'You Did It to Me'

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Meet Deacon Vincent Ricciardi

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By Joan Lamar (Jun 28, 2016)
This story first appeared in the Summer issue of Marian Helper magazine. To get a free copy of the magazine, click here.

When Vincent Ricciardi was sent to Da Nang on May 10, 1968, the United States was at the height of its involvement in the war in Vietnam. The "Tet Offensive" had taken place that January, as the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong directed their combined power against the South Vietnamese and U.S. forces. A member of the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne and 10th Special Forces, Vince was sent to Vietnam to assist in the raging conflict, but his time there was cut short. On May 28, 1968, 18 days after he arrived, he was seriously wounded. For Vince, that's when his life's mission began.

Describe what happened that day you were seriously wounded.

Our unit was going on to Hills 100 A and B. As we made our ascent, we took some casualties. I was about a half hour into the firefight and got shot. I continued to move, got hit by a rocket, but it didn't explode. Two more rockets came in, and I got blown up into the air and then got shot again. It was a little over eight hours before we were medevaced out of the area. Just as I got onto the helicopter, I got shot in the rear and, as we were flying out, I got shot in the leg. When I got to the field hospital, a young doctor on staff examined me and said, "There's nothing I can do here, let's move on." I screamed at him, "I'm only 18 years old, and you're gonna let me die?" The surgeon in charge heard my yelling and came over to me and said, "Don't worry, kid, I'm going to take care of you." The surgery was about 20 hours long because there were so many fragments. They were able to get the bullets out, but during the surgery I had an out-of-body experience. I was very comfortable and remember a brightness, but it was very serene. I was able to watch what was happening as the surgeon who was operating on me was massaging my heart. And I heard the words, "It's not your time."

What were some of the residual effects of your wounds in Vietnam?

Nightmares. Daymares. Tremors. I was diagnosed with [what we know today as] Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but back then, doctors didn't really know how to treat it, so a group of us Vietnam veterans got together and sort of helped each other, counseling one another. That's basically how we coped with life.

You are now a deacon in the Church and have a healing ministry where you meet with and counsel soldiers who have seen combat. How is the Lord using your military experience and its effects in your ministry?

I knew the Lord was calling me to do something more and was ordained a deacon in 2005 for the Diocese of Trenton, New Jersey, and helped found Divine Mercy New Jersey, as well as a healing ministry that incorporates Divine Mercy. Within our diocese, we have Fort Dix and McGuire Air Force Base, and we minister to a lot of soldiers. A lot of the men and women from the bases have heard about our Divine Mercy healing ministry, so they find us. When I meet with soldiers or combat veterans who suffer from PTSD, I tell them how I was able to overcome PTSD. Initially, they see in me somebody who cares about them and is willing to listen to them and that they are not alone. With PTSD, they feel alone. They begin to believe that no one can help them — or that no one wants to help them. I tell them that I was able to beat PTSD because I got close to Jesus and allowed Him to take over my life. When you bring Jesus into the picture, you can overcome this, too, I tell them.

What are some of the issues these soldiers are dealing with?

Many soldiers who have seen combat suffer from drug and alcohol addictions. A lot of them are treated with a variety of drugs because of their injuries and other PTSD-related ailments, and they become dependent on them. I know from personal experience that these drugs are addictive because I was treated with a valium-type drug for my PTSD, and I became immune to the drug. This practice of overprescribing medications is still happening with our veterans today. "Drug 'em up," is how I characterize the situation. But this can lead to drug abuse, homelessness, alcohol abuse, and spousal abuse.

How do you bring Divine Mercy into your ministry?

Every time I counsel a soldier or veteran, we pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet. A lot of the healing in this ministry comes through them praying the chaplet and saying, "Jesus, I trust in You." These are the most powerful words they can say. Deep prayer, deep belief in Jesus, and coming together as a community in Church is the most effective treatment for these soldiers.

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Patty - Jul 7, 2016

Whoever reads this, would you kindly pray for me as I may also be suffering from PTSD after reading this and have been praying for help. I suffered differently from spousal abuse being hit and having plates thrown at me and verbal abuse. Please pray for healing for me. Thank You.

Sympathy for Divine Mercy - Jul 10, 2016

Prayer