Book Jacket

 

rank 1008
word count 228061
date submitted 08.02.2011
date updated 15.08.2013
genres: Non-fiction, History, Biography, Ha...
classification: universal
complete

When Pride was Not an Option

David Turner

I was still a kid. Would my parents sign, letting me go in the Army, or just tell me to go back to school?

 

The helicopter started to descend. My gut floated a little bit. It usually settled down. Not this time. It got stronger. My butt clenched first, then everything else followed until my whole body was stiff.

I forced myself to reach up and rack a shell in the chamber, then repeated it, just to make sure and regretted wasting it. Even with fifteen hundred rounds between my legs, it never felt like I had enough.

This time would be bad. Everyone knew it. The first time had not gone well at all and no one expected what had happened, especially me. I still had not fully recovered from the stark terror I still felt inside from what can only be described as total chaos and I dreaded what lay ahead.

Why did I ever get myself into this situation? How did the decisions I made cause me to end up here? This is nothing at all like I thought it would be and not how things were supposed to happen. How could I have been so completely wrong? I glanced at my watch. It was ten a.m. I would have been in 10th grade Latin class.

 
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a soldiers family, action, adolescence, adventure, american history, army, battle, combat, combat fatigue, coming of age, door gunner, family, going o...

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                                         Watch out Charlie

 

My C.O. didn’t seem the least bit concerned or upset at my wanting to transfer out of his unit. He never asked why. When I turned in the request the clerk hardly even looked at it. He just looked at me with a curious look, no smile, just a look, and went back to the Major’s office. He came back out a few minutes later and told me it would take some time to type up the orders,

   “And!” he added, “I’ve got to find an aviation unit that will take you!”

Didn’t he mean a unit that needed me? It was no use bothering to correct him. He told me to check back tomorrow, sometime in the afternoon.

For the time being anyway, no one acted like they had heard anything. Maybe that guy actually did keep his trap closed. Maybe it was my look.

It was time to make some changes in my life, changes that will hopefully allow me to earn a place in this world. So far, I had never felt truly close to belonging to anything worthwhile.

So that I would be ready when the time came, I needed to prepare. To live to tell the tale of what lay ahead, I would need to be strong. The results of this war I’ve seen so far were those caskets in Saigon, and the wounded, and compared to just how many troops are over here, the odds seemed pretty good of my not ending up like that.

Only that once was I scared that much. There would be time to think about that later, and I would. The only thing on my mind now was what my homecoming would be like now that my job was different, and a little more dangerous.

This would be a test, where I either proved myself to the world, or failed miserably. Now, assuming I was able to step into that place of respect, exactly how does that happen? How I was supposed to act? It would have a lot to do with how I would be treated. After this, there shouldn’t be anything else I should have to do.

Of course, for a while, until the word gets around, I would have to make sure everyone knew. It only stands to reason. I would have to get it across, somehow, that I had been in combat. How else would they know how to act towards me? Unless, of course, there might be some scar, easily seen with shorts or a t-shirt on.

There was just a hint of excitement at that thought, and I quickly caught myself, not wanting to wish anything into existence. The closer I came to the possibility, the more I found myself not wishing for it to happen… kinda.

Either way, once word starts to spread, it would take off on it’s own and just become the norm. When people looked at me, they would see not only a person, but I would want them to know that I was a veteran.

  It wasn’t full blown glory I was after. It never was. It was just to be on some level better than always feeling like I was a nuisance to have around. In almost every situation I could remember I was somehow not quite up to some unknown standards, not quite good enough to just be accepted at face value, and that’s what I needed to change. It was going to be up to me to accomplish it.

Growing up, I remember always having a strong need to prove myself, and now I understood who it was I needed to prove it to. It was Dad. I’m sure he didn’t plan it that way but he was the one that gave me this desperate need.

One thing still stood out in my memory. I mowed the lawn, all on my own, and was feeling pretty good about myself, for even deciding to do it. Just like I saw him do, I got the mower out, checked the gas and oil, and mowed all of the front and back yard. Once finished, I wiped the mower clean of grass, and put it away right where it belonged Then, I waited for him to come home.

At seventeen minutes after five, his usual time, he pulled in the driveway. I got up from the porch to greet him. He pulled up to the garage door and shut the car off, looked up at me and smiled. I remember the smile. He opened the door and started to get out. That was about as long as I could wait.

