Dennis Blessing’s Vietnam in My Rearview; Memoir of a 1st Cavalry Combat Soldier, 1966-1967 (McFarland, 222 pp. $29.95, paper; $13.49, Kindle) looks at Blessing’s 12-month tour of duty as a rifleman with the Cav in Vietnam beginning in March 1966. He served with the 1st Cavalry’s famed 7th Regiment.
Before leaving for Vietnam, Blessing told his wife he would try to write to her every day. He wound up writing 212 letters to her from the warzone. Fifty-four years later he read through those letters, which brought back memories of many places, times, and events in Vietnam—and enabled him to write Vietnam in My Rearview.
Blessing spent most of his tour fighting in and around the Ia Drang Valley in the Central Highlands. This region was always crawling with NVA and VC, and he saw a lot of action. Few pages of Vietnam in My Rearview pass without an excerpt from a letter to his wife. Before and after each Blessing fills in details that he didn’t want to divulge to her at the time.
He fought in 11 operations and received a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. His many combat experiences included the vicious May 1966 fighting at Bong Son during Operation Masher, in which his platoon was nearly wiped out.
Being a grunt and spending long periods in the field without letup completely wore him out. Adding to his fatigue as Blessing got shorter was an incessant feeling that he would not survive. Therefore, when he was given the opportunity to spend his final two months in Vietnam to be his company’s supply clerk, he jumped on it.
Several passages in the book, including Blessing’s final words, have caused me to think more deeply about some of the causes of PTSD. Blessing was discharged from the Army in 1968, and went on to graduate from college, raise a family, and work to retirement. He now lives with his wife of 55 years in the mountains of central California, near the western edge of Yosemite National Park.
Vietnam in My Rearview is well written and a pleasure to read. I recommend it.