Fire Mission! Fire Mission! by Larry Kenneth Hunter with Mark Randall

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America’s war in Vietnam caused Larry Kenneth Hunter to fight the two most desperate battles of his life. The first occurred in 1966 at Chu Phong Mountain when more than 1,000 North Vietnamese Army troops ambushed his company. The second came in 2012 when the after-effects of exposure to Agent Orange paralyzed him multiple myeloma—commonly known as bone cancer—a disease with symptoms that often do not appear until the disease reaches a highly advanced stage.

With encouragement from his therapist, Dr. Mark Randall, Hunter tells the stories of these battles in Fire Mission! Fire Mission! A Forward Observer’s Experiences in Vietnam (Koehler Books, 172 pp. $2.95, hardcover; $15.95, paper; $7.99, Kindle). Almost all of the book’s Vietnam War recollections are based on letters Hunter exchanged with his wife Judy.

Larry Hunter served seven and a half months as a forward observer with the First Air Cavalry Division operating from An Khe. He flew in more than 25 engagements during search-and-destroy missions that usually lasted from two to four weeks. His company killed a great number of enemy soldiers—the majority attributed to artillery fire—but suffered many casualties. Hunter explains how the Cav initially learned by doing.

Sent to rescue crews of three downed helicopter at Chu Phong, Hunter and his men instantly were ambushed. During fighting that began in late afternoon and extended through the night, his unit lost half of its 130 men, primarily its officers. After the North Vietnamese shot down a Chinook sent to rescue the rescuers, Hunter assumed control of the operation. Although convinced that it was his last day on earth, he masterfully directed Army helicopter gunships and Air Force fighter-bombers and managed to resupply the men with ammunition—actions that helped his company survive until morning. He received a Bronze Star with V device for his courage and leadership.

When he went to Vietnam, Hunter left behind his wife and a newborn son. In exchanging letters, Judy Hunter provided strong support for the war and for her husband’s role in it. Avidly following First Cavalry news reports, she enthusiastically commented on the unit’s success. “Heard yesterday where 1st Cav destroyed an entire Battalion of NVA,” she wrote in one letter. “Good work.” Both repeatedly thanked God for sparing Larry Hunter from injury.

With his wife’s strong support, Hunter was nearly equally successful in his fight against cancer. After a successful thirty-year business management career, the couple had nearly finished building their dream retirement home when Hunter became partially paralyzed from cancer.

They counterattacked the disease with every available weapon: radiation, chemo, new drugs, physical therapy, a stem cell transplant, months of isolation, and faith in God. Although multiple myeloma is considered incurable, one doctor enthusiastically told Hunter: “Your blood results are fantastic. You are in complete remission.”

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Capt. Hunter

Twenty-one months later, in 2016, the cancer returned, and Hunter has been fighting a life-and-death battle ever since. He and Judy still pray and enjoy days of temporary victory.

Fire Mission! Fire Mission! held my attention for several reasons. Hunter, for one thing, provides map overlays of significant missions. And he teaches lessons about employing artillery: “We’ve put Batteries into some of the wildest country you’ve ever seen,” he writes. “You couldn’t have pulled in there in a truck in less than a month and in minutes we started shooting for the Infantry.” He pays tributes to officers and enlisted men killed in action.

Most important, however, Larry and Judy Hunter accepted whatever challenges confronted them. For me, reading about their indomitable spirits significantly narrowed the morbidity of the current perilous world situation. They set examples for how to survive when facing disaster.

—Henry Zeybel

Red, White & Blues, Book Two by L.V. Sage

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L.V. Sage’s massive novel, Red, White & Blues, Book Two (Self, 667 pp. $20,97, paper;  $2.99, Kindle) 9s the second in a proposed trilogy. Book One was published in 2013. This one is self-contained and can be enjoyed thoroughly without having read the first volume.

Most of the story takes place in California during the 1980s. The characters are members of the Souls of Liberty motorcycle club, along with people who come into contact with them. In the first few chapters it seems like we are being introduced to a bazillion characters who’d be difficult to keep track of, but that aspect of the novel ends up being manageable. Those early chapters also fill in all the backstories we need to know.

The Souls of Liberty members believe in loyalty no matter what. Several are Vietnam War veterans and they seem to be especially respected for having taken part in the war. There’s a lot of PTSD in evidence. The veterans struggle to keep their “absolute worst secrets from Vietnam” from being revealed, Sage writes, while the war “still creeps in” every day. Every death they deal with in the eighties causes them to recall a similar one they encountered in the war in Vietnam.