   “Dad, I mowed the lawn for ya!”

Something along the lines of “Good Job,” or even just a “Thanks!” was all I really expected. He looked the lawn over. Surely, he noticed that it was a good job, but to my surprise, he just turned and headed for the door.

   “You forgot the side yard!”

And he disappeared inside the house!

No big deal right? Wrong! It was a big deal! By itself, I guess it wasn’t much, but it was the way things were, as far as any kind of praise being passed around at our house. It started to add up to this desire I now had, this need to believe that I can do good and that I have done good already.

It’s not true that he had never been completely satisfied with me, or my accomplishments. Mom did tell me once, that Dad told her he didn’t compliment us much because he felt we would be satisfied with that and never strive to be any better.

And don’t think kids don’t realize that parents do have favorites. When Dad was bragging Bryan up some, because of his good grades, or his interest in cars, I heard it. Those extra little things he would say, like when company was around. It wasn't “Bryan is so smart, and David isn't!” He just seemed to pay a little more attention, to things Bryan did.

Was this the drive behind my need to be recognized? This probably wasn’t what Dad had in mind when he asked me if I was going to do anything with my life. Was this all just to show him? Either way, I was not able to stop myself from going on with it.

The next time I checked with the clerk, he told me he had one more paper to finish typing and to go ahead and start signing what was already done. One of the pieces of paper included in the stack was one of the answers to the inquiries my unit had sent out to several Aviation companies, letting them know that they had a soldier available that was requesting to be a gunner, and could anyone use him. It was from one in an area that I knew there was a lot of enemy action.

Past my name, my new M.O.S., and what I was requesting to do, there was the question of whether I passed my flight physical. Flight physical? I didn’t take any flight physical. The box was checked “yes!” What did they check for in one of those? Turn left and cough? Was there something I needed to be checked for, something that might make a difference in how I would perform my duties? I couldn’t think of anything.

Then, there was the comment the C.O. of this other company wrote at the bottom of his reply.

   “We could certainly use this man, as we are presently short fifteen gunners at this time!”

I understood exactly what that meant. All of those guys did not rotate back to the states at the same time. Again I thought about those silver boxes back at Saigon and wondered if any of them were from this company. Looking back at the first page, I was relieved to find that it was not the one they were sending me to.

That shook me right up. My legs actually started shake as I read those words and I felt very grateful to whoever decided not to send me there.

The clerk walked in with the last of the papers that needed to be signed. It was just standard stuff, no “next of kin” forms this time. Did I request this transfer? Yes! Did I understand my new destination, and what my job would be? Yes, and Yes. Did I understand my new DEROS date? (Date Expected To Return from Overseas)

Yes!

Then, by signing here I state my understanding of all that was written henceforth, therefore and whatever?

I penned my name, including my middle initial, and I was now a door gunner in the United States Army. I made it! All that was needed now was find out exactly what that meant.

Before anyone else even knew about it, I was packed and out of the room. I held nothing against them at all. Things had just got off on the wrong foot. It wasn’t their fault. I acted like a kid and they treated me like one. I wasn't a “Newbie” anymore. My fatigues had lost that brand new dark green look and I was determined to make a better impression at the next place.

It wasn't that everything I did was dumb, or wrong. There were just so many things I didn’t seem to know or understand just yet. Not only did I look young, but I acted that way too. Except for Paul, who took me under his wing and wouldn't steer me wrong, most people just didn’t have much use for me. It went all the way back to that Air Force Sergeant, who basically told me to “Grow up and come back when!” And I’ve seen that same kind of look in the faces of many people since. Rather than listening and maybe following at least some of the advice I’d been given, it was only making me more determined to show them they were all wrong.

The chopper landed to pick me up and take me to my new home. As it came in and set down I watched with much more interest now just how everything was done. No time like the present to start learning as much as possible.

Jumping aboard, I was determined not to duck this time when the rotor wash hit my head, but it still happened. The gunner, who was standing straight up, didn’t seem to notice as he helped me load my stuff. There were two of them, one for each side. Real soon it would be me doing it, and just the thought of it made me all prickly inside

As we lifted they leaned way out on their special seats, the ones behind those awesome machine guns. They were looking around, making sure there was nothing in the way and the ship was clear to take off, all the time talking to the pilots by pushing on a little switch in the cord that connected their helmets to the radio. It was their job to watch for hazards the pilots might not be able to see. That would be one of my jobs and I was taking mental notes, wanting to be completely serious about this, becoming more determined to do it right than I have ever been about anything!

