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How a soldier found Tolkien to help heal his war wounds

News From Bree

Sep 12 2011, 11:40pm

Post #1 of 6 (1479 views)
How a soldier found Tolkien to help heal his war wounds Can't Post

Jim Beverly and his wife Holly Holt give a quick interview for the live broadcast of TheOneRing.net's coverage of DragonCon. A veteran of Iraq, Beverly credits J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings for helping him recover after war injuries in 2003."]

HIS KNEE AND HANDS WRECKED BY SHRAPNEL FROM THE GRENADE THAT INFAMOUSLY disintegrated the hand of a Time Magazine writer, the 19-year-old private Jim Beverly lay in his hospital bed feeling enraged.

"It was almost like it was a personal insult that a guy would throw that grenade," Beverly said.

Teeth were missing, bandages covered wounds from minor to devastating. His Kevlar vest and helmet undoubtedly saved his life, absorbing most of the pieces of metal that would have pierced a lung and skull. He still seethed as a 2003 casualty of the war in Iraq, recovering in Kaiserslautern, Germany away from what was left of his unit being profiled as part of Time Magazine naming the American Soldier the person of the year in 2003.

Michael Weisskopf, an embedded writer, became part of the story and the editorial team that chronicled the December attack:

Jenks and TIME photographer James Nachtwey.

Shrapnel ricochets off the walls of the humvee, hitting Beverly.

Smoke rises from the high-back. Blood pours from Weisskopf's right arm; when he holds it up, he realizes the grenade has blown off his hand. Specialist Billie Grimes, a medic attached to the platoon, sprints out of the third humvee and hoists herself onto the high-back. She uses a Velcro strap tied to her pant leg as a tourniquet to stop Weisskopf's bleeding and applies a field dressing to the wound while loudly asking the three other passengers if they are injured. Nachtwey, who has taken shrapnel in his left arm, abdomen and both legs, briefly snaps pictures of Grimes treating Weisskopf before losing consciousness.

Weisskopf would go on to write a book about his recovery. Beverly of Akron, Ohio, was immediately speaking with a psychologist after suffering significant injuries in combat - the kind that lead to post traumatic stress disorder. Beverly said the army wanted to get started early.

For several seconds Jenks slumps motionless, stunned, but then instinctively slides his gun's safety to semiautomatic, preparing to return fire. Only later does he learn that shrapnel has fractured his leg.
The convoy halts in front of the mosque. Buxton turns around. "Are there any casualties?" he asks. "Yes! Yes!" replies Beverly. Shrapnel has hit him in the right hand and right knee. Two of his front teeth have been knocked out, and his tongue is lacerated. "Let's go!" he says. "Let's go!" The humvees peel out and roar for home.

Read more at Time.

It was noted later in the Time article that even in post-surgery intensive care in Baghdad a Lord of the Rings DVD played on Beverly's laptop. A long-time reader of fantasy and familiar with interpretations of J.R.R. Tolkien's world by Peter Jackson and Ralph Bakshi, Beverly's doctor asked him what one thing he needed the most.

"Something to read."

Knowing the soldier had enjoyed The Hobbit during artillery school, the doctor had something in mind.

"As part of his treatment plan," Beverly told TheOneRing.net in Atlanta at the 2011 DragonCon, "He brought his personal copies of the Lord of the Rings to me."

He told me, "This is not a loan, it is a gift."

The same books were once given to the doctor in a time of need and in Beverly he found someone who could use them and would treasure them appropriately.

"They spoke to me. They had elements that I was dealing with at the same time. Hope and dread, adversity, perseverance and an overwhelming enemy."

Tolkien's account of war, with a genesis in his own experience in the terrible Battle of the Somme, "absolutely" aided the young Beverly, several decades after they were written, in his own recovery. He finished the book during his twelve days in the hospital in Kaiserslautern, where he will return in only weeks to carry on his service, this time as a pharmacist.

"It helped me ground myself and gave me escape," he said. "It was a fun, engaging, intelligent story in a genre that I already loved."

The matured version of Beverly that volunteered to help TORn with its "Gandalf World Tour" fan initiative bears some of the scars from his tour in Iraq where he never expected to find combat. His unit, trained to reign His hands bear the marks that are easiest to see, although his knee is probably an interesting collection of scars as well but he wore long pants on the day he visited TORn's fan table.

If Tolkien gets credit for helping the soldier, who never expected to face combat, to overcome his mental and physical wounds, some credit must go to his wife Holly Holt.