They remember the sting of returning to “an ungrateful country,” having fought in a war that America lost, and they wish they could just forget about it. Their philosophy is: Some live and some die, but you just keep moving forward.

L.V. Sage can certainly write. She has created a fast-moving story with lots of sex and violence. There’s murder, suicide, infidelity, medical struggles, and divorce. The novel is basically a highly detailed soap-opera, but it works. There’s an especially well-written scene in which two veterans see the Platoon together in a theater when it first comes out.

Club members express a greater sense of loyalty to other members than they do to their wives or girlfriends. They do not tolerate their women talking disrespectfully to them in front of their brothers. One character notes that “women are the biggest threats to any club.” Most of the club members are fathers especially proud of having sons.

Club unity becomes threatened by the growing popularity of crack cocaine. The older members look at it as a dangerous drug. There are also concerns about rival clubs.

The club loves to throw big family outings, usually patriotic events. The Fourth of July celebration is the main favorite, even though the fireworks make some of the veterans uncomfortable. Halloween also is big, and the bikers rarely miss celebrating big wedding and birthday parties.

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L. V. Sage

Underlying everything, though, is the war’s lasting effects. As one female character puts it: “War does terrible things to men. Every man I know that went is damaged now.” A main character bemoans the idea that his time in Vietnam left “a permanent scar on his soul.”

You probably won’t want to join this motorcycle club, but you’ll have a blast reading about all of their exploits.

–Bill McCloud

Vietnam to Iran 1969 by James Ellenberger

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James Ellenberger’s Vietnam to Iran, 1969 (Bowker, 197 pp., $30, paper; $3.99, Kindle) is unlike any other book I have read dealing with the Vietnam War. Fifty-one years ago James Ellenberger’s tour of duty in the Vietnam War ended. Instead of flying home to the U.S. on a military-provided plane and processing out of the army in California, he chose to take his Army discharge in Vietnam and travel from Saigon to Tehran via the vagabond route.

After being inducted into the Army in April 1967, Jim Ellenberger went to Officer Candidate School and was commissioned an infantry officer. When he arrived in Vietnam he was posted to the old Imperial Capital of Hue not quite a month after the big Tet 1968 battle. He headed a Civil Affairs platoon that worked with the refugees.

Ellenberger kept a journal during this time, which he sent home and his mother lovingly packed away. When he dug up the journal nearly fifty years later, he discovered that reading it brought back memories of that long-ago time. So Ellenberger decided to use the memories as the basis for this little book. He includes journal entries as he wrote them five decades ago with only minor edits. He writes that he enjoyed reliving those days—and I enjoyed reading the entries about them

I wrote a book, a novel called REMF Diary, based on my journals and diaries of this time. So I thought it would be fun to read this  book and make comparisons. It was fun, but this book is very different than mine. The biggest difference is that Vietnam to Iran contains a lot of small maps and many color photos.

The color photos of Thailand and the many temples and statues make his book seem like an issue of National Geographic. The photos are high quality and go well with the journal entries. The maps chronicle the areas he traveled. The adventurous Ellenberger wound up traveling to many places that are no longer possible to go to—or advisable to—including the Bamyan Valley in Afghanistan.

Vietnam to Iran is an artifact of a bygone age and deserves a place on the shelf of Vietnam War literature. I highly recommend it to folks who wish for a taste of the vagabond life.

–David Willson

 

 

 

 

Killer High by Peter Andreas

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The six drugs referred to in the subtitle of Peter Andreas’ Killer High: A History of War in Six Drugs (Oxford University Press, $29.95, hardcover; $9.99, Kindle) are alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, opium, amphetamines, and cocaine. Andreas, the John Hay Professor of International Studies at Brown University, begins by stating that he chose to study those substances because they have had the most intricate connections to warfare.

Andreas delivers a deeply researched, elaborately detailed, and carefully nuanced analysis of the relationships of war to drugs and drugs to war. Plus, Killer High is richly illustrated and moves the reader along with great energy from one surprising insight to the next.