The gunners, leaning far out from their seats, out past the door weren’t wearing any harnesses or belts, and we were already hundreds of feet in the air. I was still having enough trouble leaning over from the middle of the passenger seat. The pilot was flying normally but I still felt queasy and would need to work on that. Gunners can’t be to sick to fly!

We descended and I looked out to see my new base. Finally, there was something that looked like it should be in a combat zone. Instead of lots of buildings with a few planes and helicopters, there were a few hooch’s, and lots of planes. Just then, the pilot swung around to line up with the runway, and I was almost sideways again. This time, it tickled.

He gently came down and taxied into his spot called a revetment. The gunners jumped out and went about their business. None of it was making much sense to me right then, but everyone had to have a first time. I would learn and I would be good at it.

Finding the assigned company, I reported to the orderly room and handed my orders to the clerk. He glanced at them, and actually smiled up at me!

   “Welcome aboard! Have a seat! The C.O. will be right with you!”

While he took my orders into his office, I looked around at all the charts and maps. There was a big white board with numbers across the top. These had to be the helicopters numbers. Over the top of those were the headings, such as pilot, crew, and status. Stopping at the status heading I noticed there were about eight out of twenty, more than a third of them, not flight ready. I strained my eyes, trying to make out the smaller writing in those boxes.

   “Turner! The Major will see you now!”

He smiled again. These people are actually friendly. I knew that in a combat unit, there would be more of that brotherhood I’d been searching for. Maybe I found it

   “Thanks!”

I made sure to smile back, not a big kid grin, just enough, and walked in to report.

   “Sir, Specialist Turner reporting!”

And I saluted, not all briskly, not overdone, just nice, and proper.

   “At ease Turner! Sit down will you!”

He was very pleasant and I felt an immediate kinship with him, but I was not going to relax and open up until I knew for sure what the real deal was. He read my orders over and read over the top part a second time, the part with my personal information. He looked up with a surprised look on his face.

   “How old are you Turner? To the month, how old are you?”

I added it up, to the month, and it even sounded young to me. Even rounded it ahead didn’t make that much difference.

   “Eighteen years and five months old sir!”

I answered, trying to sound like it was no big deal. He smiled.

   “You know! I think you may be the youngest person I have under my command! I’ll have to check that! No! I’m sure! You are!”

He looked back at the paperwork.

   “You requested to be transferred to this unit! What made you want to be a door gunner?”

    What should I say? This could be some kind of test, maybe to see if I have what it takes. That was exactly why I was here, but that was my reason, not his. The only thing I could think of to tell him was that I wasn’t satisfied with my last job.

   “I wasn’t happy with my former M.O.S. It wasn’t really what I came here to do. I wanted to be somewhere where I felt I could make a difference!”

Apparently, that was what he wanted to hear. It spurred me on.

   “And, I want to fly sir!”

Maybe I should add that I want to help win the war. No. That seemed a little much. The general attitude around here was “Do your time and get out!” There were no cries for victory, no posters with “Rosie the Riveter!” This just wasn’t that kind of conflict.

Besides, I wasn’t sure how I stood on the whole thing. I had been too busy trying to get into it, to see what was going on. And, I still hadn’t learned how to hate yet.

He leaned back in his chair and looked me over. He was looking at the best solid front I could manage. Inside, I was Jell-O. It felt no different than sitting in the principal’s office. In all this time, and with everything I’ve experienced, I felt no older, and not much wiser than I did back then. When he spoke, it brought me back to things at hand.

   “Well, you will get the chance to do both things here Turner!”

Then he got serious.

   “I have two rules! One! Show up when you’re supposed to, and do your job! Two! Don’t do anything that would make me look bad! You follow those rules, and your time here will be well spent! Got it?”

I smiled inside. This was the most freedom I’ve ever felt, ever! If life in a real company was like this, I might stay in the army a little longer. Then I remembered I still had six and a half years left on this enlistment. Lets take one thing at a time.

