A Patch of Ground: Khe Sanh Remembered

Reviewed by Joni Bour

I do not know what the English translation of the name Khe Sanh would be, but I would guess it could be a word like "Heartbreak ". Never since the book, " West Dickens Avenue" by John Corbett (also a book about Khe Sanh), have I read anything as remarkable about the human aspect of the toll of a battle such as the one that took place for Khe Sahn. There have been many battles in the history of the United States that took more casualties and certainly battles that claimed and held the ground for which it was fought. There have been battles for which there was a clear victor and battles whose prize was clear. But none have told of the battle for the only prize that was left worth fighting for, the human spirit, as well as "A Patch Of Ground."

There is no greater testimonial to the spirit of a Marine and a man than the battle for Khe Sanh. I mean this with all sincerity having read some 200+ books about all sorts of men and women who served in Vietnam. If you are not familiar with this battle, I would highly recommend this book. If you are familiar, then I would highly recommend this book. Mr. Archer has touched the very core of the heart of the young Marine. Few writers have found a way to convey the depth of fortitude, strength and sheer will to live the way this author has. His words struck a chord in my heart for they were so clearly without presumption or bravado. He is one of those Marines who survived, not some novelist with a computer and a pile of reference books. He was on that piece of worthless land whose price was greater than any one of us could possibly imagine.

I believe the author, Michael Archer, is as tenacious now as he was then. It has not been an easy story for him to tell but you will be as glad as I am that he did. Be sure to read the entire book. You must. I promise you that you must. I am going to admit this only once so pay attention. I've read a lot of books and sometimes I skip what seems like twenty years of thank you to this person and that and how I got to this point and blah, blah, blah. I really just want to get to the story. But this time, God whispered in my ear to go back as I quickly flipped to page 5. I swear to you it is true that I was already reading about the author's earliest memory of his father when I stopped and this thought - that I actually sort of heard out loud - told me to go back and read the REAL beginning of A Patch Of Ground. Weird but true. So I did what you would do, too. I went back and this is what I need to tell you. Don't skip a thing. The beginning of the book, the blah, blah, blah, is not only NOT blah, blah, blah, it is actually one of the most important parts of the whole book. This is where you begin to realize this is not merely a man telling you about his life. This is not just a history book. This is the life of a remarkable man. A man who has fought more than one battle. Perhaps his first was at Khe Sanh, but the battle since was not. This was not an easy story for him to tell, but it was important that it be placed on paper in order that those who served there might finally win the battle for Khe Sahn. That the memory of that place did not swallow him alive proves he has won. It proves that those who suffer or despair over what they cannot come to terms or find some peace with can be victors as well.

This is a remarkable story, not told with pretense or machismo, but rather, told by a real Marine who does not have to preach or build up the story to be bigger than it was to make it a story worth knowing. This story, though terribly sad and heartbreaking, also has great humor and hope written by a man who needed only to be himself in order to give proof that the human spirit can prevail over all things. I hope that you will read this book and take away as much as I did. It was a privilege to read.

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Posted 11/23/05