love Nathan Henson as he lets his landlady’s cat, who is a lush, lap up some beer and follow him around looking for goodies. The cat knows where to find some fun.

This is a tale of dawning understanding of life and forgiveness of himself for things in battle that were not his fault and learning to re-frame experience in a more realistic way. It shows Nathan getting unstuck from the past and moving into a more mature and complex view of living. The story is structured around a series of therapy sessions for combat veterans who are all stuck at the point of trauma and each man’s story is unique and fascinating as is his response to counseling. Nathan’s charming sense of humor is disarming and rings delightfully true. His hilarious bouts with high blood pressure have everything to do with his doctor’s new nurse with the spun gold hair and her rising and falling breasts as she breathes close to him and measures his blood pressure that is invariably high as he all but swoons when her soft hands take his pulse. The corporal discovers that despite all the sex he has had he was still a virgin because he was never emotionally engaged with a woman during sex.

He almost faints when he sees the lady in question “poured” into a nipple showing white bathing suit during a camping trip. “Where’s the rest of it?” He quips while taking in an eyeful.

This book is no holds barred and goes into all the misery of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder so expect some grisly realistic depictions of that malady as well as a road map for sufferers to get well if that is what they want. “The Private War of Corporal Henson” contains hauntingly poetic descriptions of nature that are among the most delicate and beautiful that this reader has encountered in literary classics in the English language. You will be sad when you finish this book and miss Nathan Henson. Thumbs up this is a must read, can’t put it down book.”

    – Michal Payne, 5 Star Review on Amazon


“Given To Me For An Honest Review

The Private War of Corporal Henson by E. Michael Helms is a must read. It's a real page turner and those pages will seem to turn theirselves until you finish reading. I found this to be a good read. It's the story of one Marine who came home after serving in VietNam, but it really is the story of all those who served and came back. They left a war zone, caught a flight and landed in the World but what they found was another war zone.Corporal Henson's story could be anyone's story. They suffered from the horrors of war, the feelings of guilt (they made it back others didn't) the loss of friends, depression, fear of being alone and so many other emotions. As you read this book you will get that feeling that you are drawn in and become a part of this story. I recommend this book to everyone and I look for more great books by E. Michael Helms.”

    – Coco, 5 Star Review on Amazon


“The horrors of war, feelings of guilt, the loss of good friends, the depression of being alone, the thankfulness of survival, the tenderness of love and forgiveness, and the grace of God to live another tomorrow.....all in one book! Absolutely brilliant Mr. Helms! Hollywood should be beating down your door for the rights to make your book a movie. MeadowlarkCSA”

    – Marla Kupronis, 5 Star Review on Amazon


“A well written story, so detailed and emotional account of war. War stories are just gut retching but the transition back to civilian life, that's something else. Suffering from PTSD Nathan Henson Vietnam war veteran faces the struggles and while he search his life, we are privileged to see that journey. The author written the story so well, all the characters and the scenes were vividly imbedded in my mind like watching it unfold in front of me. Wonderful and riveting read. I won this book on Goodreads, First Read Giveaway.”

    – Darlene Cruz, 5 Star Review on Amazon


“A wonderful read!

PRIVATE WAR took me inside the world of combat related PTSD like no other could. In my 35-year career in federal service, 27 years in the combat arms, I was in the periphery of this psychological affliction, but this book and Mike's experiences in Vietnam and with his fellow Marines brought combat stress home to me in a way that I could understand it. I know the author personally, and have always marveled at how he was able to recover. I thank him for his service, his sacrifices and for writing a great book! I recommend this compelling book to all.”

    – C. Hunter, 5 Star Review on Amazon


“A compelling memoir!

Susan Pease Banitt, a Harvard trained psychotherapist and social worker, has quoted remarkably about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as:

“PTSD is a whole-body tragedy, an integral human event of enormous proportions with massive repercussions.”

The Private War of Corporal Henson by E. Michael Helms is a semi-autobiographical memoir which is about a Corporal named Nathan Henson and is also the sequel to The Proud Bastards . Although, I didn't get to read E. Michael Helm's previous book, still after reading this one, I was left completely amazed and touched by Henson's story after the war in Vietnam! We rarely had any idea about the lives of the soldiers after the war and Michael has drawn a vivid picture of them in his new book, The Private War of Corporal Henson .

A complete eye-opener!

First of all, I'd like to thank the author, E. Michael Helms, for giving me this opportunity to read and review his book.