   “Yes sir! I will!”

   “Good! You will be assigned to the second flight platoon! The clerk will show you where it is! Get squared away! You’re dismissed! Welcome to the company!”

I was so charged up about everything happening that I came to attention smartly and gave him the best salute I had, dropping my hand only after he returned it. His response wasn’t what I expected. He did return my salute but it felt like he didn’t care. As I walked out, a little disappointed, he called me back.

   “Turner! Around here, we are a little more… casual.” If you want to fit in here, you need to relax a little. Take your time. You wont be flying missions right away. We will give you time to get the hang of things, before we throw you to the wolves.”

    He smiled. I almost saluted him for that, and stopped myself.

   “Yes Sir! I will try to do that!”

    There was no way I was going to relax. But I would do my best to keep it to myself.

Finding a room in the second flight platoon that wasn't in use, I threw my stuff in an empty locker and put my lock on it. At home I had the top bunk so I unfolded the sheet and blanket and made my bed, thinking that soon, I would lie in it. As I tucked the blankets, with that special way to fold it, a pleasant feeling came over me. It felt like I finally found a home.

67-A-1-F Door Gunner, Helicopter, Utility! That was now my primary M.O.S. I had only been on this base a few hours, but already felt pretty official. Even the base itself had a different feel to it, like this was serious stuff. It wasn't as clean and inspection ready as the R&R center, and I liked that. It looked more used, more like the newsreels. This was my ticket.

The clerk had already filled me in on what I needed to do, including getting a weapon assigned to me. He also assigned a ship to me. It was “Two-nine. She was quite a walk down the flight line but each aircraft I passed, added to the anticipation.

Then, there she was! What an amazing thing. I walked all the way around it, taking it all in. The shape, just the way it sits on the skids, I cant describe the thrill I felt, knowing that soon I would be flying in that machine, and this time I would be the one sitting behind the machine gun!

There was one thing I did notice almost right away. There were four places around the bottom towards the back that had these square patches, riveted on and spray painted to match. These had to be bullet holes, and looking at them gave me a quick dose of reality. In my haste to get here, I kept overlooking the reason there are weapons aboard these ships.

Other than walking around looking at it, there was nothing else to do. I didn’t want to start playing around with something and break it. The other crews were busy working on their own ships. No one was paying attention to me, so, I just tried to look busy. The tail rotor, that was there. The doors opened and closed. I stepped back to look at the main rotor. That looked fine too. Everything looked just fine, except those four little holes.

I wanted to sit in the seat. Another quick look around at the others told me no one was paying me any mind. They might, if they saw me sitting in an empty helicopter, grinning, of course. Torn between what I couldn’t wait to do, and having everyone think I was some kind of a nut, I finally decided that it could wait. There would be plenty of time later. It was all so close now I could almost taste it!

For now, I would have to be satisfied only imagining what it would all be like, when the stuff started. Even though I was right there, I still had no clue what anything was about. Then, I remembered that a gunner has to have his gun. (I’m out of basic now, I can call it whatever I want!) How did they assign the weapons? That would be something I could check out.

It was a long back walk up the quarter mile flight line. It didn’t seem that far going down. It would have been nice to be assigned a ship that was a little closer to the beginning of the line.

After walking for what seemed forever, I spotted the building where they kept my machine gun. A sign above the door said “Arms Room!” I was about to become armed and possibly dangerous! I was cracking myself up. The very large grin on my face as I walked in about to ask to be issued an instrument of war, would not be very gunner like, and I did my best to wipe it off.

Once inside, I just stood there, amazed, for a moment. Machine guns, and rifles, and grenade launchers, oh my! They were all over the walls. There must have been over a hundred machine guns alone! And, one of them was about to become mine! I wondered if I could pick and choose.

The corporal at the desk was reading a boob magazine. Even though the picture on the cover was quite impressive, I hardly glanced twice. I was far more impressed with what was on those walls. The corporal glanced up, smiled, and put it away.

   “Can I help you?”

He asked, very politely. It’s hard to describe just how a little difference in someone’s tone could make such a large difference in the way it made me feel inside. I straightened up, trying to look the part.

   “Yes! I just transferred here as a gunner, I need to be assigned a weapon!”

