Russell’s Purple Heart by Russell D. Ward

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Russell’s Purple Heart: Memoirs and Musings of Russell D. Ward, Purple Heart Recipient and Patriot (CreateSpace, 210 pp. paper; $4.89, Kindle) delivers exactly what its title offers. Russell D. Ward (with the help of Colleen Fitzgerald McCoy) tells his life story in the first three-quarters of the book. The rest consists of Ward’s explanation of his solutions to a dozen current worldwide problems.

Drafted into the Army in 1966, Russell Ward went to Vietnam the following year as a machine gunner on an armored personnel carrier. After six months, he was reassigned to an infantry company. Shot during the battle for Hue in 1968, Ward was shipped home when his wound did not improve “quickly enough.” Shortly before he was wounded, he recalls that “there were only three of us left of the twelve who started out in my third squad.”

The Vietnam War provided Ward with grisly and long-lasting memories. He describes the mutilation of enemy bodies in detail and wonders “why we had to act like such barbarians.” He talks of the deaths of comrades and the resultant punishment that battle survivors meted out against villages and people suspected of being Viet Cong.

“I have heard that a man is only as good as what he has gone through—that his life experiences form his character,” Ward writes. “This statement makes me believe that we, as veterans of war, who fought for our country, experienced these things for a reason and for some good purpose. At the very least, our experiences have taught us to be tough enough to keep on surviving. No matter what. I know that I have had my heartbreaks, just like everyone. But through all my struggles and heartbreaks, I have believed in myself because of my trust in the Lord to overcome the low points in my life. Vietnam taught me that.”

Early in the book, Ward paints picturesque scenes of growing up in West Buffalo, New York, during the 1950s and early 1960s. He takes pleasure in remembering fist fights with rival neighborhood gangs and pegging the speedometer of his ’58 Chevy. In every way, he enjoyed taking chances.

He returned to Buffalo after the war and found it difficult to cope with the changing social values. He fell back into the habit of taking chances. He experienced business and marital problems, depression, residual pain from his wound, and drug abuse. “My brain,” he says, “was cooked at the age of twenty-seven.”

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Russell Ward at the Williamsville, New York, Purple Heart Monument.

Ward’s emotional burden lightened during his passage through middle age as the result of a successful second marriage and a quarter-century career with the U.S. Postal Service. Following retirement, he found a calling in promoting the Military Order of the Purple Heart.

This book was difficult to read because Ward’s suffering often resulted from his own mistakes, which he admits. He repeatedly fell for get-rich-quick schemes that I found frustrating because of their transparency. Nevertheless, I admire Russell Ward’s ability to restart his life after repeated crashes.

The author’s web site is www.russellpurpleheart.com

—Henry Zeybel

PTSD and Me by Richard M. Czop

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One fact about war is that many survivors are forever wounded. Evidence is all around us. Wounds are visible on the ribbons veterans wear on their uniforms. Missing limbs and scars are proof of the horrors of war. But some of the most grievous wounds are not visible to the eye, and many who do not bear physical scars are still terribly wounded.

Earlier wars gave rise to the terms shell shock, battle fatigue and soldier’s heart. It wasn’t until 1980 that the American Psychological Association officially adopted the term post-traumatic stress disorder–a mental health condition triggered by going through or witnessing terrifying events.  In  PTSD and Me (Schuler Books, 209 pp., $16.95, paper; $9.99, Kindle) Dr. Richard Czop relates events that highlight his personal journey with PTSD. The book is also an indictment of the inadequate psychological treatment and understanding that was available to Vietnam veterans in the 1960s and 1970s.

As a young, patriotic American, the author was a college student with many high school buddies serving in the military. After learning of his friend’s second wounding in Vietnam Czop decided to join up. He quit school and volunteered for the draft.

After Basic Training at Fort Knox, Czop was assigned to the Army Medical Training Center at Fort Sam Houston. While there he received word that his friend had been wounded a third time, leaving him paralyzed. In the ensuing months Richard Czop was able to spend a fair amount of time with his friend. While on the surface this contact may have seemed like a good thing, in truth it dragged Czop deeper and deeper into the abyss of guilt.

