All posts by Dayl Wise

Richard Boes Memorial Award-Winning Book 2010

Richard Boes (R.I.P.)
Richard Boes (R.I.P.)

The 2010 Richard Boes Memorial Award goes to Charles Joseph Fickey for his book Sworn to Secrecy for Life: A Young American Spy’s Odyssey through War-torn Germany and Russia (ISBN 9781432761189)

The award is a $200 cash prize for best debut book by a veteran (fiction or memoir) and is sponsored by Modern History Press. The contest is administered by Reader Views Inc., which includes a general book award contest as well.

Richard enlisted into the US Army and served in Vietnam in 1969 – 1970 with the First Air Cav. He is the author of two books, The Last Dead Soldier Left Alive (2007) a firsthand inquiry into why thousands of Vietnam veterans have committed suicide and Last Train Out (2008). Right up to his death Richard was writing a third, In the Valley of Dry Bones. He passed away on Feb 21st, 2009 at the VA Hospital in Albany, NY.

Kindle eBook edition of More Than a Memory

We have finally released an eBook edition of More Than A Memory: Reflections of Viet Nam

You have to click on the Amazon widget and then choose “Kindle Edition”

Richard Boes Memorial Award Winning Book 2009

Richard Boes (R.I.P.)
Richard Boes (R.I.P.)

The 2010 Richard Boes Memorial Award goes to Charles M. Grist for his book My Last War: A Vietnam Veteran’s Tour in Iraq (ISBN 9781440152689)

The award is a $100 cash prize for best debut book by a veteran (fiction or memoir) and is sponsored by Modern History Press. The contest is administered by Reader Views Inc., which includes a general book award contest as well.

Richard enlisted into the US Army and served in Vietnam in 1969 – 1970 with the First Air Cav. He is the author of two books, The Last Dead Soldier Left Alive (2007) a firsthand inquiry into why thousands of Vietnam veterans have committed suicide and Last Train Out (2008). Right up to his death Richard was writing a third, In the Valley of Dry Bones. He passed away on Feb 21st, 2009 at the VA Hospital in Albany, NY.

Vet writers encouraged to submit work to RTS Journal

Vet writers are encouraged to submit their work (prose, poetry, stories, essays) to Recovering The Self: A Journal of Hope and Healing.  Works from 750 to 2500 words may be sent directly to editor@RecoveringSelf.com no need for a query letter.  For more details, visit the official site.The second issue of RTS has just come out.  

Hush puppies, hookers and hammocks

Hush puppies, hookers and hammocks

By Tom Skiens

I bought a pare of size 8 1/2 hush puppies at the retail shop on the ground floor of the Singapore Ambassador hotel. The hush puppies were the “in thing” on my 21st birthday, June 21st 1968. I also bought a Hammock, a 4X4 orange tarp and a hooker of Indian nationality. In order to make my 21st birthday complete I visited three Indian snake charmers with a cobra in a jar and a bag of weed in their hand. I stayed away from the snake but I took possession of the weed.

As the day moved on I traded in my Indian nationality hooker for a younger model. The mommasan pimp didn’t mind. Her standard advertisement was, “you like boom boom number one cherry girl, she love you long time”.

The Ambassador hotel was filled to overflowing with G.I’s fresh out of Vietnam and all of them were looking for the same thing. Showers, flush toilets, clean sheets, music, booze, women and a telephone call back to the world. The kind of a call where after you finish speaking you must say “over” and then after your mom on the other end of the line finishes talking she must say, “over”. This makes for a difficult conversation but talking to my mom on my 21st birthday from Singapore, priceless.

The hotel was making a mint off the American servicemen on their one week escape from Vietnam. It made no difference if the G.I. job was in the rear with the gear, humping the bush, hurling 60 tons of steel down highway one, a cannon cocker, a rotor head or a rubber tired mine magnet, the goal was the same. Get laid before you get laid and get drunk while you are doing it. Everybody at the hotel got rich and the G.I had the best R&R story he could ever have dreamed of. I did not make friends with the other G.I’s at the hotel. I would say Hi in passing and that was about it. I felt like all my friends were dead and so was I. The most conversation I had was with college students who played music at the bar. The students were in the middle of a revolution, declaring Singapore a Free city state and breaking away from China. I found out years later that they were successful.