    This was so amazing. I just asked for someone to give me a machine gun. And he’s going to do it! There was something unnatural about all of this. It felt like I was a part of some criminal enterprise, and we were about to go rob a bank. It was going against everything I had been taught growing up. This would be the start of an even different feeling. It was stronger than me and I was afraid to let it inside, for fear it would take over. It was a slight dread and it started building inside, for what, I wasn’t sure yet.

There was still a small part in my mind that felt he was going to look weird at me, or say something smart, and this would all be over. I was worried that he was not going to give me one. But, he reached under his desk and brought out a piece of paper, about the size of a business card, and tossed it on the desk.

   “What’s your last name?”

   “Turner!”

    He wrote it on the card, and handed it to me.

   “You’re assigned! Anything else I can do for ya?”

I expected something a little different, a little more ceremonial. Shouldn’t I be sworn in, only to use it in the defense of our country or something, not just you’re assigned? It took something away from the moment. But. I was now armed, no matter how it happened. Maybe I should ask for a pistol too, if it was that simple. But, I left well enough alone which was probably good. He was already back into his reading material.

The card he tossed me had the number 016 on it. I walked down that very impressive row of weapons, amazed at the power I felt, just being around them. Most of them looked well worn, which only added to their appeal, but they were clean and well maintained. Over the top of all of them, fastened up on the wall was a barrel. It had blown up and the end was all split. Under it were the words

       “Keep Them Clean and Change Your Barrels!”

At first glance, all the weapons looked the same, but a closer inspection revealed several little differences that made each one unique. There were C-Ration (food) cans, empty with both ends cut out, fastened to the breech on some. It was to help guide the bullets into the weapon smoother. It felt good, being able to figure out things like that.

Others had words, scratched into them, little sayings that soldiers make up about war. One even had a short barrel. It was missing the notched part at the end, whatever that was called. That was a little frustrating, not knowing.

There was a relationship between these weapons and their owners and I could actually feel it. One had the words “Widow Maker!” neatly scratched just above the breech. It left no doubt what the combination of that weapon and its operator was there to accomplish. The kind of feelings one could have towards a machine gun, I could only begin to understand, but I couldn’t wait to find out.

I glanced again at the card, double checking the number, and noticed several other names, already written on the card. I could make out the last one. It was Stone. I wondered if he just finished his tour and went home, or something else. Asking the guy at the counter didn’t seem like a good idea. It might be taboo or something, mentioning a persons name if something did happen to him. Maybe later, I could find out more.

I found the one that had my number over the top, and glanced over at the corporal to see if he was maybe waiting for me to ask to take it out. He was busy, and paid me no mind.

I would need to be a little more aggressive in my actions, not so worried about checking with someone every time I wanted to do something.

I pulled the chain out that held it in, grabbed it and pulled. It didn’t budge! Crap! How could something weigh so much? This time, with both hands, much more determined, it came out, catching on the bottom rail. When it swung free, it smacked me in the shins. I wanted to scream, okay swear, but held it all in. No one was going to know that my weapon already beat me up.

Once over that first shock, it didn’t seem all that heavy. Grabbing it up by the handle, I carried it up to the desk and asked the guy where to take it to clean it.

   “Out back you’ll find some half barrels! Everything you need will be right there!”

I just couldn’t get over how everyone seemed genuinely happy to help, or at the very least polite. There was that much difference from where I had been so far. Was it the “combat” part in our company’s name, in parenthesis at the end? This is the bottom line in the military, what it all boils down to. Everything else I had done, up to this point was to support or train those that were in combat. This was the reason for all of that, and I was now a part of that reason.

As I carried the weapon out back, this wave of importance went all through my body. It was still mixed with the realization that I really knew nothing about what my job actually was, but I was enjoying it all the same. This was nothing like where I was, just a week before.

I hauled the weapon up across my shoulders, like I’d seen someone do earlier, when something dug deep into my neck. Trying to hold on to the barrel with one hand, I let it slide back but couldn’t hold it, and it fell to the ground.

After a quick glance around to make sure no one else saw me, I grabbed it up with both hands, and lugged it the rest of the way, and finally managed to get it up on to the cleaning table. Would I have to carry this all the way down to my ship every day, and back? It must weigh about thirty, forty pounds!  Maybe a jeep carried them for us.