In his angst, and perhaps feelings of guilt, Czop took steps that eventually led to his assignment as a medic in Vietnam with the 9th Infantry Division. Life in combat further exposed him to the fertile ground from which the seeds of PTSD grow. The book in vivid detail identifies the events—including the author’s own wounding—that led to his decades-long battle with PTSD.

Upon his return to the United States Richard Czop  graduated from college and medical school.  He was divorced twice and married three times, further evidence of the personal difficulty that exists when dealing with untreated PTSD. He also raised a family and had some problems raising his children.

Dr. Czop set up his own family medical practice and appeared to have a semblance of normalcy. But the normalcy was shallow and short lived. After hearing a speech by U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, Czop had what could only be called a PTSD attack. This event might not be medically described as such, but to this reviewer it influenced the progress of Czop’s PTSD.

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Dr. Czop

A series of political events surfaced Czop’s long-buried hostility toward the U. S. government. That culminated with a questionable government lawsuit, and made Czop realize that he had PTSD. The lawsuit bought Czop into contact with a lawyer who became a stabilizing voice in his life and greatly helped him come out of the darkness of PTSD.

Others helped, too, each one contributing something different. This validates the idea that there is no single pattern for PTSD.  Individuals manifest unique reactions to those around them. Triggering mechanisms include flashbacks, nightmares, and anxiety.

Czop’s book, I believe, would be valuable for those who have PTSD, for the PTSD sufferer’s friends and loved ones, and—perhaps most importantly—for those who help treat those who have  PTSD because of their service to their country.

—A.R. Lamb

 

 

 

The Dark Side of Heaven by Robert G. Lathrop

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Retired Marine Corps Capt. Robert G. Lathrop’s The Dark Side of Heaven (AgeView Press, 68 pp., $24.99), as the title suggests, is a dark book. Lathrop, a former A-4 Skyhawk pilot, arrived in Vietnam during the  1968 Tet Offensive. In fifteen months, he flew more than 275 missions. His squadron, VMA-311, flew 54,625 sorties and dropped some 9 million tons of bombs.

We’re told this record will never be broken. I believe it. This is a book for those who believe that if we’d only dropped more bombs on Vietnam, the outcome of the war would have been different.

Lathrop was tortured by his role in the Vietnam War and he wrote some moving and powerful poems about what he viewed as war atrocities.  “He wrote them to honor the men and women who served,” the book’s collaboration Jeanette Vaughan writes.

The poems often moved me to tears, as did reading Gene Lathrop’s biography and how he spent his time after the war. He was born in Walla Walla, Washington on June 8, 1942.  He graduated from Dayton High School in 1960.  This overlap with my own biography and the skill of his writing, often made me feel as though I could have easily ended up in his shoes.

His being the exact same age as I am—and being born and raised in Washington State—was often on my mind as I read his verses.  The old cliché, “There but fortune go I,” dogged me throughout the book.

After the war, Lathrop endured PTSD and sought treatment at the VA’s American Lake Hospital near Tacoma, Washington, where many of my close friends also have  been treated. Lathrop spent much of his retirement “in periods of solitude,” writing down his memories of his experiences in Vietnam, seeking “answers and meaning to the controversial questions, occurrences and mysteries that took place during the Vietnam Conflict.”

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An A-4 Skyhawk in the skies over Vietnam

Lathrop was a lucky man, in that he married the love of his life, Joy.  “She was his confidant and supporter as PTSD threatened to unravel Gene’s mind and destroy relationships with friends and family.” Gene Lathrop died on June 13, 2012, “while out on his farm doing what he loved, working the land in solitude.”

This small book of verse is dark and honest and tormented. The titles of the thirteen poems include  “As I Lay Dying,” “After Mission 186,” “The Field of Despair,” and “The Phantom Battalion.”  It’s difficult to quote from a book of this sort, so I won’t even try, but the language of war and of pilots has never been served better in any book I’ve read.

“All of the missions described in this work are purely from the imagination of the author,” Vaughan writes. “Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.”  Okay, I buy that, but Gene Lathrop paid the dues that made each of the poems seem to me to be the purest of truths.