For the reader who enjoys discovery, Killer High offers something on nearly every page. We learn, for example, that:

  • The Code of Hammurabi refers to twenty different kinds of beer.
  • Per capita alcohol consumption in Colonial America was twice what it is today.
  • At the height of the tsarist empire, alcohol taxes funded one-third of the Russian state budget.
  • The German advance in World War I was halted by French and African troops determined to defend vast caches of champagne, with which they were paid.
  • In 1917 alone, the French army consumed 1,200 million liters of wine.
  • Young William McKinley braved enemy fire to haul vats of hot coffee to exhausted Union troops at the Civil War Battle of Antietam, the beginning of his rise in politics.
  • U.S. troops consumed 75 million pounds of coffee during World War I.
  • The Blitzkrieg assault that collapsed the French Army so rapidly in May 1940 owed its success in large part to troops who were popping amphetamines, giving them the wherewithal to fight for four days straight with no fatigue.

The greatest gift of Killer High is not thousands of interesting facts, however, but the overriding themes that they support. One is that prohibition nearly always fails. Tsar Nicholas II’s efforts to stop vodka production after his drunken army’s defeat by Japan in 1905, for example, led to his bankruptcy. American Prohibition gave organized crime a boost. Mao Zedong closing down opium production in China chased the trade to the Golden Triangle before war caused production to shift to a Muslim country where it was little-known. That would be Afghanistan, which now produces 93 percent of the world’s supply of heroin. Making drugs illegal, Andreas shows, leads to a frustrating game of global whack-a-mole.

Another theme is that political ideology distorts our understanding of the economic forces behind the drug trade, especially when patterns of drug use go back centuries. When the collapse of the USSR in 1989 “deprived us of an enemy,” Andreas writes, political leaders of both parties turned the world’s best-equipped and trained military to chasing drug cartels and drug kingpins with little understanding of the intricacies of the problem.

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The pause that refreshes: U.S. troops in Italy in 1944 chugging Coca Cola

Controlling the drug trade “from the source” often ends up with supporting political elites that profit from the trade, as well as training and arming military and police who become traffickers. Along with hunting down peasant militias who may be inspired by communist or terrorist ideologies, but have little connection to illegal international commerce. The line between good guys and bad guys, which is necessary for effective military action, disappears when great wealth is generated through drug-dealing.

As long as the farmers in Afghanistan depend on growing poppies and those in Latin America rely on growing coca leaves, drugs and war, Andreas note, will continue to be codependent and addictive.

Andreas addresses the Vietnam War only sporadically, but does point out the role drugs played in that conflict. He notes that our war was the last during which the U.S. Army supplied free cigarettes in C-Ration packs and almost-free ones at PXs–at the came time that cigarette packs came with labels warning that smoking caused cancer.

Amphetamines, he notes, were “passed out like candy,” mostly in the form of more than two million Dexedrine pills, as well as what was readily available on the black market.  The Army alone ingested more amphetamines in Vietnam than all Allied forces combined did during World War II.

Lao, Thai, and Vietnamese military commanders made a very high-grade heroin from the nearby Golden Triangle available to American troops. In 1973, the Pentagon estimated that about a third of the troops in coutnry were using it. President Nixon began the nation’s first “war” on drugs, in part, to keep what he called our “crippled generation” from bringing their drug habits home and destroying the nation. He blamed the communists for the epidemic of addiction and blamed drug-addled Americans for not “winning” the war.

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Vietnam War smoke break

Alcohol, a legal drug, took a much greater toll on Vietnam War veterans after the war—mainly, according to Andreas, because only expensive, low-grade heroin was available in the States, while alcohol was legal and comparatively cheap.

Killer High opens the door to understanding how we got where we are in a most convincing and entertaining book.

–Jack Nolan

The reviewer, with served with the 525th MI Co (JTAD) in the Vietnam War, is the author of novels Vietnam Remix and There Comes A Time.

 

Contested Territory by Christopher Lentz

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A recurring theme of American participation in the Vietnam War is the inability to distinguish between friendlies and enemies, most often identified as between farmers and Viet Cong. This monocentric perspective belies the diaspora of ethnic, religious, and class distinctions in both North and South Vietnam.

In Contested Territory: Dien Bien Phu and the Making of Northwest Vietnam (Yale University Press, 352 pp., $35, hardcover and Kindle) Christopher Lentz proffers a geographic and sociopolitical history of the Black River borderlands, the former French colonial territory that became Northwest Vietnam. Focusing roughly on the First Indochina War, from 1945-60, Lentz uses the eponymous battle of May 7, 1954, to explore how political, cultural, and militaristic processes—fueled by anti-colonial liberation—both naturally and coercively gave rise to an independent Vietnam.

Lentz is an assistant professor of geography at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He expounds on his dissertation in Contested Territory, a thoroughly researched tome utilizing archival resources from France and Vietnam, as well as first-hand fieldwork in the area.