Laying it down, top facing up, I looked at it. That's about all I knew how to do at that point. I figured out how to open the breech (where the bullets are loaded) and I looked it over closely. It seemed fairly simple to me. There shouldn’t be any problem learning how to load it. After all I was an expert rifleman and I would become an expert on this thing too. It was just a rifle that fired a lot more rounds.

Then, probably for the first time, I fully understood what I held in my hands, and a rush went through me, that almost knocked be back. For a moment I stood there, unable to move, realizing the awesome destructive power of this thing before me, and what it was specifically made to do. It grabbed hold of me in a way I can’t describe, and I couldn’t make it go away. It was making me serious.

Some youthful part of me faded away just then, and something far more grown up was beginning to take its place. This weapon here in front of me had the power to take a life. It probably has, several times. There was definitely something about it that seemed much more powerful than I was, and would probably ever be.

To sit behind this weapon, in that chopper down there, I would have to become something much harder, something far more determined than I have ever have imagined being, even in Germany. Very soon, I would be using this weapon to kill enemy soldiers. This one piece of equipment just turned me from being a regular soldier, and it felt funny to picture it like this, but I was now an instrument of death.

And there it was! Everything about the military, all I have seen and done up to this point, all the marching and drilling, practicing in Germany, even listening to the radios, all of it had only one end purpose, and that was death. It was all there for the destruction of human beings, to kill as many of them as completely and efficiently as possible, and pray not to be killed in the process. It was the first time I really understood that if I do this job right, someone else will die, and, if I do it wrong…

So now, in the middle of all this new excitement, something like a cloud cast a shadow over my thoughts. I was perhaps just days away from crossing over into something, and I was only beginning to understand how serious all this really was. It was something so big and so permanent, I felt small and insignificant in comparison, and I was not sure how to act anymore. There was also the question if I perform this duty when the time comes, will I hesitate, or actually pull this trigger, knowing that another person, a lot like me will die? What if I just wounded him and he crawled around the jungle for days before finally passing on. This goes against everything I had ever been taught, and believed in. It was not a natural part of me and not something that could be changed by combing my hair a different way, or even putting a weapon in my hands.

This is all getting into an area I hadn’t really considered. I was so wrapped up in wanting to knock off some enemy that I never took into account they were anything other than targets. But, this was war dang it! And these were bad people! They did horrible things to the villagers of this country, who only wanted to grow their rice. We were here to stop it and I wanted to help. If it required me to shoot enemy soldiers, then I would have to start getting mad. It was time to start learning how to hate them.

There was one little problem. I didn’t really come here for some patriotic reason, and I knew that. I was here because of something inside me, some deep-rooted desire, entrenched in my subconscious that drove me on, something maybe ingrained in me from my ancient ancestors.

And maybe it was because all the time I was growing up, it was instilled in me from my family, teachers, and the movies, that it was good for men to go to war, and if they weren’t men when they went in, they were coming out. Either way, there I was!

What other kind of feeling would make me able to do it if I couldn’t hate them. I couldn’t just walk up to someone, especially someone I didn’t know, and bash him in the head with a pipe. Something would stop me before I could act. I would always “think twice” before doing anything that drastic. That same hesitation could get me in trouble when the time came. I had come all this far, without ever considering the most important question of all.          

Then, I realized that there would be three other lives aboard my helicopter, and I would have some responsibility over their safety. There was a section of the ship that would be my duty to defend, and that was basically the whole right side. What if my actions, or lack of, got someone else hurt, or worse? The very thought of that happening, frightened me so much more than anything happening to myself.

A new determination flowed over me as I resolved that nothing like that would happen, not on my watch. And I added to that, all the condescending looks from all the condesendent people. I didn’t come all this way, just to prove them right!

That determination got even stronger taking over, and once again I felt confident in my ability to get through this. How could I ever face family or friends again, if I came home with the label “coward?” I couldn’t, and it just wasn’t going to happen! I would find a way to be able to shoot these guys, and not have it bother me.

I looked again at “Betsy.” That name just came to me. That’s what I would call her. Why a woman’s name? Because hell hath no fury. I would treat her like one, keep her clean and well maintained, just as soon as I figured out how take her apart. If I did that, she wouldn’t quit on me when I needed her most. She would protect me and keep me safe. I wanted to believe that was true.

