Everything we had: An oral history of the vietnam war by Al Santoli

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A powerfully unapologetic book. It completely destroyed the Hollywood and Media fantasy notion of what war is. The stories by these Vietnam veterans are raw and make no attempt to come off as politically correct. They talk about their experiences in their own word without regard to being politically correct. The testimonies follow a chronological order that start from the beginning of the war, all the way to leaving Vietnam. What I like about this book is that you got to hear from a wide range of soldiers, everything from Marines, SEALS, medics, Navy, and POW’s. There’s even some photographs of the men and women in the book.

What I admired about this book was the brutal honesty. The soldiers speak about incompetent leaders, crazy soldiers, fear, courage, death, and a lot of other things that is usually overshadowed by an overtly patriotic message. This is one of those books people of this generation need so badly read. These voices from a not so distant past are trying to warn of us of the true nature of war. Some of the stories are enough to make you laugh out loud, such as the soldier who enlisted after a wild night of drinking then sobered up really fast. Other accounts by special forces who lived deep in enemy territory are grim and reveal the deep psychological scarring of what they did to survive and do their duty.

I’d like to close a review with a poem by Lee Byron “Lee Boy” Childress. He is a contributor in Everything We Had. Childress passed away on July 31, 1997 from lung cancer brought on by exposure to the chemical Agent Orange.

Alone

Old soldiers never die;
They just wish they could.

He’s your brother.
He’s your son.
He’s the one who humped your gun.
Now his mind has come undone
And you applaud it.

Through a ten-year war it seems
You were hatching all your dreams
So you couldn’t hear the screams
Your own son dying.

He’s back, put to bed,
Alone,
Sleeping with the dead,
Bloated on the lies you fed.

For he cannot stop the popping
Or the helicopter chopping down his brain.

He’s so hooked,
He’s so fried,
Blood
Screaming from his eyes.
Alone,
Psychomanglized.

More of this poetry is printed on http://www.ragbaby.com/magazine/19990321.htm

Al Stanoli

Al Stanoli

 

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