What Should We Speak Of When We Are Old?
R. J. Hendrickson
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Not the typical postmodern Vietnam War novel, this is an uplifting story about good and evil. Heroes are not always victorious, but they are always heroes.
Tigers and enemy soldiers stalk the dark mountainous jungle, hidden by cool mists, monsoon rains, and deep emerald canopy. Lt. Ben Spangler is a young, idealistic but naive Army lieutenant who seeks the Combat Infantryman Badge as his duty and a necessary step in his Army career. Denied the opportunity to serve with an American combat unit, he becomes part of a two-man American advisory team to Lieutenant Colonel Tran, a kind and brave Vietnamese district commander in the beautifully exotic Tuyen Duc Province.
Ben comes to know the sad desperation of his alcoholic boss, Major Swanson, and the quiet dignity of Col. Tran’s wife, who teaches him courage can be more than bravery in combat. He wins the trust of the brooding and mysterious Captain Thieu, a former university professor who speaks four languages, hates arrogant Americans, and is a dedicated killer of his country’s enemies.
Threatened by disgrace and the possible end of his Army career, Ben finds the meaning of this war more important than any medal. He finally finds the combat he seeks, but the evil of man and unseen forces in the jungle change him forever. Ben and his desperate brothers-in-arms see the end coming, the American abandonment of an ally.
What Should We Speak of When We Are Old?
A very good read. The author paints a very descriptive picture of the Vietnam landscape and culture. It is obvious he is writing the story based on first hand experience and with high passion about the Vietnamese people he bonded with. Hendrickson does a good job conveying the frustrations and challenges of working within the US Military culture during a very trying time in our history. Strong finish to this book as the US withdraws from its commitment to this war.
I recommend this read to anyone who is interested in an objective, true to life perspective of the waning days of the Vietnam war.