I closed the top back down, clicking it in place, and started wiping it down. I needed to be at least looking busy, just in case anyone was paying attention.

   “Getting anxious?”

I turned to see yet another smiling face and it felt so comfortable smiling back. His name was John. And he was my crew chief and would become one of the closest persons I have ever known in my life. And one day, he would save it!

There are two gunners for this kind of helicopter. In the air, their jobs are the same. Shoot the weapons. On the ground, their jobs are very different. The crew chief is responsible for the ship. He has things to check, before, and after a flight. There could be a loose connection or too much play at critical points. He also is responsible for deciding if a helicopter is air worthy after suffering any battle damage. He actually has the authority, even over the pilots, to ground a ship that has something seriously wrong. I’m glad I didn’t tell anyone I could be a crew chief!

There was one particular thing he always checked. You air jockeys out there already know. Your smiling, I can tell. It was nicknamed “The Jesus Nut!” This was a large steel nut on the very top of the rotor assembly. That one nut held the whole thing together. If it came off, or even got loose, the blades would spin off, and the ship would drop out of the sky like a rock. I was so glad that it was not my responsibility.

But, there was a trade off. The gunners, like me, had the job of keeping both the weapons in good working order. That was a pretty heavy responsibility too. If they malfunctioned at a critical time, well, it wouldn’t be good, so I took that responsibility very seriously. Gunners also put the fuel in and helped watch over the ship, looking for holes, leaks, or other possible damage to bring to the chiefs attention. It was also their job to keep the ship clean. Soon, I would find out what all was involved in that part. It sometimes meant washing blood off the floor.

John had also just transferred here from another company where he had been a crew chief. This was his M.O.S., what he had been trained to do. To be able to do his job I guess you’d have to be. This was a good thing. He knew what he was doing, and that would make me look good. There would only be one instead of two guys fumbling around out there. It couldn’t have worked out any better. Plus, we were both newbie to the company, so if we stood out, we were gonna do it together.

Together! It made me stop for a moment and reflect. That bonding that soldiers do. I think I just felt some of it. Was John feeling it too? Would he feel it? Would we have to go through something first, some action? Is that how it happens?

He stood a couple inches shorter than me. His brown hair was a bit shaggy around the ears, for the Army anyway. And he always had this constant idiotic grin on his face. I say that because after a while it got to me. It was like he knew something no one else did, and he might let them in on it, maybe, and the thought of that made him grin. He also had this pair of round, gold-framed, dark blue sunglasses that made him look like John Lennon, with a grin.

   “Just trying to get comfortable with it!”

This could very well be the beginning of my first real friendship and I wanted to be totally honest about everything with him. We would be together, hopefully, for a long time, and I didn’t want that time being spent with any kind of regrets. That fear, was stronger than that of admitting my innocence. A friend would overlook that.

Acting like I knew things I didn’t, had been the cause of a lot of my problems so far. This was a clean slate. Then again, there was no harm in wording it like maybe I knew a little bit.

   “Ever shoot one before?”

Well, that wasn’t gonna work.

   “Not even with blanks!”

If this was to work, I had to be totally, maybe brutally honest.

   “Well I’m pretty sure we can fix that! My names John, and I’m going to be your crew chief. The C.O. told me to find you, and take you under my wing. You’re David right?”

Nodding that I was, I made sure to grasp his hand firmly. Good thing I did. He had quite a grip, probably from squeezing the trigger. Mine would get that strong too, soon enough. In one way, I liked being under someone’s wing. Not too much though. Don’t treat me like a kid.

An old feeling of resentment popped up and a fight started inside my head. He was already trying to lord over me. Then common sense took over and I calmed right back down. It wasn’t good to start right out by getting an attitude about anything. Being taken under someone’s wing must be a good thing, something they do to everyone, not just in my case.

I knew one thing. I couldn’t spend the next year jumping back and forth, up and down with all these emotions. There has to be a point when everything starts to come together, and life calms down and becomes more normal. Just this day alone, my mind has jumped in a dozen different directions, none of them even remotely the same.

Being tucked, for a while anyway, might not be all that bad. It was for my own good after all. I would have to keep pride from getting in the way of someone telling me something that just might save my life. That feeling was just going to have to be put on the back burner for a while. It could have all the fun it wanted when I arrive back home. Right now, my concern was making sure that happened.