I told my hooker friend a story about my life. It goes like this. I wave goodbye to my mother and thank her for washing my Basketball uniform as I open the door of the “47” Ford I bought for $50.00 with money I had earned thinning trees with a chainsaw the summer before. “If I didn’t wash your uniform, who would”, she says. I smile and say, ” Sorry mom, I will give you more warning next time but they just told us about the pictures this morning. I have to go, the Varsity photos are scheduled in less than 10 minutes. By, love you”

I back out of the driveway being careful not to scrape the white picket fence. I drive 1/2 of a mile north on Egan street and take a left on W. Tyler street. It is five blocks from here to Hwy. 395 and then less than a 200 yards to the high school. I travel four blocks and begin to slow down for the approaching intersection. All of a sudden the front of my car explodes, my windshield is shattered but still intact. What the hell has happened? My car glides to a stop. I try to open the drivers door but it is jammed. What the hell has happened?

I slam into the door as hard as I can with my left shoulder, the door begins to move with the metal on metal scraping of steel bent against steel sound. I hit the door again and it opens enough to allow me to exit. My windshield is broken with a thousand lines going off in as many different directions. What the hell has happened? I turn around and see a Honda motor bike lying twisted and broken on the road to my east. I walk four steps toward the rear of my car. I see the legs of a person on the pavement. I take two more steps. I hear a girl screaming and I see her boyfriend, the senior class president and honor student lying on the ground. Randy will lay there forever. The ambulance will come and take him to the hospital. Randy will die a week later, His family will grieve and the ramifications for the other lives involved will begin to mature.

My mother will tell me as she dies of cancer how she crossed the street for more than 20 years to avoid coming face to face with Randy’s mother. On one occasion, Mrs. Russell followed my mother across the street and cornered her in an isle of a store. She begged my mother to quit avoiding her and said that she held no blame for anyone in our family concerning her son’s death. My mother and I both cried together.

I am tasked to ask the question,” why him and not me”? I will go to war to search for the meaning of life. I will come to know death in the war but I will struggle to have a relationship with life.

I ask my hooker friend what she thought about my story and she said,” I no understand English so good. You want boom boom now”. I was glad she neither spoke nor understood English. I needed to tell someone about Randy who would not attempt to absolve or blame. She was the perfect listener. I gave her all my money when I left town.

The return flight from Singapore to Vietnam is filled with a ghost like silence. Everyone partied hardy the last night of the R&R. Leaving no drink standing, no hooker unrewarded, no laugh repressed, no lie untold, we did our job well.

I have made love, not to the one I love. I have slept with, showered with, not the one I love. I return to a place where I know I will die. It is just a matter of time. It is more certain than the notion of living. I can visualize my death but I cannot visualize my life.

The Asian heat of Singapore is similar to that of Vietnam. It sucks the air from my lungs, sticking to my body like Elmer’s glue. The heat and memories of a weeks worth of sex, a hangover, a meal plus the steady rhythm of the jet engine lead me to a dream filled sleep.

In my dream it is April 19, 1968. I am the fourth person back in the left column. The other column is less than 10 yards to my right. We should not be this bunched up. God knows we have hit enough booby traps to learn. I see and hear an explosion to my right front less than 15 yards away. I drop to the ground but before my stomach touches I am on my way back up.

I know what this is. It is the same thing as January 13, 1968. A Bouncing Betty leaves us with two dead and eight wounded. Zimmerman and I are the next two unwounded in the column and we must walk the line. (See: “Betty“.) Today is not much different.

I move to the right column, drop my rucksack and get the PRC 25 radio from my radio telephone operator. 0900, grid square BS 533853, Company C request dust off for two KHA, two WHA result bouncing Betty. I move into the zone making sure the path is clear for the medics. A fucking new guy walking point in the left column has hot steel in his stomach.