The pen and ink drawings by Laura Brown and L. Lederman are perfect to support and amplify the poems. This is a book that everyone concerned about the costs of war should read.

—David Willson

 

 

For the Sender by Alex Woodard

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Author and singer/songwriter Alex Woodard has put together a most unusual book: For the Sender: Love Letters from Vietnam (Hay House, 233 pp., $19.99, hardcover; full-length CD of songs included). Woodard has taken a batch of real love letters written from an airman in Vietnam to his wife back home, and combined them with heartfelt imaginary letters his daughter could have written to her deceased father. Then, Woodard wrote songs based on these letters.

The airman, Sgt. John Fuller, apparently succumbed to the effects of PTSD after the war. He drank too much, was unfaithful to his wife, and never was at peace with himself. In 1998, John Fuller was shot to death by a locksmith who was changing the locks on Fuller’s girlfriend’s house after a domestic altercation. When Fuller charged him armed with a weapon, the locksmith defended himself.  No charges were filed against the locksmith.

John Fuller’s daughter Jennifer, born in 1970, was devastated by the loss of her father. She retreated into a shell of anger and depression for several years. One winter day while helping her mother move, she came across a box of letters with “Love Letters from Vietnam” written on the lid. Overwhelmed—and not sure how to cope with this treasure chest of letters from her father—she contacted Alex Woodard. He agreed to put the letters to music, with lyrics adapted from her father’s words.

He also composed responses to letters written by Jennifer to her father as if Woodard were John Fuller himself stationed in Vietnam. Only a special kind of writer could undertake such a challenging endeavor and make his imaginary written responses sound believable.

Alex Woodard is not a veteran of any branch of service. However, he is a staunch advocate for veterans. He describes in detail several encounters he has had in recent years with veterans of the wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He went surfing with one group who claimed it helped them cope with PTSD. He worked with another group learning to ride and care for horses as part of their recovery from PTSD and traumatic brain injury. He describes encountering a man who rescues dogs from kill shelters and trains them to be service dogs for veterans.

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Alex Woodard

 

Much of the book is about Woodard’s own life experiences, such as the near loss of his mountain home to a forest fire and the subsequent flooding and mudslide. It is disconcerting at times when he inserts a letter from Sgt. Fuller or Jennifer Fuller into the middle of his story on a totally different topic.

However, the CD included with the book that features Woodard as Sergeant Fuller and his friend Molly Jensen as Jennifer more than makes up for the occasional distraction.

Trusting Alex Woodard to read letters from her father and then to write letters as if they were written by her father to her turned out to be a truly healing experience for Jennifer Fuller. It helped her find peace and forgiveness and move on with her life.

The author’s website is www.alexwoodard.com

—James Coan

The Price They Paid by Michael Putzel

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Michael Putzel is a journalist who covered the war in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos for the Associated Press for two-and-a-half years. Putzel’s The Price They Paid: Enduring Wounds of War (Trysail Publishing, 364 pp., $25.99, hardcover; $14.99, paper; $7.99, Kindle) is the true story of Maj. James T. Newman, commanding officer of C Troop, 2/17 Air Cavalry.

Newman is the ostensible subject of this large and detailed book. But the true subjects are the helicopter pilots and crewmen who flew for Condor Six, Newman’s call sign.

Maj. Newman remains a mystery, even at the end of this long book. His men laud him as the finest leader they ever knew. His coolness under fire and bravery are supported again and again by descriptions of many, many helicopter actions he was party to. But it also is said of him that he was “an officer but never a gentleman.” He treated service people like scum, and is described as a scumbag in his treatment of women, including those to whom he was married.

After he left the Vietnam War, Newman was destined for great things in the Army, none of which transpired due to his own bad behavior. He was a barely educated ex-enlisted man from a backward town in Georgia, we are told.

The book is packed with helicopter action. All of the events are carefully documented and described. Those events alone are reason enough for me to understand why Maj. Newman did not do well with peacetime Army life.