Lentz starts his narrative with a provocative claim: “The Battle of Dien Bien Phu changed the world.” This is a thesis worth exploring, but it is not the focus of this book.

Contested Territory is a geographic history of the Dien Bien Phu area, incorporating an exhaustive examination of the political economy of the Black River and its complex ethnic and cultural mores. The book is divided into six chapters. The first and last use an unpublished memoir of a prominent political leader to examine his thesis, while the middle chapters focus on the military operations of the Northwest Campaign (1952) and the Battle of Dien Bien Phu (1953-54) to analyze the political and social transformations of the area.

An international image of national liberation, the victory over the French at Dien Bien Phu is among the most important symbols in modern Vietnam. But its territorial nationality—its very essence as part of Vietnam—was in doubt before and after battle.

The most powerful and populous of the more than twenty ethno-linguistic groups—among them the Hmong, Dao, and Khmu—were the Tai, an ethnicity more tied to neighboring Thailand than to Vietnam. The Viet or Kinh, who made up the majority in the emerging Democratic Republic of (North) Vietnam, consisted of less than one percent of the population in this section of the country.  Lentz carefully examines the concept of the muang, the prevailing political and economic system that organized the society.

Incorporating this area as part of Vietnam was “an act of imagination and aggression,” as the coercive nationalization of labor and exploitation of the spirit of anti-colonialism effectively made the communist state. For the poor and vulnerable, it was an Orwellian existence—“meet the new boss, same as the old boss”—as the Tai and Kinh used political hegemony and bureaucratic corruption to mobilize and control human and natural resources.

In the aftermath of the battle, an indigenous millenarian movement named “Calling for a King” was violently suppressed by DRV. Hanoi viewed the Northwest with the same lens as it did the South.

Implicit in the book are the lessons not learned by the United States in its war in Vietnam. The lesson from Dien Bien Phu was not the danger of garrisoning large troops in remote areas, a focus that led Lyndon Johnson and Gen. Westmoreland to overstress the importance of the fighting at Khe Sanh in 1968, but on the logistical and transportation capabilities of North Vietnam.

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Viet Minh fighters at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu

This an academic book aimed at fellow scholars, and the narrative occasionally becomes unwieldy. There are great books about the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, among them Bernard Fall’s Hell in a Very Small Place, Kevin Boylan and Luc Olivier’s Valley of the Shadow, and Martin Windrow’s The Lost Valley. But Christian Lentz provides an invaluable resource that zeroes in on the people who struggled before, during, and after the battle.

Contested Territory also erodes North Vietnamese propaganda claiming that Vietnam is a unified nation, manifesting its violent assemblage. The historiography of the Vietnam and Indochina Wars is enriched for his efforts.

–Daniel R. Hart

Year of the Dog by Deborah Paredez

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The poet, scholar, and critic Deborah Paredez, a Professor of Creative Writing and Ethnic Studies at Columbia University, is the daughter of a Vietnam War veteran. The title of her new book, Year of the Dog (BOA Editions, 128 pp. $17, paper; $9.99, e book), refers to 1970, the year Paredez was born and the year that her father, a Mexican immigrant, deployed to the war zone.

Paredez divides the book into three sections: The first (53 pages) contains personal poems such as a self-portrait in flesh and stone and hearts and minds. The second is about Kim Phuc and the famous photograph of her being burned by napalm. The third deals with subjects along the lines of those explored in Trinh T. Min-ha’s 1989 documentary Surname Viet, Given Name Nam, which looks at the lives of Vietnamese and Vietnamese-American women.

Some of the poems, including those about Kim Phuc, are difficult to read because of the painful subject, but they must be read. Dozens of photographs are distributed throughout the book, which add greatly the power of Paredez’s words.

Here are a couple of stanzas from “Mother Tongue” that give the flavor of what the book holds in store:

If I could bite my tongue

And have it split into two

Whole daughters that split

Again in endless fission

-ing splitting the very thing

Keeping their whole line

Going—If I could I would

Watch my tongue and its

Tongue-set wagging

Their tails, some silver-

Tongued some wicked—I’d hold my tongue

Out like an offering or a battalion

This is a book of powerful poems about pain and politics and war.