The F.N.G. came in on the resupply chopper the night before and has been with the company less than 14 hours. The company put him in first Platoon and first Platoon put him on the point in the left column. First day in the bush and the F.N.G. gets hot steel in his stomach which may result in him going home. The guy at my feet, dead. The next guy, dead. The next guy, Platoon leader, LT. his right foot is blown off and his right hand doesn’t look good, he will probably lose it. He is moaning from shock and pain. His weapon has been thrown to the right, it is destroyed, useless.

I yell at the F.N.G. to stop running around because he may set off another mine. Sgt. Don fox and Zimmerman talk the F.N.G. to safety. In three days Zimmerman and I will be on our bellies crawling over to Sgt. Fox who will have a bullet in his belly that pentrated through his weapon befor entering his body. Higher/higher said it was Auitomatic weapons fire but I was standing next to him and only remember 1 round. Two days after the Sgt. Fox dust off Zimmerman will be involved in another Bouncing Betty and I will on the radio calling in another dustoff. Charlie 1/1 is getting beat up.

A medic asks me to help put one of the dead on a poncho so we can drag him to the approaching chopper.

I rifle through the guys rucksack to get a poncho while the medic rolls him onto his back. I find pieces of bone and blood on the inside of the grunts rucksack. For the first time I look at the dead guys face. It is my friend John John.

I am stunned, shocked. This is the day, the hour, the minute and the grid coordinates where the American dream dies for me. Dark clouds invade my mind, a deep numbing pain penetrates my soul. The medic wants me to lift the right side of the body. John John is pulverized flesh from head to toe, like the Gook on the receiving end of a B-52 package. Concussion and shrapnel have transformed his body to the consistency of firm Jelly. I can’t find anything solid enough to lift.

A year passes, then two, finally I see the middle finger of his right hand, I test it to see if it will stay attached to his body as I lift. I grab a hand full of bloody pants leg with my right hand and lift the lower part of his body off the ground. I pray that pieces of his body do not come off in my hands as I lift my dark broken friend high enough to set him on the poncho.

April 19, 1968, 0900 hours, grid BS533853, I died, the dream ends, no preparation, I be zombie. I died because it was the easiest and fastest way to deal with my problem. I could not move forward while packing the weight of the dead and I could not leave them behind. I must sacrifice a part of my soul so my body can move on. I don’t have time to morn, only to tuck the memory of the mangled bodies into the corners of my mind and keep on humping.

The corners of my mind will meld over time
The visions of the dead come more often
I’ve recorded their names and absolved them of chains
While I’m busy constructing my own coffin

A zombie gets off the return flight from the Singapore R&R in Chu Lai July 3rd 1968 and finds his company waiting on the tarmac for a C-130 to take them north. He goes to the orderly room and puts together his gear including: Rucksack, weapon, ammo, C’s, smoke grenades, steel pot, Poncho, Pancho liner, Jungle knife, 4 canteens, smokes, matches, Bug juice, TP and lots of shoe strings because they are the only thing in this Army that you can get plenty of and they always work.

I use shoe strings to tie around my legs, above my calves so that they will keep the leeches lower. Shoe strings to tie the souls of my boots on when they come apart in the jungle. Shoe strings to tie my poncho to stakes and pegs to make a hooch for the night. Shoe strings to tie the PRC 25 mike close to my ear so only I can hear. Shoe strings to tie my socks to the outside of a rucksack so they can air out. Shoe strings for splints and slings. The strings that keep the grunts alive exist only because the black market finds no profit in them.

I packed my Hush Puppies, the Hammock and the orange 4X4 tarp. The C-130 takes us north about 45 minutes and lands at a well developed fire base. These guys have the works, tanks, APC’s, bunkers with 5 sandbag roofs, NCO club, showers plus heavy artillery like the 175 MM and the 155 MM Howitzer.

We would spend some days here and then choppers would take us to a place not so developed. The Zombie doesn’t know he is dead but he knows how to act like he wants to die. He wears the 4X4 orange tarp on the outside of his rucksack. Sticking up above his head is the antenna from the PRC. 25 radio he carries. He sometimes walks point adorned in this fashion. The orange tarp and antenna a tempting piece of sniper bate.

I had planned to use The Hush Puppy shoes I bought in Singapore when we dug in for a couple of days near a water source. I hoped to get out of my boots for a couple of hours, go down to the water hole in my Hush Puppies, steel pot, M-16 and nothing on but the armed forces radio network. I never did find that waterhole.

