Reviewed by Joni Bour

I cannot honestly tell you how many books I have read about the Vietnam War or even how many authors I know. A lot. Some I donít even remember, some I probably will never forget. This author and his memoir are definitely two that will stick with me for a while. After I have read and reviewed a book, I will usually categorize it in my mind. There are the Blood and Thunders- there are always more than enough of those; Stats and Facts - I have a lot of these too, though I avoid them as best I can; and then a few that are funny or touching, which I most enjoy. But since this book, I have added a new category: ďTestimonial of a true grit warrior.ď I have nearly 600 books on the subject of Vietnam and so far I have only this book and one other on the list, as not many would qualify.

I have never enjoyed a story more for its gambit of emotion. One page I would laugh at his deep respect for the rat he shared living quarters with and found myself admiring him at the same time. Another page I am riveted to every word to see what will happen next. Still another I almost feel the dread his mother surely felt when the Marine Corps staff car arrived at their home, when she surely felt her son was dead.

This book is a touching tribute to the real McCoys, the fighting Marines who have served each other and our country so well. I read that someone compared this work to Fortunate Son by Lewis Puller, jr (may he rest in peace). I feel it is better. I would venture to say if there was a true grit Pulitzer this author would be one of the first to be nominated. It is the single most important work that I have read that so carefully chronicles one manís moments in history and yet I was left thinking he was telling the story of many Marines. The book reads like a diary, which is what makes it so poignant, speaking often about the dread, love, anger, humor, hunger and melancholy of war. It is written the way the man must have lived it and it remains beautifully preserved that way, unpolished, and straight up real.

There are many excerpts that might seem to conflict with each other in an ordinary book, but they work in this one because these were no ordinary times nor is this an ordinary man. These little glimpses into a manís psyche would probably be snipped right out of a movie, but in fact, these moments are what make this book incredibly touching. So often these days, when a person sets out to tell their story, they fix it, add things, remove things or reword things until they have lost their authenticity. This book feels like the real deal. In fact, it almost speaks to you and when you flip through the pages in the back and see the photos the author has included, you can almost picture him for real, see him doing the things he speaks of in those 408 pages. You donít even notice you have read 408 pages.

This is a significant work not only for its historical value - I would much rather read a book written by someone who lived it as opposed to someone to researched it - but for its overall entertainment value as well. Readers who enjoy a good blow Ďem up, good guys and bad guys story will enjoy this as much as the person who likes humor even in the face of adversity sorts of stories. If you are the type who will cry for a stranger who has sacrificed more than most of us even have in us to give, then this is the right book for you, too. This book has everything you could want and maybe even a little more. Everything but the Pulitzer, popcorn and tissues.

" We are all citizens of the world. The tragedy lies in the fact that not everyone realizes this." - Woodrow Wilson

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Posted 5/15/07