Dear Folks by Steve Horner

Steve Horner’s memoir, Dear Folks: Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of an Infantryman’s Personal Unedited Letters Sent Home from Vietnam (284 pp., $5.95, e book), has an immediacy and verisimilitude lacking in other memoirs by other infantrymen.

When I asked myself why this was so, the only thing I could come with was that Horner chose to publish his actual letters as written originally in ballpoint pen. If a letter was written on a flap torn from a C-Rat box, that is what the reader gets. Mostly, though, the letters were written on National Red Cross stationary.

Each letter starts “Dear Folks…” and goes on from there. Horner shared with the folks at home whatever was on his mind. If he was brooding about the quality of his M-16 he’d say so. “The infamous M-16 [is] a piece of shit rifle that most of us had to cope with,” for instance. There must be other memoirs of handwritten letters that consist of photocopies, but I’ve not stumbled across them.

Steve Horner’s letters cover a year starting from November 1967, with some typed commentary and lots of photos, through February 1968, providing good coverage of the Tet Offensive.

The language is the usual found in an infantryman’s book, with “Saddle Up!” leading the way.  Also commonly expressed political rants appear, such as one that claims that “Bill Clinton and his ilk kept America from extinguishing communism in SE Asia.”

But, “Getting short, only 13 days left,” is the more frequent piece of information that Horner chose to immortalize. He is outraged that “the media indoctrinated the public like sheep into hating the war so they took to hating us soldiers as well.”

Horner

If you are looking for a very different Vietnam War infantry memoir, especially in format and honesty, Horner’s 4th Infantry book should fill the bill.

I found it rough going at first until I got used to reading his handwriting. Once I got past that, the experience was totally pleasurable, and I felt that I really got to know Steve Horner and his unique point of view on American warfare.

Read this book in one sitting if you can spare the time.

Horner’s website is http://stevehornerbooks.com

—David Willson

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