At the first opportunity I dug out the Hammock and tied it between two trees. I quickly realized that if we were to get hit the hammock would be the worst possible place to be. I chucked the hammock and went back to sleeping on the ground where all grunts belong, near a foxhole, curled around a rock with the edge of my steel pot as a pillow.

I used the Orange 4×4 tarp as ground cover for a time. I think it wore out. If I packed it on the outside of my Rucksack much it would not have lasted long. The jungle would surround, choke and destroy it like it did everything else. I think the jungle ate my Hush Puppies.

A final word on the Hooker. I didn’t even know her name. When I left Singapore I did not promise to write her and she did not promise to write me. We both kept our word. If either of us had tried to write I am certain a letter addressed to ” Hooker ” or “GI from Oregon ” would have a difficult time finding the RIGHT “Hooker” or “GI from Oregon.” I for one have never received such a letter.

Susan Moger reviews More Than A Memory

More Than a Memory, Reflections of Viet Nam

More Than a Memory, Reflections of Viet NamMore Than a Memory,
Reflections of Viet Nam

Victor R. Volkman, Editor

Modern History Press, 2009; 224 pages; $21.95
ISBN 978-1-932690-64-4; paper

http://www.modernhistorypress.com/more-than-a-memory

by Susan Moger

The writers who contributed to More Than a Memory, Reflections of Viet Nam, edited by Victor R. Volkman (Modern History Press, 2009) grab us by the lapels, lean in close, and compel our attention. And “attention must be paid” (in Arthur Miller’s words) to these stories, not only by those of us who lived through the Vietnam era, but also by those who know it only as history.

The pieces in More Than a Memory are not easy stories and poems to digest; it took courage to write them and requires a measure of courage to read them. But the rewards are many—an understanding of what war meant to these particular men; an appreciation of the abiding power of memory and of storytelling, and satisfaction in paying due attention to ordinary men who “lived to tell the tale.”

The power of recall is a thread running through More Than a Memory. Prose or poetry, polished or raw, these pieces were written by men who know the truth of Marc Levy’s words, “…whatever you did in war will always be with you. Always.” (p. 206) Memories of homecomings, of killings, of betrayals, of flashbacks, and nightmares are told in rushed, awkward sentences, or short, stuttered phrases, in imagery-packed paragraphs or tight, heartfelt expletives.

The stories and poems are mirrors, in which readers are repeatedly challenged to see themselves. The most discomfiting piece, for this reader, was Tom Skiens’ “Witness to Rape.” The piece demands not only, “what would you have done?” but “what would you have had me do?” Skiens’ powerful account of a rape spares the reader nothing. He describes the second-by-second reactions of the onlooker—including the hope that “God would fill these three grunts [the rapists] with a lifetime of guilt and shame and remorse.”

But Skiens doesn’t let us think that this was an isolated event. He includes the chilling statement, “As a result of this one experience I learned to recognize the sounds of rape at a great distance…Over the next two months I would hear this sound on the average of once every third day.” Nor did the event described end in the distant past. “This event occurred in 1968 and it still has an impact on my…relationships with women.”

But “Witness to Rape” goes further. Skiens includes descriptions of subsequent encounters with rapists…on film and in real life, among Vietnam veterans he met after the war. His piece ends with this challenge to readers: “…you had to be there to make a call.”

I single out “Witness to Rape” because it represents both the undeniable power of these pieces and editing that occasionally lets writers off the hook with careless language. In Skiens’ piece, for example, he writes, “I wonder about the gook chick” (referencing, years later, the girl in the first rape he describes) and “I wonder if the three grunts give a shit” (talking about the rapists now). This is first-draft phrasing that doesn’t serve the story and that an editor should have questioned.

I single out three other pieces all very powerful that could have been even more effective with additional editing. I felt these authors, and all the authors in the book, were speaking directly to me, confronting me, challenging my assumptions and my complacency.

