Reviewed by Joni Bour

This is the hardest review I have ever tried to write and the hardest book I ever tried to read. Why so hard, you wonder? Too many big words, not enough pictures or too many pages? No, none of that. It as the story itself. I could feel it in my hands; not the weight of the book, but the weight of the war in Vietnam. 179 pages of heart and soul. It was bare naked anger, hate, suffering and despair.

I have read more books than I can count by veterans of the Vietnam war, but there is no author I admire more than Mr. Spencer. This author has done what few other authors have managed to accomplish. Most books suffer from so many edits, rewrites and opinionate publishers that by the time they run the gauntlet they resemble a Christmas package neatly tied with a bow more than the true heart of the soldier who wrote them. But not this book. It definitely took the road less traveled. The author is more than your average historian. He is the history. He doesn’t waste his paper on facts and figures, but he does tell you about Khe Sanh in a way few have ever tried. He tells of battles for the soul and the mind: the other casualties of war.

This is hands down the most heartbreaking and thought provoking book about Khe Sanh and even the Vietnam War I have ever had the honor to read. Other books were easier too, and none have left me a believer in the way that this book has. Seldom is the author so true to himself and the memory of those lost that he is willing to blind others with their own tears and shame rather than sacrifice what he knows to be the true story. So many authors sweep up and soften the edges in order to sell more books, but in the process have sacrificed the heart of the story. So many books “ play it safe” writing about things that don’t really matter in the end, like statistics and logical conclusions. And they forget to talk about what really mattered: the men and women who served and sacrificed for a country that has remained ungrateful. Who cares about anything else anyway? On the very last page of his book, Mr. Spencer was faced with having to identify a casualty from his battalion. He says,” Rodriguez is gone and I am still here. Why? Am I but a witness? I feel fear wash through me. They die while I watch. Whom should I tell? Who will care? How long will they care”? If I could see Mr. Spencer face to face I would tell him that I care, I have always cared. This book, written in 1987, had such a powerful effect on me. You will find no polish, photos or happy ending. You will find some rather colorful language and the haunting truth. Please read the book. It will probably make you feel uncomfortable. Good! It should. If for even a few moments you feel you have suffered from reading about such waste and suffering, then take a few more moments and try to imagine first living the story and then laying it down on paper. It is our debt to read this book, in honor of those who have given more than we can ever imagine.

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Posted 1/21/05