The war is described by one participant as that “bag of shit.” Another veteran, bitter that he received an ungrateful reception when he returned home, said that “they could have won if the United States had devoted enough to this fight.”

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Michael Putzel

Maj. Newman was in terrible pain for the rest of his life from wounds received in Vietnam, but he refused to take any medication. He received $8,000 a month in various annuities, but he wrote most of his children out of his will. We are told that no one found a plausible explanation for the changes in Newman, but I see those explanations on virtually every page of this book.

Agent Orange, fragging, drugs, and PTSD are all dealt with in this book.  Also, this book has one of the most distressing covers I have ever seen. It was designed by Gwyn Kennedy Snider and is taken from an actual photo of a uniform of one of the Condors who came to a very bad end.

This is a hard book to read, not that it is badly written or told, but the subject matter is upsetting. I highly recommend it to anyone who believes that war is a good thing and that carpet bombing is an effective method of attaining world peace.

The author’s website is http://michaelputzel.com

—David Willson

Memoir of Vietnam by William S. Fee

A memoir normally has a purpose beyond simply recounting what the writer did over a given period of time. William S. Fee follows this pattern in Memoir of Vietnam 1967 (Little Miami, 122 pp. $15) by describing how military training and combat turned his infantry squad into a family.

Fee took part in search and destroy missions as a member of Delta Company, 1st of the 18th in the 1st Infantry Division from July to November of 1967 in the Iron Triangle. During the battle for Loc Ninh, he suffered a crippling shoulder wound that led to an early discharge from the Army after four complicated operations.

At age nineteen, Fee gave up the “inanity” of college and enlisted as an infantryman. He felt obligated to serve his country because, he says, “So many young men were drafted against their will to fight this war.” Fee believed his participation would “make a difference” and influence “friends who seemed not to care about the war.” He also sought the “intoxication of a dangerous adventure.”

Fee found himself in an unusual situation. The men he trained with in basic at Fort Knox and Infantry AIT at Fort Polk and Fort Lewis remained together after schooling. Aboard the USNS Geiger, they sailed to Vietnam and formed a new company in the Big Red One.

Fee fondly recalls all of his squad members, living and dead. He describes the high level of camaraderie that evolved from spending so much time together. The climactic event for him was the fighting at Loc Ninh during which a rocket propelled grenade nearly tore off his right arm. He credits his survival to the special care he received because his squad mates were long-time friends.

Based on his experience, Fee believes that the practice of sending single replacements to rifle companies in the field in the Vietnam War was a major cause of PTSD. Men treated in this manner were victimized by being alone, both during and after the war, he believes.

In the post-war world, Fee faced survivor’s guilt and his life lost purpose. He married but soon divorced his sweetheart—Sally—who had waited for him throughout his time in the Army and in hospitals. Psychiatrists and the VA were unprepared to deal with PTSD in the mid-1970s and provided no help in curing his illness.

By talking to himself in mirrors, Fee overcame his disorders on his own, but retained residues of fear. He tells us that in battle he developed “the sensation that an enemy soldier had me trained in his rifle sight. It is a fear I carry with me to this day.” Regarding death in combat, he still frequently wonders, “Why not me?”

Following his rehabilitation, he and Sally remarried. Fee began a long career in the television industry. And had children. He also had a second family— the men from Delta Company who periodically hold reunions and remain close.

A 1st Infantry Division soldier cleaning his weapon in the field

Fee pays great tribute to his battalion commander, Lt. Col. Richard Cavazos, who later became a four-star general. Cavazos fought shoulder to shoulder with his men on the battlefield. Today, he still maintains friendships with Delta’s veterans.

Fee presents a viewpoint new to me related to search and destroy strategy. He says: “Colonel Cavazos was a conservative war tactician. As soon as our patrols were ambushed, he ordered our retreat back to the perimeter, and immediately called in air strikes and artillery on our positions as we withdrew” (italics added).

In other words, Cavazos did not require his undermanned units to duel with superior forces while awaiting massive fire support, as virtually everyone else did. Overall, Fee shows that Cavazos’ tactics saved many lives, including the author’s.

