Reviewed by Joni Bour

I read this book twice. I don’t know if I did this to make sure I absorbed all the details or if it was because I could not believe it or if I just wanted to make sure my disillusionment with our government was complete and irreversible. Whatever my reasoning, I managed them all.

When I initially bought this book, I found it in a wonderful old, musty bookstore in Lincoln City, OR (if you ever want to know the place email me and I will let you know). “ Waiting for and army to die”- now anyone who knows me would not be surprised that the book stuck right out on the shelf- calling out my name- stuffed next to other sorts of books like Atkin’s on carbohydrates and Dilbert, so I grabbed it. I was in a hurry because my husband and kids were anxiously waiting in the car to continue on our journey, so I confirmed the topic was related to my heart strings - the Vietnam veteran- and I purchased it without further adieu. I climbed in the car with my wrinkled brown grocery bag filled with slightly musty and well-used books and showed my husband my prize. He rolled his eyes and must have thought, "why not the Dilbert book like everybody else?" I gave it a quick hug and put on my seatbelt. I cracked open a Diet Coke and opened the book.

Thus, my journey into complete utter disgust, anger, shock and heartbreak began. I could not put the book down. Sometimes I would close it and just look out the window as we drove past great rock walls and the sandy beaches of the Oregon coast, wondering how a country so bent on human rights could have taken them away from the very people who fought to support them. It was quite foggy and the windshield appeared a bit wet with a combination of the sea air and fog as my husband used the windshield wipers to clear it away, I did the same with my finger to my eye. I said to myself while I was reading and I say it again many months later when I read it again for this review, I have never read anything so compelling, heartbreaking and loving all at the same time. Mr. Wilcox never liked the war back then and was a protestor of the war, but there is no kinder or thoughtful book written about the Vietnam veteran. He successfully separated the issues of the justness and logic of the war and his belief in the men and women who served there. Many to this day have not been able to do that. Fred Wilcox, I love you for that.

After reading this book, I understand the title. It is what they are doing, you know, waiting for an army to die. Our government’s lack of care or response to our soldiers and civilians exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War is a war crime. It is a crime against humanity really, affecting not only our soldiers, but many Vietnamese people as well and the offspring of both.

As you can easily witness on this website, I review many books related to the Vietnam War and will often say that a particular book is very well written and one of my favorites. I just don’t know what to say about this one to compel you to read it right this second. But I will do my best. I first read it nearly two years ago and remembered much of it as I reread it a second time this week. It is burned in my heart. You cannot read about soldiers who gave nearly everything for their country fighting a jungle war, only to return to America to die from rare forms of cancer that are linked to Agent Orange/dioxin exposure and not get angry. You cannot read about children of these soldiers exposed to AO being born with rare birth defects and not be shocked. You cannot read about these veterans being repeatedly denied medical benefits or even their freedom to information that might explain their many illnesses and not be affected. You cannot help but be offended and feel denied yourself, at least you should feel that way. Men and women have fought since the beginning of American history for your rights not to be denied. It is not possible to read this book and walk away as if it were “just a book”.

I do not think you can read this book without wanting to take up a sign and picket the Whitehouse or write your Congressman. But even before you paint your sign, you will cry in anguish for those who have served our country and been betrayed again and again and shame for being a part of country who has done this to our sons and daughters. If you cannot cry for them, then cry for their children. Or cry for the Vietnamese people, who after thirty years since our departure are still eating fish that come from rivers that were exposed to high concentrations of Agent Orange use and after these many years are still tested showing high levels of the dioxin in their bodies. Who does our government answer to if not to us? What can we as private citizens do? Well we can sit by and do nothing and just hold our hand to our faces in shock as we read “Waiting For An Army to Die”, that is easy enough, isn’t it? I think you will find that it isn’t. If the words of Fred Wilcox and countless Vietnam veterans and their families cannot mobilize you to stand up from your comfortable chair, I just don’t know what will. We cannot be the silent majority. We have to be the ones who end the Vietnam War once and for all. It is a good fight.We have to be the loud and demanding majority and tell our President and Congress that there has been an injustice and a crime.

Please don’t think you do not have the power to change anything - you do. A few right thinking people are the only ones who ever have made a difference. Just take the step. Read this book. Believe this book. Read another. Write your Congressman. Demand recognition of the crime and demand that our veterans be treated with the honor they deserve.

EMAIL Joni Bour

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Posted 3/22/05