A question from one of Odon Bacque’s daughters opened the floodgates of his memory. It seemed an innocuous question, “Daddy, who are you?” As he reflected on his civilian career and successes, Bacque’s mind kept wandering back to his Army days and how they shaped his entire life—as military service has done for most of those who served.
In his case, he wrote a memoir, A Walk in the Park: A Vietnam Comedy (CreateSpace, 200 pp., $14.95, paper; $3.49 Kindle). The book gives an honest look at a side of the Army Special Forces in the Vietnam War that most never saw or even knew existed.
Bacque, a native of Louisiana—or more properly, a Cajan—entertains the reader with bits of humor as he recounts his time as a soldier and the innocent beliefs in the system that led him naively into Infantry OCS, jump school, the Green Berets, and a tour of duty with the 5th Special Forces Group in Vietnam. As Bacque walks the reader through his year in Vietnam, he realizes he could not have had an easier or more choice job.
It turns out that not all Green Berets were “snake eaters.” Bacque reveals another side, replete with administrative chores and payouts that seemed to have become a major part of Special Forces by 1969 when he was in country. Reading this book, we realize that the Green Berets had REMFs. And, as it turns out, lucrative post clubs featuring a variety of entertainment and “palace guards.”
Bacque gives a very honest assessment of his own role as a lieutenant in the Special Forces, a non-combatant who spent his year doling out funds to the A Teams assigned to his B Team area. As he progresses through the year, Bacque sees more and more things he doesn’t quite understand or believe were right. He becomes increasingly disenchanted as he is forced to administer payouts with no accountability to the mercenaries operating with the SF teams. However, like most of us, he soldiers on, focusing on how much time he has left in his tour of duty.
Bacque is brutally honest in shining light on the U.S. government’s lack of oversight into operations such as those he was involved in—as well as the corruption caused by throwing millions of dollars into black holes with little or no expectations of a return. It is refreshing to find a man willing to admit that his time in Vietnam with the Special Forces was less-than heroic when so many exaggerate their wartime roles.
This is a true book with a story that needed to be told. Bacque is honest with the reader and himself, as he shows that not all of those who served in the war were trigger pullers. He did his job honorably. In the end, it is apparent that his life was shaped and his character molded by overcoming the obstacles he confronted in the military.
The book is an easy and entertaining read—especially for those have never seen Don Bacque’s side of the Vietnam War.