Sometimes in the middle of the night, when Chester Peek can’t sleep, he slips out of bed and goes to the living room where he can turn on the light and not disturb his wife, Leslie, who is sleeping.
There, he sits in his chair with his notebook and pen and the poems just come pouring out. Maybe it’s a poem about the weather, or the church on the hill in his hometown of McCleary. But more often than not, it’s a memory of his time served in Vietnam.
“It’s an outlet that helps me with my PTSD,” said McCleary, now 70 and retired living in Bremerton. “I’m not sure how long ago I started writing. It was just my therapy when I couldn’t sleep at night.”
For years after he was in Vietnam, Peek suffered with memories of the war. At first, he didn’t know what was wrong with him. People didn’t talk about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder then, he said. But he just knew he wasn’t right.
Peek was 23 when he went to Vietnam. The year was 1960. He served in the U.S. Navy for eight years and saw two tours of Vietnam in the brown water Navy repair unit in Danang. For 12 months, he was attached to the floating dry dock and the LCM-6 repair boat, making simple repairs to the river combat boats.
He also served on the USS Henderson in Vietnam for seven months.
When he returned to Washington state, he worked as a logger, did millwork in McCleary, picked brush, and for 23 years he was a sandblaster and painter at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.
He met and married his wife in 1970 and together they have a son and a daughter and two stepsons and a granddaughter. His daughter lives in Bremerton and works at Bangor. His son works in Washington, D.C. and is director for the Passport office there.
He is an active member of the VFW Post 239 in Bremerton and the DAV Chapter 5.
When his PTSD first surfaced, he tried to get help at the Veteran’s Administration.
“Some of the poems are about my frustrations with the VA,” he said. “I wrote them during the time I was trying to find out what was wrong with me. It took more than four years but I did finally get a 50 percent disability.”
Part of that includes working with a treatment program through the VA that helps veterans with PTSD. He goes to group meetings with others who have PTSD.
“Those meetings do help and my writing helps,” he said. “Some things I can’t put into words to say, but I can write them down. I never sit down and decide what I’m going to write. I just write whatever comes to mind.”
His poems often reflect his thoughts of the time he spent in Vietnam.
“I couldn’t say what my worst memory is,” he said. “There are lots of them. But my best memory is leaving, even though I felt guilty that I was going home and for the guys I was leaving behind.”
Today, Peek is working on his second book of poems. His first, “Collected Writings By a Vietnam Veteran,” published in February, is sold on He’s also taken up knitting and makes military hobo scarves in the selected colors of various branches of the service. And he works with the local drag races put on by the Handlers and Westbay Auto Parts.
He is known to some for his tunnel of fire motorcycle stunts from 1971 to 1975, where he set the world record in 1972 when he rode a motorcycle through a tunnel of fire for a distance of 60 feet.
Peek isn’t sure how many more poems he has in him. But as long as they keep coming to his mind, he’ll keep writing them down and sharing them with others.
“My dream is to sell a million books,” he said. “I want others to enjoy my memories and my thoughts and maybe they’ll help someone else who is suffering with memories of Vietnam.”

Poems by Peek:

Military Veterans

The days are short
The nights are long
Year after year
The Military Veterans
are still on guard.
This is a way of life
for them.
A Band of Brothers and
Sisters to the end.
God Bless our Military Veterans
We would not have our freedoms
without them.
Just say thank you to our
Military Veterans.
They will just smile as they
stand guard
Day after day
Year after year.

The Day Politics Died

The politics of today,
there is no give and take.
The Democrats want it their way.
The Republicans want it their way.
The give and take has gone away.
The America People’s work
is not taking place.
It is time to have a funeral and
bury the politics of today.