Having written a number of books over the years, I was asked to write a review of a new book written by Howard L. Hibbard, who having volunteered to serve in Vietnam, came home like many of us, to countrymen who turned their backs on those who answered the call to duty. Whether the call to duty was mandated by the Selective Service Board or by choice, these “brothers” faced the same rejection experience by the country they served.
Those who have never served and those who have never faced an enemy intent on killing him, will never understand what a combat infantryman must endure to return home to his loved ones. The horror one sees . . . the death, destruction, the blood and guts of absolute mayhem, the loss of innocence and youth that will never fully materialize because of what one has witnessed . . . will forever be a psychological companion that no matter how long one lives, will rear its ugly head at the most inopportune moments.
The soldiers of every war face the same reality that life will never be the same. They call the reoccurring horror by many names ; shell shock, combat fatigue, survivor guilt, anxiety disorder, combat neurosis, battle fatigue, bordering on the edge of schizophrenia and panic disorder. In wars prior to Vietnam, the returning soldiers were generally left on their own to deal with the mental instability and depression that wars can create and led many to handle the stress by turning to alcohol and drugs; most cases the family turned a blind eye.
Today we recognize this post-war trauma as post traumatic stress syndrome or PTSD, which has played out in real life with the Department of Defense finally addressing the issue which is claiming 22 veterans a day committing suicide. The public at large has no way of understanding this situation and some even cast a disparaging view and label the problem as an incurable mental disorder, further complicating the life of the combat veteran. Such ignorant views hinder a soldier’s ability to seek meaningful employment or reintegrating back into normal society.
Mr. Hibbard’s book should be mandatory reading by every citizen, because it takes you through one man’s effort at the reintegration process, following his return from Vietnam. The story, based on Hibbard’s real-life account every combat veteran faces when the bullets start flying, mortars come raining down, and how every moment may be the last. The story is told almost in a “flash-back” fashion with vignettes of combat laced with the real-life problems he faced, battling a law career given its own pressure, interwoven with PTSD and alcoholism. I am sure Mr. Hibbard would credit his survival in his reintegration process to the lessons-learned in Vietnam.
The close “brotherhood bond” that is created in combat is stronger than even a familial-bond and the hurt at losing a brother in arms can be even more traumatic than losing a family member. Hibbard’s story relays that message like a clean shot right through “the running lights” from a sniper’s bullet. This book will move you, give you thoughts that might make it hard to go to sleep at night, but it will enable you to understand what goes through a soldier’s mind and how he learns to cope with the unfathomable. The ending encounter with a nameless and forgotten homeless veteran will give you a moment to pause and reflect why we in the military will strive to never leave one of our own behind, and why the utmost compassion must be extended to the veterans who do the dirty work most will not do. As President Calvin Coolidge famously said: “The nation which forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten.”
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Posted by Ed Mattson on December 3, 2017, With 0 Reads, Filed under Military, Of Interest, Vietnam War (1955-1975). You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.