—Henry Zeybel

A Stranger in My Bed by Debbie Sprague

I finished reading Debbie Sprague’s A Stranger in My Bed: Eight Steps to Taking Your Life Back from the Contagious Effects of Your Veteran’s Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder  (Morgan James Publishing, 360 pp., $24.95, paper; $9.99, Kindle) late at night. It had been a worthwhile, red-eye learning experience.

Sprague, a certified life and career coach, begins her book with a painfully raw narrative of life with her Vietnam War veteran husband. The reader is taken into a world of darkness and chaos, confusion and fear, anger and hopelessness. The possibility of financial disaster is always on the front burner, and infinite frustration grows with the turn of each page.

The most serious PTSD symptoms of the author’s husband began in earnest thirty years after he came home from Vietnam. It was as though he were pushing some kind of envelope, unconsciously crying out for help. Many will be able to relate to the author’s inclination to ignore small aberrations of behavior, hoping  they would go away.

The chapters describing the gradual dissolution of the couple’s marriage were heartbreaking. Little by little, Sprague’s husband would spend more time with friends where everything was fine, and less time with his wife where their marriage was one continual conflict. His purchase of guns added a serious threat. Daily life became so traumatic that the author herself was diagnosed with PTSD.

Why didn’t the couple simply divorce and start their lives over?  The answer to that question is what makes this book so different from other PTSD books I’ve read.

Sprague loved her husband deeply despite his faults, and she was very committed to her marriage vows. Her courage and tenacity to stick has similarities to what a soldier in combat goes through in order to not turn and run.

Perhaps it was prophetic that the couple’s turnaround began while they were on their way to church on June 6, 2010, the anniversary of D-Day. Her husband read aloud a warning sign telling of a dead-end street by saying, “Debbie’s a dead-end.” As the words echoed through her ears, Sprague said she silently screamed, “NO! I am not a dead-end! I am not a quitter.”

Thus began the turnaround in the life of a true heroine, and the fodder for an excellent PTSD reference book. Perhaps the most important thing Spraque explains is that while it is often impossible to change the actions of another person, it is always possible to change one’s own reactions to those actions. She also shares the sage insight that we can only make progress when we deal with reality and not illusions.

Debbie Sprague

Sprague’s use of biblical verses becomes more frequent as the book goes along. She uses sacred words in a realistic, practical way, though, and does not pontificate.

The final two thirds of the book consists of a well-organized PTSD textbook. It contains information on developing support systems and coping with fear and anger, shame and guilt, and sexual dysfunction, among other things

Were Debbie Sprague’s efforts to pull her much-loved husband back from the abyss worth it? Readers will undoubtedly concur with his response:

“I will be eternally grateful for Debbie and her commitment, not only to me, but to veterans, their spouses, and their families everywhere. God bless her, and God bless our veterans and their families.”

The author’s web site is http://astrangerinmybed.com

—Joseph Reitz

Fearful Odds by Charles W. Newhall, III

Throughout his life Charles W. Newhall, III has engaged the world with ferocious intensity. The son of a World War II Army Air Corps colonel, Newhall was raised to uphold his family’s military tradition, which extends back to the Civil War. That guidance and his reading as a student at military schools instilled an ethos encompassed by warriors from all of history.

Before reading his book—Fearful Odds: A Memoir of Vietnam and Its Aftermath (Bibliotheca Brightside, 260 pp.; $34.95, hardcover; $17.95, paper; $6.99, Kindle)—I studied its nineteen pages of photographs. They provided background that better prepared me to understand commitments far deeper than the accommodations that have guided me from day to day. The book is complex because Chuck Newhall continually poses provocative questions about values and leadership in war and peace.

As a platoon leader with 1/327 of the 101st Airborne Division, Newhall spent six month patrolling the ridge lines of the A Shau Valley in 1968-69. His normal order of march was “point man first, slack man (M-60 machine gun), me.” That was Newhall’s way of setting an example as a leader.

Helping to fulfill their part of America’s search and destroy strategy, his men were minnows on a fishhook to attract NVA forces camped in Laos. They often came under fire from, Newhall says, “Russian artillery guided by Russian and Chinese advisers located a mile away.”