Together they accepted the task of getting the European Gandalf statue across the Atlantic Ocean after they make a brief detour to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, intellectual center of the U.S. Army. It seems a fitting place for the pair who love to put their imaginations to work and find common recreational ground in tabletop gaming.

She describes their relationship as "A mutual appreciation of all things nerdy." They "hung" and "dated" and finally made their partnership a permanent one in 2009. Holt grew up reading Dean Koontz and devoured The Hobbit in a day when it was introduced to her. The mutual love for Tolkien "sweetened the punch."

"LOTR was something that helped me recover initially, but it's continued to be something that's helped me reflect and connect with both my wife and our friends, mostly the gaming group. Lord Of The Rings Online has taken this even further, and probably enriched my love for LOTR lore, both in that I can play and keep in touch with my LOTRO friends, as well as experience the story and spirit of Middle Earth in a directly participatory role.

Together they have maxed out their character levels on Lord of the Rings Online and have a tight-night group of game players. They recently discovered TORn through The Hobbit in 5 and attended DragonCon panels on The Hobbit, making the in-person connection needed to get Gandalf across the ocean. While he told his story in the waning moments of the convention as a weekend's worth of revelers began returning home, he didn't display even a glimpse of emotion about the life-changing violence and injuries he experienced. The same can't be said of the journalist who has heard hundreds of personal accounts of how Tolkien's writings made a difference in real life and yet none quite like Beverly's.

In 2003 he told Time: "You've always got to expect the worst, and I'm glad that's not what happened."

In 2011, it seemed pretty far from that.

(This post was edited by entmaiden on Sep 13 2011, 12:36pm)

Grey Havens

Sep 13 2011, 7:51am

Post #2 of 6 (639 views)
What a great story. [In reply to] Can't Post

I have a couple of lists of films and books to be used therapeutically with counseling clients. Tolkien's works are up there, because the deal with some very painful themes, and do show such wonderful examples of perseverance through adversity.

I hope Jim and his wife are doing well!

“Tell me one last thing,” said Harry. “Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?”
“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”


Sep 14 2011, 4:15pm

Post #3 of 6 (603 views)
*tearing* What an inspiration... [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm so very happy he's (both of them) hmade his way to us. Tolkien really is magical. He healed my life the say way, but never to this degree. What a beautiful story and a wonderful fate that Fandalf has gone home with them.

Thank you for this...


I really need these new films to take me back to, and not re-introduce me to, that magical world.

TORn's Observations Lists
Unused Scenes


Sep 14 2011, 5:14pm

Post #4 of 6 (603 views)
Fate or Destiny [In reply to] Can't Post

Or whatever you want to call it. It's as if this meeting was meant to happen, because not only will they be taking Fandalf across the Pond, but then they will get to meet up with other fans over there to pass it along. Truly wonderful.

Peace, Love and Rock & Roll,

The orange stripey One

Cruise to Middle-earth


Sep 14 2011, 11:01pm

Post #5 of 6 (586 views)
Oh, I hope they join us here :) [In reply to] Can't Post

They'd fit right in and be most welcome! *checks stock of Old Winyards*


I really need these new films to take me back to, and not re-introduce me to, that magical world.

TORn's Observations Lists
Unused Scenes


Sep 19 2011, 2:48pm

Post #6 of 6 (546 views)
This is a grand story [In reply to] Can't Post

and fits truly into Tolkien's ever continuing live as life legacy.

May Jim ever be as vital as he is today. A hail and salute to James and Billie as well. Here are all, fine americans.

A hail to all our soldiers as well.

HeartTolkien Lives!Heart

''Sam put his ragged orc-cloak under his master's head, and covered them both with the grey robe of Lorien; and as he did so his thoughts went out to that fair land, and to the Elves, and he hoped that the cloth woven by their hands might have some virtue to keep them hidden beyond all hope in this wilderness of fear...But their luck held, and for the rest of that day they met no living or moving thing; and when night fell they vanished into the darkess of Mordor.'' - - -rotk, chapter III

Faerie contains many things besides elves and fays and besides dwarfs, witches, trolls, giants or dragons; it holds the seas, the sun, the moon, the sky; and the earth, and all things that are one in it: tree and bird, water and stone, wine and bread, and ourselves, mortal men, when we are enchanted."
— J.R.R. Tolkien

May the grace of Manwë let us soar with eagle's wings!

In the air, among the clouds in the sky
Here is where the birds of Manwe fly
Looking at the land, and the water that flows
The true beauty of earth shows
With the stars of Varda lighting my way
In all the realms this is where I stay
In the realm of Manwë Súlimo


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