Tony Swindell says “Call It Sleep” (pp. 86-87) was “written in 1991 for Dr. Jonathan Shay…to document symptoms of post-traumatic stress.” The piece, appropriately included in the section “Poems IV, describes nightmares experienced by the author and incorporates stunning sensory details—”blinding silent flashes”; “hot sand whipping against my face”; “buzzing sounds of shrapnel.” The piece describes Swindell’s experiences as of 1991. It would be useful to have a postscript in which Swindell or the editor addresses these questions: How did writing about these nightmares, this “literal hell…right in front of me” help the author at the time? Does he still have nightmares in 2009 and if so are they the same?

Richard Boes’ “My Blue Block of Wood” (p.7) is another example of fine writing that would have benefited from copy edits and proofreading. A sentence like this one on p. 11 is confusing without correct punctuation: “Yeah, I was feeling anxious, afraid, guilty I think about coming home.” And a capital “F” in “After” (last paragraph on p.11) gives an impression that the book was incompletely proofread pre-publication.

None of this detracts from the actual homecoming Boes describes. It is heart-stoppingly intense, a tribute to his powerful writing. “I felt this knot in my stomach like the whole fucking war was twisting up inside me…” Once home, Boes’ narrator’s memories of the war ambush him unexpectedly. For example, “…downstairs, Bugs Bunny [is] askin’ “What’s up, Doc?” Doc took one tiny piece of shrapnel in the temple sitting on his cot reading letters from home…” His comment, “This wasn’t the place I thought home would be” is reinforced in the final paragraph after he threatens his young sister, seeing her as the enemy. He writes, “This fear [in the family’s eyes], it’s mine, I thought, from the depths of the dead and the missing….I’d brought the trauma home. I’m the fuckin’ enemy here.”

“My Blue Block of Wood” is a terrific choice for the first piece in the book. The reader believes him when he says “I’m the enemy here” and is ready to explore the reasons behind that feeling, in the pieces that follow.

If Boes’ piece is a fitting opening to More Than a Memory, then Marc Levy’s magnificent “Whatever You Did in the War Will Always Be with You” is a fitting conclusion—summing up and putting in a context the stories that precede it and allowing readers closure, a chance to move on and deal with wars of the present and future. It’s a powerful combination of personal reflection and factual information about PTSD. From the opening paragraphs: “I’m kneeling. Tears streak my face, drip down, fall to earth. It’s only my second time in combat…That was thirty-seven years ago. Or was it last night?” to the final chilling run-down of wars, past and present, Levy’s “Whatever You Did in the War Will Always Be with You” is gripping, sobering, and as practical as a tourniquet on a spurting wound.

Levy’s comprehensive list of “the symptoms of PTSD, in plain bloody English…” is an invaluable, plain-spoken summary that includes the following illustration of Denial: “Problems? What problem? I don’t have a fuckin’ problem.” The summary concludes with a moving definition of PTSD: “These symptoms are normal responses to extraordinary events outside the range of normal human experience…” This piece should be required reading in every high school in the U.S.

All of Marc Levy’s work in this collection is outstanding. In the case of “How Stevie Nearly Lost the War” and “Torque in Angkor Wat,” his voice and his artistry reach the highest literary achievement. Both short stories address war and its aftermath in the author’s masterfully controlled-yet-seemingly-out-of-control style. In “Stevie” Levy depicts a combat vet struggling through a typical post-war day that includes his approach-avoidance attempts to relate to a woman he seems to genuinely like. The various threads of the story—some hopeful, some sad, some crazy—marry past and present in a virtuosic linguistic brew that boils over in sentences like this: “Stevie’s words jet from his mouth like thunderous out-going shells, like sleek napalm canisters spinning through air, like the pure pop pop pop of forty mike mike grenades fired by Cobras going in for the kill.”

“Torque in Angkor Wat” is a disquieting travel tale, where the protagonist, a Nam vet, tours the ruins of Angkor Wat. The eternal beauties of the setting contrast with the turmoils of his inner world, which come to a head during a surreal scene where war memories and a Frisbee game intersect: “Howling with laughter, Jack picks up the Frisbee and tosses it to me. But I don’t want to see it. Where are the foxholes? Where are the Claymore mines?…The war is everywhere and Jack is blind to it.” Writing like Levy’s lifts readers out of their comfort zones and into the scary heights it is impossible to be “blind to war.”