When they did engage the NVA in South Vietnam, his platoon did not always get the firepower they needed to complete the destroy part. Instead, they shared air support with Marines at Khe Sanh. “The net result is that whoever is losing the most men gets air support,” Newhall says. The Americans were always outnumbered due to the proximity of NVA camps to the border. Air power, Newhall concludes, “is great when you have it.”

Despite Chuck Newhall’s superior military education and his strong desire to engage the enemy, twice within a week his platoon was decimated. The first time came on his third day as a leader. His Prologue describes this action, a lifetime worth of death and destruction. But Newhall seeks no solace and accepts responsibility for all that befell his men and himself.

Newhall does not filter what he saw and did. He admits that his men paid back for what they suffered. He speaks of mutilating, scalping, eating flesh, and bowling with a heads of the NVA dead. He himself cut the throat of a wounded enemy soldier.

Charles W. Newhall, III

The author candidly discourses on good and bad relations with superiors and subordinates. In the field, he learned and he taught. He recalled feats of historic figures such as Hannibal and Crazy Horse to guide his behavior. Like King Henry V, he strove to form a band of brothers within his undermanned platoon.

He overcame wounds and other hardships and rhapsodizes over love for battle: “Whoever has lived the life of a warrior can love no other; war becomes the incomparable mistress of your heart, an addiction of unimaginable intensity.”

During the last half of his one-year tour Newhall served as a staff officer. His highly personalized value system created difficulties in civilian life, including in his marriage. That dilemma is the crux of book’s last section.

Newhall earned an MBA from Harvard and attacked the world of venture capital as zealously as he entered combat. Living in Boston amid beautiful gardens, artfully decorated mansions, and upper-crust friends, Newhall’s nights were haunted by ghosts from the A Shau Valley. He enjoyed big business success, but it soon was negated by the transformation of his wife’s personality, the collapse of their marriage, her suicide, and the unraveling of his psyche.

Newhall has spent thirty years fighting PTSD. His closing chapters aim at helping others with the disorder. He emphasizes the necessity of having expert guidance—in his case, a noted psychiatrist. Most touching, he includes passages from his wife’s diary and her final note, which deal with his failures as a husband and father.

Beyond all else, sharing those stunning revelations shows the depth of Chuck Newhall’s courage as a man devoted to improving the lives of others.

The author’s website is www.fearfulodds.com

—Henry Zeybel

Shell Shock by Steve Stahl

Former UCLA and Stanford University psychiatry professor Stephen Stahl is an expert on PTSD. The hero of his novel, Shell Shock (Harley House Press, 448 pp., $17.95, paper; $5.99, Kindle), Dr. Gus Conrad, discover a covert “diabolical” military faction called The Patrons of Perseus, which was “formed during the First World War to celebrate heroism and eliminate cowardice.” The novel deals with Conrad’s attempt to fight the evil Patrons.

Blurbs compare this novel—a thriller—to those of David Balacci, Stephen Hunter, Dan Brown, and Lee Child. Having read thrillers by all of those authors, I agree. A book of this sort needs diabolical bad guys, and there are plenty.

Shell Shock covers events going back a century. World War I gets most of the attention, but recent wars also are given their due, including the Vietnam War. We get Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen as characters, with long conversations between them and a fictional character. I enjoyed reading those bits quite a lot. These conversations are set in remote Scotland at Craiglockhart, where the men were taken after being diagnosed with shell shock, the WWI term for what is known today as post-traumatic stress disorder.

Steve Stahl

We read justifications of why shell shock, battle fatigue (the World War II term), and PTSD have been demonized by the military. It’s because, Stahl writes, they are “diverting resources for weapons to psychiatric care and pensions for those injured with PTSD by these wars.”

We’re told that a ploy of claiming the men had “pre-existing moral deficiencies” would discredit these men and save a lot of money.

There’s a lot of serious stuff going on in this thriller. But there also is plenty of action to hold the interest of a reader. I recommend it to those who want to read a thriller dealing in a serious way with PTSD. The author’s website is http://stevestahl.com

—David Willson

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