Corporal Henson has returned home to Florida from the war in Vietnam. But along with his luck to be alive from the grotesque war, he has also brought along infinite number of painful memories. Soon he finds that he is suffering from PTSD and hence joins a support group with the other veterans in order to make peace with his ghosts of his past. There he befriends few of the veterans and form a strong brotherly bond with them. But the road to a good life and to make peace with his past seems like a grueling struggle and is filled with enough challenges to make peace with his inner soul.

E. Michael Helms has drawn his readers into this compelling fictional memoir, where the pain is raw and the struggle is strikingly portrayed. And as you turn the pages, you'll fall in love with Helm's storytelling and smooth flow of narration. Also there is enough rocking chemistry that keeps the readers more glued to the book! A story of an emotional wreck cannot be easy to write, but the author has pulled the strings quite skillfully and made the plot not only intriguing but also thoroughly mesmerizing!

Read this book to have a firsthand experience into the lives of those who have felt pain right through their very skin and how hard it is for them to overcome the trauma in a day!”

    – Aditi Saha, 5 Star Review on Amazon


“A story that will stay with you long after you read the last page.......fantastic!

The Private War of Corporal Henson by E. Michael Helms

U.S Marie Corporal Nathan Henson was in the Vietnam War. But he is haunted by gruesome memories daily, and suffering from PTSD. He decides to join a support group with other Vets. There he meets; Dan "Doc" Matthews facing his problems with addiction, Vic Guerino Army fighter pilot trying to cope with his "grounded" life and Rene Bourdeaux, a paranoid loner rebelling against society.

A well written story of life after the war. Vivid details with memories on the battle field, gruesome and heartbreaking. Each person copes in their own self destructive ways, just wanting inner peace and the ghosts of the past to vanish forever. E. Michael Helms knows how to grab your attention and keep you engrossed and wanting to read more. I could not put it down. The Private War of Corporal Henson left an impression that will stay with me for a long time. I strongly recommend to readers of all genres.

*This book was given to me as a gift.”

    – Sheri A. Wilkinson, 5 Star Review on Amazon


“Powerful and emotional story by an awesome writer

The Private War of Corporal Henson, written by E. Michael Helms, is an amazing,honest, real, heart filled, and powerful story that takes you into the lives of four Vietnam War vets after the war is over.

The war may be over but not for these soldiers left scarred by the profound loss and hurt they endured and carried home with them.

They left one war only to come home to a new war all their own. The soldiers in this story are from various MOS's and branches of service, yet they share the same internal battle of learning how to let go of their guilt, pain, and loss so that they may go on living in this polar opposite world they find themselves only half living in. Their other half is still on the battlefield. Will they come out of this new war alive?

This book takes you with them as they try to improvise, adapt, and overcome.

Throughout reading this story, I found myself feeling everything from profound sadness and sorrow to happiness and everything in between. I cried, laughed, expressed anger out-loud, and often I would drift off in deep thought thinking about the soldiers in this story.

You will also want to read 'The Proud Bastards', which is a memoir of the author's experience in the Vietnam War.

POW/MIA/KIA- you are not forgotten!”

    – Christy Trobaugh, 5 Star Review on Amazon


“Another amazing novel by E. Michael Helms!

Anytime you pick up a book by author E. Michael Helms you are guaranteed an incredible read! I was first introduced to Mr. Helms when I read his historical fiction novel, "Of Blood & Brothers: Book One" nearly two years ago. Since then I have read every book he has written and fall more in love with his fictional stylings every time.

The Private War of Corporal Henson actually follows his book, The Proud Bastards, which is a semi-autobiographical story of his time in the Vietnam War. That little background only serves to draw readers deeper into this book and connect even more emotionally with Corporal Henson.

This book, as with all of Mr. Helms books, is a wonderful read and one that readers will enjoy from cover to cover.”

    – Ashley LaMar, 5 Star Review on Amazon


“A compelling look at loss in the wake of Vietnam...

