Graduate Success Stories series, we chose this month to talk with Philip Hellmich, author of God and Conflict: A Search for Peace in a Time of Crisis (Published 2012, Spirit of Peace Press, Petaluma, CA, www.godandconflict.com). Philip, known better to his Summer 1990 FSM classmates as “Phil-Bob”, said it was “coincidence” that brought him to the massage school 23 years ago. Philip goes into great detail about his exploration of peace, including his time at FSM, in his book God and Conflict.
Coming off of four years working with the Peace Corps in the Sierra Leone bush in West Africa, Philip said,
“I was trying to come to terms with the materialism and consumerism I encountered when I got back, and the impact it has on the world. I was confused and upset.”
by Michael Broas
I am standing at my massage table, laying my hands on a man about my age, who is also a veteran of the same war that I was in, but with a very major difference; He was in the North Vietnamese Army, my former enemy, who I tried to kill and who tried to kill me. I notice a scar near his scapula that looks as if it might be a bullet wound, so I call over an interpreter to ask him about the scar. He laughs and says, yes, that is one of his scars and yes, he did get shot. I ask him where he was in Viet Nam when this happened and he replies that he was in Pleiku in the Central Highlands of Viet Nam, which happens to be where I served in 1969-70. I ask him when he was shot and he states that it was sometime around Christmas in 1969. I get a tingly sensation in my body, as I was in a large firefight, one that I will never forget, on December 22nd, 1969. I communicate this to this man, and he looks up with a huge smile and says “Isn’t that so funny, that both of us didn’t kill each other and are here now to be happy together? We can now love and make peace! “ In that moment for me, the past crashes into the present, bringing with it a soothing salve on a bitter and terrifying memory.
by Michael Broas
After visiting Friendship Village near Hanoi, we next traveled south to the city of Hue, which was the site of one of the longest and bloodiest battles of the Viet Nam war, lasting a total of 26 days in 1968. Hue is also near the DMZ, or Demilitarized Zone, where we visited several other famous battle sites. It is so interesting to go to those locations that I had only heard of and that were charged with such strong memories of a time so long ago. While in Hue, we also visited the Thien Mu Pagoda, one of Viet Nam’s oldest and most beautiful Buddhist Pagoda’s, located on the north side of the Perfume River. Lying in juxtaposition just across the river is the Citadel, where a large battle was fought during the war. It was interesting for me to think that while the battle raged at the Citadel, the monks continued to offer their prayers for peace just a short distance away.
The staff of FSM recently teamed up with current students and graduates to win $500 in a local kickball tournament. The money was donated directly to the River Phoenix Center for Peacebuilding, the school’s charity of choice. The Alachua County Emerging Leaders (ACEL) sponsored the event on Saturday, February 2. The FSM team consisted of staff Bob Lee, Joe Cosenza, Sarah Abruscato, Mary Reis, Doug Loeb, Samantha Jones, Larsen McBride and eight FSM students and graduates. “The entire event was a lot of fun!” said Bob Lee. “I haven’t played kickball since I was a kid and revisiting the game as an adult in a friendly competitive environment was a real treat. I really enjoyed the team aspect as well. This particular event included a first for the FSM outreach team in that it was centered on kickball. Lee said, “As a massage therapist we often work alone and playing on a team with a common goal was rewarding. It was a very family-oriented and community-minded event, and really well organized. The entire ACEL staff was friendly, grateful, and supportive.” Lee is the school’s event and outreach coordinator. He said this tournament was one of many different ways the school reaches out to the community by providing chair massage and a spirited presence at locations throughout North Central Florida. The students of the Florida School of Massage also complete hands-on program requirements by working with the elderly at the Alachua Nursing Center and with children and families at the Ronald McDonald House, as well as in the affordable Student Clinic at the school’s location on SW 13th Street. The FSM presence is also felt at the Farmer’s Market, and at various job and health fairs including on the University of Florida and Santa Fe College campuses.