–David Willson

The Blackhorse in Vietnam by Donald Snedeker

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Donald Snedeker’s The Blackhorse in Vietnam: The 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment in Vietnam and Cambodia, 1966-1972 (Casemate, 336 pp., $34.95), as its title indicates, is a history of that unique fighting unit in the Vietnam War. The author, Don Snedeker, served as an officer in the Blackhorse Regiment in Vietnam after arriving in country in December 1969. Later, in 1974, he was the unit’s regimental training officer, an intelligence officer, and commander of Bravo Troop. Today he serves as the historian for the 11th Armored Cavalry Veterans of Vietnam and Cambodia.

This book contains a very detailed record of the Blackhorse’s experiences in the war. It includes many diagrams, three appendices (“History of the Unit,” “Firepower Comparison,” and “Blackhorse Medal of Honor Recipients”), along with a list of sources, end notes, and an index.

The 11th Armored Cavalry’s Blackhorse regiment arrived in Vietnam in September, 1966 and soon faced many challenges, mainly how to fight a jungle war with armored forces. The enemy was the biggest challenge, but so was the terrain, monsoonal rains, and an institutional bias in the Army that the fighting in Vietnam should be an infantryman’s war. “Hunting Viet Cong with tanks is like chasing a fox with a tractor,” said an unidentified “high-ranking” officer that Snedeker quotes.

After undertaking many successful missions, however, the troops of the 11th Cavalry Regiment showed they could operate effectively on and off roads, in the thick jungles, and during the monsoon seasons.  By the spring of 1967, Blackhorse armor was considered an essential part of the Army’s Vietnam War combat effort.

Former Blackhorse troops at Veterans Day 2013 wreath-laying at The Wall 

The Blackhorse in Vietnam details many of the battles that the 11th was involved in. That includes Attleboro, Cedar Falls, Junction City, Tet, Mini-Tet and Operation Montana Raider. Snedeker includes many interviews with former Blackhorse troops that augment his battle descriptions.

Donald Snedeker wrote the book to preserve for history the actions of the 20,000 members of the Blackhorse Regiment in the Vietnam War. The subject is meticulously researched and will be of interest to historians and to anyone who served with the Blackhorse.

–Mark S. Miller

Run Me to Earth by Paul Yoon

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The American-born novelist Paul Yoon’s literary novel, Run Me to Earth (Simon & Schuster, 259 pp. $26), is set in Laos during the Vietnam War and the following decades. It focuses on Prany and Noi, who are brother and sister, and their friend Alisak.

The children do odd jobs in and around a large farmhouse that has been turned into a makeshift hospital on the Plain of Jars—the area of Laos named for its very large, tall stones that many believe were the playthings of giants who once roamed the hills. It’s also an area noted for the rain that falls frequently but usually for only about a minute at a time.

Most of the hospital’s patients are civilians and most were injured during the relentless bombing of the area by American planes. Dozens of people work in the hospital and all are sympathetic to the Royal Lao government.

Life for the children is one of near-debilitating stress due to the constant bombing and the equally constant threat from the violently cruel Pathet Lao communist troops. The Pathet Lao would sometimes force people to walk roads they knew were mined or were dotted with un-exploded cluster bombs, calling the children “bombies,” and placing bets on whether they would detonate a mine or bomb.

The youngsters often helped with the patients, sometimes during surgery, work Paul Yoon describes as done in a “panic that never seemed to end.” One of the ways they try to maintain their sanity is by discussing each day the places they plant to visit that night in their dreams. Paris seems to be a favored dream-destination.

A day comes when the hospital must be evacuated so quickly that a few patients have to be left behind. The teen-age friends become separated and much of the rest of the novel tells their individual stories.

We get a tale that includes captivity by the communists and mental and physical torture during seven years in the prison of a reeducation center. There is long-contemplated desire for revenge, then eventual release to work on a collective farm. Meanwhile, throughout Laos the numbers of un-exploded bombs continues to kill and maim. Young girls with their faces disfigured by shrapnel learn to consider the scars a sign of beauty.

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Paul Yoon

Then the story moves down a hall of mirrors and broadens throughout space and time, becoming a consideration of betrayal and the importance of dreams in a lifetime of memory. Yoon offers ruminations on separation, family, the loss of innocence, and the masks that people wear.

This novel tells a story that is much bigger than it may seem at first. In the end, it is a meditation on the meaning of humanity. You’ll be a better person for having read it.