“Kangaroo Court Martial” is in a category all its own (the authors are not listed in the alphabetical list of authors in the Acknowledgments) and needs editorial notations to be truly useful to 2009 readers. Notes to explain the context are essential for polemic like this. For example, what is the date of the account of the case starting on page 109? Why are an address and phone number for the ASU and a promo/price for The BOND included in this 2009 book? The account says the accused are “presently” serving time. An Editor’s note or introduction would help readers who might think this refers to 2009. I’m sure other readers will wonder: What is the date of “An Appeal from the Brig,” p. 119? What was the ultimate fate of Daniels and Harvey? Is the ASU still “the foremost organization of soldiers in the US Armed Forces”?

Regarding the arrangement of the book’s contents, I found that the alternate prose and poetry sections (and the grouping of poems within sections) was useful and flowed well. The photographs that are included were welcome, but more, and more descriptive captions, would have been even better. Present-day comments on images of the past would have been ideal. For example, there are two pictures of Marc Levy (pages 50 and 71). I would be interested in his comments on the evolution of the man from age 19 in 1970 (p. 50 ) to the man who posed with an ex-NVA sapper and writer in 1998 (p. 71). (A note on layout: the photo of Marc Levy on p. 50 would ideally have appeared in a spread with his poem, “At Nineteen,” on page 49, rather than on the page following.)

Another editing opportunity related to photographs: the photo caption on p. 87 focuses on the man in the center (“one of my buddies”), perhaps because he is the only one whose face is visible. But readers will wonder about the Vietnamese people in the foreground—why they are there, what they are doing.

I understand that several formatting issues have been addressed in the hardback edition of More Than a Memory.

Cavils aside, a rousing “bravo” to all the writers and to Victor R. Volkman for paying attention to their stories and collecting, editing, and sharing them with us.

Richard Boes Memorial Award – call for entries

Richard Boes (R.I.P.)Richard Boes Memorial Award

The award is a $100 cash prize for best debut book by a veteran (fiction or memoir) and is sponsored by Modern History Press. The contest is administered by Reader Views Inc., which includes a general book award contest as well.

Richard enlisted into the US Army and served in Vietnam in 1969 – 1970 with the First Air Cav. He is the author of two books, The Last Dead Soldier Left Alive (2007)  a firsthand inquiry into why thousands of Vietnam veterans have committed suicide  and Last Train Out (2008). Right up to his death Richard was writing a third, In the Valley of Dry Bones.  He passed away on Feb 21st, 2009 at the VA Hospital
in Albany, NY.

Entry Fee

$65.00 per title (for the initial category) if postmarked before October 31, 2009, $75.00 if postmarked November 1, 2009 or later. $20.00 for each additional category or regional/global entry. Entry fee must be in USD via U.S. check or international money order payable to: Reader Views.

Submission for more than one category or area is acceptable. Submit two copies of the book for the first category, and an additional book for each other category to be considered. For example, if you enter your book in the “Fiction – Historical” category as well as “Young Adult” and “SW Region” you must send in four books.

All books entered will become the property of Reader Views and donated to local charities after the awards program is completed. Submissions received without the entry fee will not be considered.  Entry fee is non-refundable.

Registration Deadline

Authors are encouraged to submit their entries as soon as possible but postmarked no later than December 15, 2009. Any submission postmarked after this date will not be accepted. (Help us prevent judge burn-out and submit your book early! Hint: our judges read the book in its entirety – give them plenty of time to read the book.) We will confirm your entry via e-mail so print your email address clearly.

Registration

Registration form may be downloaded here.  Be sure one form is included with each title submitted.  If submitting more than one title or in more than one category, one check or money order may be included for all submissions.

Be sure to send appropriate number for books. (Two for the first category, one for each additional category.) Registration form must accompany each title and sent to:

Reader Views Literary Awards 2009
7101 Hwy 71 W #200
Austin, TX 78735

VVA Veteran review by Horace Coleman

Spring 2009 – THE VETERAN
More Than a Memory
HORACE COLEMAN (REVIEWER) p.39
More Than a Memory: Reflections of Viet Nam,
Victor R. Volkman, editor (Modern History Press, 1009)

Some people say “There’s only two kinds of music: Country & Western!” Duke Ellington said “There are only two kinds of music, good and bad.” Both broad statements exclude much that’s worthy.