THE PRIVATE WAR OF CORPORAL HENSON was quite honestly more than I expected. I thoroughly enjoyed THE PROUD BASTARDS, Helms' memoir of his time as a marine in Vietnam, but didn't know what to expect from the fictional (and semi-autobiographical) sequel. Not only is THE PRIVATE WAR OF CORPORAL HENSON the heart-rending story of a group of veterans facing down their demons, it is also--surprisingly--a compelling romance. I appreciate and admire Helms' style in dealing with such an emotional and complex premise. How are veterans supposed to reacclimatize to a society that has moved on where they cannot? And more universally--how do we deal with loss? Helms takes these questions on in a case-by-case look through the lives of his well-drawn and most-believable characters. Be it Vic Guerino's familial struggles, Dan Matthews' flirtation with the needle, or Nathan Henson's inability to find intimate connection, all was handled with the deft and beautifully descriptive hand of an author who has dealt with his own loss and hence paints a story that is refreshingly un-contrived. THE PROUD BASTARDS was fascinating because of its gritty and brave portrayal of an unpopular war; THE PRIVATE WAR OF CORPORAL HENSON is more so because it tackles a far more courageous endeavor--not the recounting of events but their emotional aftermath.”

    – April Khaito, 4 Star Review on Amazon


“A Powerful Story from the Heart of Powerful Author

Once again, E. Michael Helms has rocked me to my knees with his words. The Private War of Corporal Henson follows a young soldier returning from Vietnam, to the unwelcoming arms of the country he swore to serve with his life. He may no longer be on the battlefield, but the trauma his heart and mind underwent is still burning through him, neatly labled PTSD. How does a man deal with the horrors of war, the loss of friends, and the guilt of surviving when he no longer fits in the civilian world he has returned to? Tortured by nightmares and flashbacks, Nathan Henson finds a common ground and a brotherhood in a group of vets also struggling to find a way to cope. Together they form a bond where brother can lean on brother, where it is okay to cry, to laugh and to remember. Their group is a safe zone for their darkest horrors. But will it be enough to overcome the soul haunting guilt?

Years have passed and still Nathan Henson suffers as he refuses to give up on healing. When those he thought were strong falter, where will he find the strength to hang on? Nathan seeks to fill the void in his heart that even his “brothers” can’t fill, giving him hope and terrifying him at the same time. Is Nathan worthy of love? Is he able to give it or will he lose his tenuous hold on his demons and push away a second chance at life and love?

E. Michael Helms writes from the heart, from experiences he can relate to and has lived. With each page, the suffering of these men comes to life in an up close way as the brutal truth of their abandonment and lack of understanding from the country they served fails to give them more than a band-aid for their gaping wounds. For me, it was terrifying to be in the mind of Nathan Henson, to know that so many are still prisoners of a war that ended long ago and few are able to find escape. E. Michael Helms reminds us that time cannot always heal all wounds when they become entangled in an evil so vile, despicable and unthinkable. We can read about it, watch someone we know try to “deal” with PTSD, but only one who has come through that hell can truly understand. With his amazing gift for writing, Mr. Helms has once again created characters that come to life with a realism that will clutch at your heart and burrow deep into your soul. He has taken a dark topic, and remembered to light a candle of hope for his main character, as well as those who got to know Nathan, signature Helms writing, powerful magnetic.”

    – Dii, 5 Star Review on Amazon (Dii is a Top 500 Reviewer)


“Yet another fantastic book from author E. Michael Helms

(review via

“It wasn’t the homecoming Nathan Henson had envisioned… a quick flight back to “the World” on a freedom bird to some west coast airport where one could hopefully slip back into the heartland unnoticed by hostile demonstrators. Forty-eight hours from the jungle to the streets. Welcome home.“

For Corporal Henson, the war may be over, but the battle has just begun. Suffering from PTSD, he struggles to adjust back to civilian life, haunted by memories from the battlefield, and of his fellow soldiers who lost their lives there.

In search of healing, he joins a group with other veterans where they recount their tales and experiences, forming a deep bond of brotherhood. The road to recovery is difficult- the war has taken its toll on all of them, though they each have different ways of dealing with it. Some better than others.

For Nathan, his saving grace comes in the form of a beautiful young woman, giving him a second chance at a love that he thought he would never feel again. And yet, the scars remain- and the more he struggles to come to terms with his past, and to help his brother soldiers, the more he fears he will lose everything all over again.

Yet another fantastic book from author E. Michael Helms, The Private War is honest and real, offering the reader a glimpse into the everyday realities of our veterans. To me, this book had a much different feel than the other works I have read by Helms, written with a raw emotion and almost desperate sincerity, though it certainly kept all the key marks I have come to expect from this author- complex characters, true romance, and the ultimate struggle of good over evil. Written as a semi-autobiographical fictional sequel to “The Proud Bastards”, Helms draws upon his own experiences during the Vietnam war to shape this powerful story of human emotion and struggle. Highly recommended!

I have received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.”

    – Mike, 5 Star Review on Amazon