Mr. Meyer published “The Protected Will Never Know” in 2003. But he had made a run for the press some 30 years ago and failed. Let it be said today, that Joni Bour has unfailing respect for anyone who can put to word and sentence anything so truly personal and emotional, especially if they have done it twice. I remember once writing a college paper, believing intensely in my cause, and being told by the instructor to rewrite it and support my theory. What? I wonder if the editors who rejected this story 30 years ago thought the same thing. Well, if they did, shame on them. I bet they never bothered to read it. Or maybe what Mr. Meyer says is true - maybe the original manuscript was horrible. Maybe like the song, there is a time and purpose for everything under heaven. If you doubt that, make sure you read how the author came to make another attempt at writing his memoirs. He confirmed my belief in a God who works in mysterious ways.
There were several things I liked about this book. The cover photo for one. Just like the book itself, it isn’t fancy, but you will see it doesn’t need "fancy." It has something better than that - it has heart. He tells about his life as a young man, a generation ago, as if he were sitting on a park bench across from you, playing a game of checkers. He glances over at you, after me makes a double jump and tells you about arriving in Vietnam or making a bet with his friend Jack about when he is going to die. When I read those things one half of my brain is baffled at how matter of fact the author is about such insanity and the other half just laughs, because it is, well, nuts. It is heartbreakingly nuts and sad.
Another thing I liked about this book is that he struck me as a regular guy, the fellow next door. He could be the father of my daughter’s best friend. Then, as I read more about a year of his life in 1969, I thought, "I don’t know this guy after all. He looks ordinary, but he is in fact, extraordinary." Suddenly, I saw him differently as I can look into his eyes and wonder what he thinks about. Wonder if he is afraid if he hears an explosion. Wonder if he has bad dreams. “Wow, you did all that!”, is what I want to say. "You seem so….. well, unaffected, normal."
The thing is, when I finished his book, I was struck with the thought "Why in the world does he seem so normal?" He earned the right to be abnormal and maladjusted, weird. He has credit as far as I am concerned. He should look different than you and me, too. Stand out from the crowd a little, so we know he is special so we can know he has earned something we haven’t. He is, after all, a Vietnam Veteran. He deserves better. He deserves to not have to explain anything to anyone about 1969, so you might wonder why he does. I think if you read the book, you will know in the span of 160 pages what has taken the author 34 years to figure out. The book is as much for him as it is for me and it is as much for you as it is for thousands of veterans who look just like him and talk just like him and live just like him - living a “normal life”, but reliving those extraordinary, painful and complicated memories. Nobody realizes they are unusual, no one recognizes that they are heroes, because they are so quiet in their service to our country.. Please take the time to honor his service and the service of so many thousands of other men and women by reading the book. Laugh, get mad, be sad and cry, but mostly remember 1969 and hug your children, love your country and thank a veteran for the gift he/she has given you.
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