More Than a Memory: Reflections of Viet Nam is a collection of poetry and prose. In one of the essays in the collection called, “Nothing So Bad It’s Not Poetry,” Alan Farrell talks about what he calls “Vietvet or Namvet poetry,” He writes

“As I look back at my favorite war poems, poems I’ve learned in school, I find that-to the extent that they meant any thing to me–they do so for reasons mostly of form, of structure, of rhyme, of rhythm, of image … of craft in short.”

What it really comes down to is something that gets your attention about something the writer makes you care about as he pleases you. Something worth saying said well. Craft is how well you use the tools picked to get the job done. The worth of the job is how well it does what it’s supposed to do.

Farrell reincarnates and updates Rudyard Kipling’s Tommy Atkins in Nam in his poem The Man Who Outlived His Lieutenant. Its refrain goes:

That’s a combat man ‘ere talkin’ Sir
Seen the bear an’ smelt ‘is fur
Shots in anger, CIB
Get in a fight, jus’ do like me

Before the review copy arrived, I was rereading Obscenities by Michael Casey (published in 1972) and enjoying, once again, the poem “A Bummer,” which ends:

 If you have a farm in Vietnam
And a house in hell
Sell the farm
And go home

Did you hear someone way back there, way back in the day say “…Sell the farm and keep the house!?” It don’t mean nothing if you didn’t hear some variation; you know the feeling. The combination of content, remembrance and comment do the job. However, often the more you have to bring to the work to “get it” well the less work the writer has done well.

Casey made the mold-or caught the spirit-of much of the early published poetry of Nam vets: Flat in tone, matter of fact, direct and conversational, stripped of rhyme and meter; short on imagery.

For a long time vets who’d been there and lived that found it hard to publish in mainstream outlets-no matter the quality of their work. The academic and “professional” poets held the high ground-they deserved it (supposedly) because of their reputations and for bravely “speaking out.” Who were those people who thought their experience equaled others “proven talent” and “experienced eloquence?”

Everything vets wrote was just the same old story, a fight for survival-not glory-‘ comic grossness, callous humor. Although More Than A Memory is uneven in quality, it has high points.

Marc Levy uses the Casey approach well in his poem Peace Time. It lists the names soldiers had for combat and describes what happened in spare and matter of fact language like Jack Webb’s policeman Sgt. Friday or cowboy John Wayne or Clint Eastwood might (with effective repetition).

One verse goes:

They walked into our patrol
Or we walked into theirs
Or we ambushed them
Or they’d ambushed us
Or we walked into each other
Or they hit us with mortars
Or overran us with sappers
Or booby-trapped our automatics
Or we called in Arty

Repetition with variation of the same ol’ deadly same ol’ recreated with words describing the ways death and numbness came.

Levy’s short prose piece Whatever You Did in War Will Always Be with You gives the lowdown on the lingering regret too many still have, says what PTSD is and briefly describes some treatments for it.

 Levy’s prose pieces “Torque in Ankor Wat” and “Off the Road” are gritty travelogues of his odysseys in Cambodia and Vietnam respectively. Preston Hood, the writer with the most publishing credits in the contributors’ notes, paints an image of Boats Near Hue. Vietnam, 1997 with lines like

“The sea: white beach in formless prayer” and “Dark clouds shoulder into a gathering storm.” In the last verse of Pop Smoke, Dayle Wise brushes aside the macho shield of invulnerability warriors carry:

We’re tired and want to go home.
Mother take us back.
Let us suckle in your arms.
We’ve been very bad.

There’s a thing called Cowboy Poetry. It has its own form, style, subject matter, situations, types of people and behaviors, locale and target audience. It’s of the people, populist and not academic or traditional–except in its own tradition. Vietvet/Namvet poetry same same. You pay your money, spend your time and some of it satisfies. Which implies the obvious and opposite.

