Edited by Victor R. Volkman, this anthology, which includes the literary work of fifteen combat veterans, encapsulates the raw and powerful authenticity of going to hell and back. Each piece features a person, a soldier, a survivor. Words like these should never be forgotten.
As stated in the book synopsis, “Four decades on, the legacy of American involvement in the Viet Nam War still looms large in the lives of the veterans who experienced it firsthand. This new anthology of poems, stories, and essays looks at the war through the lens of both past and present perspectives—the pain they felt, witnessed, and buried can hopefully be released by the telling of their collective truths.”
Furthermore, the reader is compelled to travel the full onslaught of sensory input; therefore this book may not be appropriate for young readers. This volume, however, is appropriate for the discerning adult reader, not otherwise effected by some descriptions of injury and death.
While employed as a trauma counselor for combat veterans, I’ve witnessed the pain and residual effects of war on the human psyche. The reader is compelled to ride along as a literary passenger, sometimes feeling shock, disbelief, and other visceral emotions. We are supposed to feel connected while reading, perhaps empathize or shed a tear, and even ball a fist in anger and defiance. Did I feel these emotions while reading this anthology? Yes, and this is why I recommend this book. I was able to touch upon the physiological expanse of the war transfiguring these individuals and through it, remember my duty of being a witness to their pain of retelling their experiences and the after-effects.
As with most readers, generally speaking, More Than A Memory: Reflections of Viet Nam appeals because the reader has choices, depending on the collection. In this anthology, I am drawn to the poetry because I am also a poet and a lover of imagery and power of poetic verse. One poem struck me and conveyed the rawness and the vulgarity of war.
Preston Hood’s poem “Rung Sat”:
“rice bowls & fish heads— children half-buried in dirt. I am a man half in the water, half out; my legs suck into mud. My hands hold my head outstretched—hasten to deliver me among the dead.”
Finally, in this time of recognizing the wrongs of our collective past and moving forward to correct racial bias, I find this piece even more powerful and it is a jewel: Dayl Wise’s “The Cross of St. Andrew.”
From South Carolina, Morris our RTO calls me “my pale-skinned brother.” To rest of recon team, all black, I’m the “White Rabbit.” told it’s a suburban white boy, scoring drugs downtown. They liked me, what choice did they have? I was their squad leader and mother all rolled into one.
They wore black braided bands on wrists, they gave me, their cracker, a white one. In the bush, skin tone becomes irrelevant. Didn’t mean nothing… not really…. Read each others’ letters from home. Spoke of going back to the world, sports, school, sex, surviving… but most talk was food. Mom’s baked beans, corner deli, breaded channel catfish, grits, and for me, New York pizza. Arguing for hours, almost coming to blows at times.
Descending to LZ Buzzard by chopper, the mortar platoon below sunbathes, drinking 3.2 beers under the Confederate battle flag. It flutters from their radio antenna, a racist blue cross, white stars, red background. Later their Lt., West Pointer, Alabama boy, fell, headshot, a single high-velocity round, mysterious sniper, never found.
More Than A Memory: Reflections of Viet Nam should be required reading for family, friends, colleagues, veterans, and health/and mental health professionals, who know or come in contact with a combat veteran of any era. This collection reminds the reader of valuing our humanity, to seek love, patience and kindness despite the violent, irrational, and sacrificial actions of war. It might be a difficult read for some but for readers who do choose to take the literary plunge, it’s worth every word.
Book ID: 2940011839115