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Novel tackles veterans' care

The Camp Verde Journal of Camp Verde, Arizona

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In "Forget You Must Remember," local author and Army veteran Nathan Hansen fictionalizes his own psychological break and subsequent intake into a mental ward within Carl Hayden Veterans Hospital in Phoenix.

"When I sat down to write this, I knew it was a story that needed to be told — because it's a story, by my estimation, that tens of thousands of quiet veterans know all too intimately," Hansen stated. "Ideally, I'd love to raise awareness for veterans' causes and mental illness, but first people have to realize there's an issue."

According to Hansen, "Forget You Must Remember" is inspired in part by unacceptable conditions for returned service members. Currently, veterans are 50 percent more likely to commit suicide than their civilian counterparts. Every day, veterans die because of the inefficiency of the VA health care system.

"Why don't veterans have the same health care as members of Congress who send them to war?" Hansen asked. "In the meantime, these same congress people defund the VA. Granted, we're talking about my book, not legislation. My book is just words. The thing is, the oaths service members took were, too, and that commitment should be reciprocated."

During the writing of the autobiographical novel, Hansen made use of an admittedly unusual narrative device: The second-person perspective. You, as both reader and main character, experience what Hansen describes as an aimless journey "through a system of diagnoses and pharmaceutical regimens."

"I intentionally wanted to force the issue by making it second person," Hansen explained. "I wanted the reader inoculated with the visceral experience. By incorporating footnotes in third person, I allow the reader to see the varying perspectives from all the people who interact with the protagonist, you; EMTs, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, orderlies.

"It's my goal to bring all of these people together; patients and personnel, veterans and victims. Sit them down, I'll read to them. We'll laugh. We'll cry. And hopefully we'll come up with some answers to the problems we have these days.... Ideally, I'd love to use this as a catalyst and spark real debate about health care."

Hansen admitted that he was in a "bad space" when he wrote "Forget You Must Remember." Separated from his family, sleeping on a deflated mattress in the borrowed room of a trailer, he was "rapid cycling between manic highs and depressive lows" when fortunes struck: Over one long weekend, he composed over a hundred pages of lucid memories.

"I flushed a lot of pity away by writing 'The End,' Hansen stated. "What I'm curious about now is how the book will be received. People don't know me so much as the mental former soldier, as they do the school teacher and cofounder of a nonprofit school. People see me as playing shortstop for a small town softball team, not the guy who's been hospitalized six or seven times for hallucinations and suicidal ideations.

"But who's the better person now for being open and honest, more conscious and alive? Beats lying to yourself, lying on a cold floor, piss drunk off cheap wine."

"Forget You Must Remember" will be released from Jaded Ibis Productions mid-November.

For information, visit

Zachary Jernigan can be reached at 282-7795 ext. 125 or

"Ideally, I'd love to raise awareness for veterans' causes and mental illness, but first people have to realize there's an issue."

Nathan Hansen

Author of "Forget You Must Remember"

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Original Publication Date: October 21, 2015

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