Good for One Ride by Gary McGinnis

Gary McGinnis served with the Army in Vietnam in 1968 as a Water Purification Specialist attached to an infantry unit. His novel, Good for One Ride (Editions Dedicaces, 120 pp., $16.50, paper; $8.25, Kindle), book deals with “the scourge of Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome Disorder that curses combat veterans forever.”

This book gets a lot done and covers a lot of territory in just under 120 pages. Army Private Theo Garrett is assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division, 2nd Engineers in water purification during the Tet Offensive. The novel begins and ends in Cold River, Vermont In between, we learn an awful lot about the role of the watermen, those water purification people, in Vietnam. We get a lot of information about the erdulator, a mechanical device that purified hundreds of gallons of water at water points. We encounter much stupid, ill-informed leadership on the officer level, often checked and balanced by responsible work by the sergeants, the men who really ran the war.

I got so much detailed information on how to purify water that I felt I could pass a test on the subject. Certainly, I gained a lot of respect for the work of the waterman in the Vietnam War.

Gary McGinnis

We learn about drug use in Vietnam, including “grass, heroin, alcohol, darfons and benoctals.” We learn more about shit burning. We get the eternal question, “How many more gallons of water do we have to purify before we go home?”

The role of water purifiers is referred to as mid-level combat, which I think is justified as these men often were at serious risk and did get shot at. And some of them died.

Readers looking to learn about aspects of the war that are seldom respected or even commented upon should read this book. I enjoyed it, and I read it in one sitting.

—David Willson