The author’s website is paulyoon.com

–Bill McCloud

Yesterday’s Soldier by Tom Keating

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After graduating from Stonehill College’s Holy Cross Seminary in Massachusetts, but denied further advancement to ordination as a Catholic priest, Tom Keating surrendered to the inevitable and volunteered for the draft in 1968. Army Basic Training and Infantry AIT, along with his superior skill with weapons, overpowered Keating’s semi-monastic religious life style. And he began to concentrate on “how to survive and kill in battle,” Keating writes in his memoir, Yesterday’s Soldier (153 pp., $16.99, paper), and he moved on to Officer Candidate School.

As his infantry training continued, Keating re-evaluated this character transformation, and once again followed his religious training. Not wanting to kill people or order others to do so, he sought conscientious objector status.

In the first half of Yesterday’s Soldier Tom Keating does an excellent job explaining the dynamics of attaining conscientious objector status as an active-duty soldier during the Vietnam War. His recollections provided me with new knowledge and insights about a punishing, tedious, and sinister process. How sinister? Keating’s best friend became an Army Criminal Investigation Division agent assigned to evaluate the sincerity of his religious beliefs.

Although a Defense Department policy limited the number of conscientious objectors serving in the armed forces, Keating won his case: He would not be assigned a combat role or issued a weapon for the rest of his tour in the Army.

Nevertheless, he owed the military one more year of active-duty service. Without a job specialty, he was sent to Vietnam. On his arrival, Keating lucked out when a college friend classified him as an administrator and assigned him to a job with the 1st Logistical Command at Long Binh.

Keating’s writing style flows smoothly. I enjoyed reading his stories about the Vietnam War. But his book offers little new information about life behind the lines.

There are descriptions of surviving close calls during rocket, mortar, and sapper attacks on Long Binh. He tells of giving up his “seminarian virginity” in a Saigon bathhouse. Issued a Jeep, he chauffeured officers and performed other minor chores. He befriended a housemaid who was Catholic. R&R in Australia was a highlight of his tour. And then he came home.

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Tom Keating

Tom Keating found a different world than the one he had left two years earlier, especially within the Catholic Church. As part of a continuing evolution of character, his limited exposure to death had magnified his perception of the past. He determined he “could never return to that world, not after Vietnam. That world had collapsed.”

So he began a new life, earning a master’s degree in education and teaching high school for eight years before starting a long career in corporate communications.

The author’s website is tomkeatingwriter.com

—Henry Zeybel

Weapons of War by Robert E. Wright

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Weapons of War: A Compilation of Letters Recounting a Soldier’s Story of Service, Love, and Faith (AuthorHouse, 212 pp. $23.99, hardcover; $12.99, paper; $3.99, Kindle) tells a love story far greater than a war story. In it, Robert E. Wright gives us letters he sent to Barbara Hampton during his two years in the U.S. Army, which included a 1969-70 tour in Vietnam as an infantryman with the 101st Airborne Division, the Screaming Eagles.

The book works as a love story because Wright’s weapons of war were his M-16 to fight the NVA and Viet Cong; his pen to fight the loneliness and separation he felt; and his faith in God to fight fear and doubt. The power of the latter two exceeded that of the first. His letters concentrated on convincing Hampton that she was his one-and-only love forever.

As a grunt, Wright repeatedly walked point on lengthy search-and-destroy missions; turned a VC defector into a Kit Carson Scout; and cleared remote landing zones. His awards included the Bronze Star, two Air Medals, and the Army Commendation Medal.

I enjoyed reading his accounts of military life, but wanted more. That’s because Wright’s desire not to upset his high school sweetheart and their families with his combat experiences made him temper what he wrote. I respected his deep love for Hampton, which he pledged for eternity in every letter, but the memoir would have greater appeal for military history fans if, between letters, he had injected detailed notes about the actions that he otherwise quickly passes over.

The Army drafted Wright while he was still a teenager, and he quietly answered the call. He says military duty made him into “a mature man who is not afraid to make decisions and take on responsibility.” His personal motto of “Stay Focused on the Future” carried him through the war.

I admired Robert Wright’s integrity, particularly denying himself R&R to avoid temptations of the flesh. Best of all, his commanders appeared to respect his certitude about life by assigning him leadership roles above his rank.

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Robert E. Wright

Barbara Hampton and Robert Wright married in 1972 and raised two daughters, who like their mother graduated from Ball State University. Barbara died in 2002 at the age of fifty-two. Robert worked twenty-six years for the Indiana Bell Telephone, followed by twenty-one years of full-time ministry with the Eastern Star Church in Indianapolis.

His memoir teaches excellent lessons in self-restraint and perseverance. It includes photographs with many of the letters.

Wright’s website is weaponsofwar-indy.com/home

—Henry Zeybel