My Vietnam Education by Martin Havran

Martin Havran’s My Vietnam Education: Or How to Conduct Research Without Really Trying (131 pp. $6.06, paper; $3.99, Kindle) is a strange, compact book that includes three pages of footnotes and changing fonts. Havran dedicates the book “all those who served in Vietnam, their families and descendants.”

Departing from what most Vietnam War veterans write in their memoirs, Havran does not name the high school or college he attended and gives only fleeting mentions of his family. We pick him up during Army basic training at Ft. Dix, then follow him to AIT and NCO school before his deployment in 1969 to III Corps in South Vietnam.

This story is at once unsettling and common. We have a man in his seventies telling the story of a very young man and his introduction to the realities of war and personal combat. There are no extended battle scenes, just descriptions of the occasional skirmish, along with the day-to-day doings of a harried, overworked E-5 supply guy trying to keep his unit all together, moved, set up, resupplied, and replenished.

The author relates his story with minimal dialogue, few names of his comrades, and the barest of info on his unit and its history. We hear him tell us an Everyman’s story of going to war, coming home, moving along with a civilian life—and later the need, as his pace slows and the vision widens, to share his story.

Havran is almost refreshing in sticking to his in-country narrative. There are no riffs about the VA, about medical challenges brought about by his service, or about jobs lost and battles at home un-won.

In this self-published and self-edited book Havran comes to us as a non-professional writer, not an un-professional one. He is well spoken and writes a well-constructed story. His years as a teacher and leader shine through the text. He tells us that “only recent realization” was how much his war experiences “influenced the remainder of my life,” the reason for writing this book.

This was an enjoyable, quick, read. I suggest it could be used in high school AP English classes. Havran has no agenda; his book is simply a nice story told by an old-young man.

Havran is donating all of the book’s royalties to veteran scholarship funds.

–Tom Werzyn