Horace Coleman was an Air Force Air Traffic Controller / Intercept Director in Vietnam (/967-68), he also served in Tactical Air Command, Pacific Air Command and North American Air Defense. He speaks at grade schools, high schools and churches and lives in Long Beach, CA.

Memorial Day thank you to vets

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Milly Balzarini has written The Lost Road Home to spread awareness of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)–what it is and how veterans can get the help they need if they suffer from it. Included in the book are both stories of veterans and stories of family members who struggle to understand a loved one who suffers from PTSD. Balzarini explains the symptoms of PTSD and the process of being diagnosed with it; suggestions are also included for ways the military can better help soldiers and their families cope with the soldier’s return to civilian life. The book’s easy-to-read style will provide hope and understanding to many families.

For more information, visit The Lost Road Home

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  More Than a Memory:  Reflections of Viet Nam is a stunning anthology of writings by veterans that includes first-person non-fiction narratives of serving in Vietnam, fictional stories about the war, poetry, tales of adjusting to civilian life after the war, and many memories of the war and how it continues to affect veterans’ lives today. The diversity of More Than a Memory provides a more thorough understanding of the war experience than any one soldier’s story could provide. Twelve authors have contributed forty-five different pieces of Vietnam war literature that leave a reader both shocked, grieving for the veterans’ experiences, and better educated about what war does to an individual and a nation.

For more information, visit More Than a Memory: Reflections of Viet Nam

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  Donald Bodey’s Vietnam War novel F.N.G. is a powerful, engaging story about one man’s tour of duty. While few ex-soldiers could masterfully write a novel of war, Bodey’s skill has created for the Vietnam War what Erich Maria Remarque accomplished for World War I in All Quiet on the Western Front.At the center of Bodey’s novel is Gabriel Saunders, the “F.N.G.” (F—ing New Guy). Gabriel has been drafted into the army, and when he arrives in Vietnam, he is scared and unsure of himself. To make matters worse, he has the horrendous experience of seeing his newly made friend killed before his eyes the first day he arrives. From there, the reader is taken through Gabriel’s tour of duty over the course of a year as he matures as a soldier, going from being the new guy to the leader of his squad.

For more information, visit F.N.G.

My Tour in Hell is Powell’s detail of his tour of duty in Vietnam. The time Powell spent there and the experiences he had were enough to make anyone have PTSD. Powell faithfully and truthfully exposes his personality flaws and strengths as he recounts his experiences.The book opens with his first day in the field and the fear he felt. He then discusses various patrols and operations in which he was involved. His memory of events is excellent, and I was fascinated by his experiences several times of seeing events in slow-motion when something traumatic happened such as his watching an atrocity or realizing he was being shot.

For more information, visit My Tour in Hell: A Marine’s Battle with Combat Trauma

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Tyler’s Tips

Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D., President of Superior Book Promotions and award-winning author of The Marquette Trilogy, Narrow Lives, and The Only Thing That Lasts.

 

Welcome to Issue 5, Our Special MEMORIAL DAY Issue of the SUPERIOR BOOK PROMOTIONS newsletter!

We honor our Veterans this weekend with four books by or about Veterans, including memoirs, poetry, novels and interviews with Veterans.

I encourage all of you to talk to the Veterans you know. Interview them. Record their conversations. Remember that every person has a story, and every story matters. Don’t let those stories be lost.

Thank you, Veterans, for all you’ve done for us!

 

Thank you for reading the Superior Book Promotions newsletter!

www.SuperiorBookPromotions.com

VVA’s Marc Leepson reviews MTAM

The following review appeared in the April 2009 issue of The VVA Veteran:

More Than a Memory: Reflections of Viet Nam (Modern History Press, 221 pp., $21.95, paper) is an anthology of essays, stories, and poems by fifteen Vietnam veterans. There is a wide range of material here, all well worth reading. That includes an excellent essay, “Whatever You Did in War Will Always Be With You,” on PTSD by writer Marc Levy, who also contributes two first-rate short stories. The other contributors include Don Bodey (the author of the novel F.N.G.), Alan Farrell, and Preston Hood.”

Be sure to visit our complete archive of More Than A Memory book reviews