I enjoyed being able to read a book by a real soldier who just wanted to tell his story and didnít need to Hollywood-it-up in order to impress me. I mean, read the book and tell me you are not impressed! The men who served as LURPs surely had nerves woven with threads of steel and were as tough as they come. There were times while reading the story I caught myself hunching over and practically reading with one eye open. Do not ask me why; let me just say the authors write vividly. I do realize, of course, that this took place 36 years agoÖ
Mr. Shanahan tells his story the way I imagine he might tell a few close friends around a late night campfire. We are his friends and we sit and listen, shocked and mesmerized. We can see he has probably lived the moments he is sharing many times and we are embarrassed to say we can barely get through them once. We are just ordinary people, afraid of so many things that he would never be able to understand.
I like an author who will tell me a story without explaining every little thing as if I am a five year-old or, even worse, use so much military jargon that I need the back of the book definitions more than I need the middle of the book, which is where the story is supposed to be! The authors just plain tell the story. It isnít glamorous, but it surely isnít dull. I have to say that many of the books I have read by men who have served as one of these elite forces tend to be veryĒ tough guy, chew bark off a tree, snap a VCís head off with the right hand while picking bark out of his teeth with the left handĒ kind of books. I would never criticize the men who have written books like this - they have served our country well and with great honor. These just are not the books for me. I want to know about the man who has the story to tell and there is a great story told here. I wish I could shake this veteranís hand, which I imagine is a very strong hand, one that probably could snap your head clean off if necessary.
I always like the middle of the book - do you know why? Usually there are some old photos in there of young men gone to war and they are usually black and white and a little grainy, my favorite kind! When you look at the photos in this book, you see into Mr. Shanahanís heart, right through his eyes. You could pick him out in a crowd, just by those eyes. 30-something years ago, his body may have been that of a young man, but his eyes were not. He has aged some over 36 years or so, as we all have, but not those eyes. Like a wolf, even from photos he looks right through you, past you and probably dismisses most things as trivial and a waste of energy. I can see why he would think so. It is true. Once one has lived a life where all that mattered was getting as many people as possible from one point to another alive, there are probably many things that do not seem as important as they once were. I have seen those eyes before though, in the faces of many men I know, all of whom have served in the Vietnam War. There is a lesson in the eyes of the heroes.
At the very end of this book, the authors take some time to give a large but partial list, a sea of names of men who served with the 173rd long-range reconnaissance companies. They also reach out with information about post- traumatic stress disorder. I am positive they did not intend for anyone to find humor here, but I did. Not the sort of joke you tell your friends kind of humor, but more like the sad humor that makes you shake your head and wish you hadnít thought of it sort of thingÖ They mention that many of those who served may be suffering from PTSD and they gave information about reaching out for help. This is where I laughed, or maybe I cried, or maybe I did both. The thought that came to my mind was this: How could any man or woman who has been through what our soldiers in Vietnam went through, not have post- traumatic stress? How could any one of these men and women who served our country come home the same person they were before they left our borders? It just is not possible. I am touched that Mr. Shanahan still reaches out to his brothers and I think we are compelled to do the same.
Make sure when you close the covers of this book, that even as you set aside the book, that you did not set aside the story and find a way to take the time to thank those who have served our country and came home to tell their story.
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