TO NAM AND BACK: Don't Pray For Me

Reviewed by Joni Bour

Rule number one: Never judge a book by its cover or in this case- by its title. I am sheepishly willing to admit that from the moment I saw the title of this book, I put off reading it. I have said it before; there is really nothing I hate more than macho "Apocalypse Now"-type books. Just cannot push them down without them coming back up. So imagine my surprise when this book was nothing like I expected. With a title like this; come on, you thought it, too! For heavenís sake, what young son would not want his mamma to pray for him while he is off in some foreign land, fighting for a foreign cause that even the foreigners donít understand? Well, our author didnít and at first, I thought that was just plain nuts. But when I read further, I found his reasoning to be simple and true to his brothers in arms. He knew how much his family cared for him but he also knew there were young men fighting in that God forsaken place who didnít have prayers being said for them. In a letter home to his family, he asked that they not pray for him, not because he did not have faith, but because he wanted no special favors. He worried a great deal that he might somehow receive a favor from God, sparing his life when the favor might have gone to another more deserving. He knew in his heart there were other young men not as lucky as he, with precious few prayers said on their behalf. He just wanted a level playing field. At first, you might chuckle as I did, but as you read on, you see his love for his brothers is real. This was no sappy opening line - ďOh Mamma, donít pray for me.Ē He meant it. It isnít corny at all. It is very touching, like a kid who stands up to give his grandfather the last chair in the room or old soldiers who instinctively stop to salute a flag as they pass by. It is something genuine, simple and rare, in a world where thoughts often go to self before others.

He might be a little bit cocky, but so are other combat helicopter pilots. You have to have a little bit of that fire in you, or you wonít survive. Just like a firefighter believes there is no fire that canít be doused, this pilot believed there was no situation that could not be out-thought or out-fought. I donít think these pilots thought they were invincible so much as they never allowed themselves to worry about their own lives, but instead always concentrated on those they felt the duty to help. They were not the troops on the ground, but they were the ones most often getting them there, or flying their broken and wounded bodies to aid. They were the beginning of the modern day ambulance and life flights we see in civilian life. I have always believed they were a rock star, like Audey Murphy and Roy Rogers (with wings) all in one. He might not think he was a hero, heroes never do, but holy cow, if he didnít throw up before each flight, if he even got one wink of sleep in a year of duty, if he didnít live his life in a bottle of Jack Daniels to cope with the work he had to do, he was a hero.

This is a great story. It did not take much paper but it sure took a lot of heart. He didnít have to tell you about his feelings or wounds you would not see if you could meet him and shake his hand, but he does. He talks about his dreams and life since the war and he tells you about his pride in his family. He is more open than your next-door neighbor. This book was a pleasure to read and one I would recommend to anyone who wants to read an atypical ďwar storyĒ and would rather know about the man who fought the battle than the battle that he fought.

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Posted 2/25/05