|The Wall at the Vietnam Memorial|
My connection with Paul Brenner started with his age and background. He was 18 in 1968 when he first went to
as an infantry soldier. He had grown up in Vietnam South Boston
in a working class family. I am slightly younger and grew up on our family
Opening the book at the Wall of the Vietnam Memorial in
to highlight the name of a soldier
killed flooded Brenner with remembrances. Washington
During his return to
Brenner returns to the 1968 battlefields of his youth. Powerful, disturbing,
haunting memories are evoked by the A Shau Valley and the Khe Sanh camp. Vietnam
I can remember as a teenager reading the stories and seeing the pictures of those ferocious brutal battles. DeMille’s recounting had a greater impact than any news story or photo. DeMille brings forth the visceral experience of teenage boys fighting for their lives in a distant land.
In Anthem for a Doomed Youth there are the poems of men who fought in the Great War, World War I, which was the first major conflict of the 20th Century. While I have not read comparable poems for
the prose of DeMille has the same emotional impact. Vietnam
For Americans of my generation the Vietnam War was their war. Had my grandfather not left the
a century ago it could have been my
personal war. United
I knew a Canadian who served in
with the American military. A few years later I saw him experience a flashback
that was frightening in its intensity. Vietnam
Brenner encounters Vietnamese veterans, both former allies and enemies. He deeply regrets the continuing cruel treatment of South Vietnamese Army veterans by the Communist victors.
Generally there is mutual respect between Brenner and former adversaries. Yet there remains strong buried animosity. With the right trigger each side is ready to take up the battle again 30 years later.
Colonel Mang is an incorruptible dedicated police officer who fought the Americans. In his persistence and dedication to country he is far more like Brenner than either character would admit to publicly. Neither will settle for easy answers that suit the respective establishments of communist
and capitalist Vietnam . America
All reflect on the losses. While
lost over 58,000 the wars from 1954 through 1975 cost 3,000,000 Vietnamese
appears to help Brenner dealing with the memories of his time at war. After
reading the book I have some understanding on why going back aids many veterans. Vietnam
In the post-WW I quartet of mystery series I have read, and about which written a collective post, - the Rennie Airth series with Inspector Madden and the Charles Todd series of Inspector Rutledge and Hamish McLeod and the Charles Todd series with nurse Bess Crawford and the Jacqueline Winspear series with Maisie Dobbs - the impact of the war continued long after they came home. In Up Country DeMille shows how, for a later 20th Century generation, the war equally never ends in the minds of its veterans.
Bill - You make a very well-taken point. One of the terrible prices that war exacts is people's mental health. There really are hundreds of thousands of Vietnam veterans on both sides who still have to deal with that reality every day. And we are seeing that with soldiers who've returned from more recent conflicts too. Arms, legs, etc.., those things can sometimes be saved. Mental trauma? That's much harder...ReplyDelete
Margot: Thanks for the comment. Hopefully present and future soldiers get the treatments for mental trauma not available for soldiers of the past.ReplyDelete
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