There were so many things, that still needed to be sorted out in my mind, and it needed to be done before other things started happening. Each understanding I reached with myself started to make me feel better, making me believe that I might actually come out of all of this a much better person because of it. Decisions I never thought I’d be making, doing and saying things that were almost coming naturally. I was growing up before my very eyes. But, just before I could pat myself on the back, another thought popped into my head. I had not experienced my job for real yet. Still, with the back and forth.

   “That's right! Real nice to meet you John! My friends call me Dave!”

Throughout my growing up years, depending on my mood I have gone from David to Dave, and back and I was into the Dave phase now. My curiosity was more tuned to whether or not he would respond to the friend part.

   “Dave it is!

    That was a good start.

   “Are you ready to get started?”

    All of a sudden, I wasn’t! I'm sure he didn’t realize that he was asking me to actually start. Up until that point I was only getting ready and felt like I still need more time to do so.

   “Well…..!”

    I hesitated. If I said yes, that was it, we would begin, and all of a sudden I wasn’t all that sure if I was all the way ready. What would happen if I said no? I wasn’t sure if I would ever be ready.

   “Great! Why don’t we just start right from the beginning and run through the whole thing! It would be much easier than trying to figure out what you do and don’t know already!”

    It sounded like he was giving me a little credit. Just his tone and how he related to me calmed me right down, even helped me think a little straighter.  

“Good idea! No use having to ask, each time something new comes up!” I said.

    That would really be the only way I would ever get all this right. There was still a little something inside that didn’t want him to know just how green I really was.

He smiled. He knew. He had to.

   “Besides!” he added. “We need to be coordinated up there!”

    Then he lost that grin.

    “It’s pretty important that we have confidence in the other person when we’re up there!”

He stared intently into my face. I could see my reflection in those glasses. He hadn’t asked a question, but his statement needed an answer. He was looking for something in me and it seemed very important that he find it. This was fast becoming another one of those crossroads for me, where my decision will affect more than just that moment.

Just how far do I go trying to make him believe that I am not quite as immature as he is making me out to be, when honestly, I am? These kinds of decisions were getting more serious with each new one. Even if he catches me in a “little white lie” it would damage this new beginning we had with each other, and he mentioned confidence.

I wanted to be someone he could have confidence in. But how could he have any confidence in someone who knew absolutely nothing? What did I really know about anything other than just enough to be dangerous?

He was still waiting for some kind of response, and nothing was coming to mind, nothing I thought he would like to hear. That was what I was trying to come up with. That’s the kind of answer I always gave, and it usually worked. But, this time the circumstances were different, and the consequences were far more serious!

I did something for the very first time, something very unnatural to me. I told him the whole truth, without adding or making anything up. Staring back into my own reflection, I told him like it was.

As I did, the features on my face took on a new kind of look. There was nothing fierce, or tough about it. I was not trying to put on any kind of appearance. There was no effort involved in this. My face just relaxed. This was a whole new side of me and it actually looked different. It looked good!

All this was brand new to me, and he had already seen me do everything I knew how to on that machine gun. I knew nothing at all about those amazing flying machines sitting out there on that runway, except that I liked the flying part, and that is what I told him.

Then, having no idea where it even came from, something I wouldn’t have thought of before, I asked him to teach me. I would listen to him; learn quickly, and hopefully one day soon, he would feel he could depend on me.

It was like listening to someone else talking with my voice. Once I spilled it, it felt great, like being in a “groove!” It felt natural, actually peaceful. There were no little white lies to have to remember in case I was asked again. I just said it and that was it. Does it always feel like this, to simply be honest?

All the time I was speaking, he was listening intently, but his face didn’t give me a clue as to how he perceived my confession. As soon as I finished, doubts about what I had just done, started creeping in. Did I just bury myself? Maybe I should have gone ahead and at least made up a few things, or not told him quite so much. Or… it’s still possible, that just maybe, this was the right decision. Again I found myself holding my breath.

Then, he smiled what became his trademark smile.

   “Something tells me we are gonna get along just fine!”

And, if that wasn't enough to make my year.

   “Come on!… Bring your sixty! Let’s go flying!”

He turned and started towards the flight line.

   “Just like that?” I asked.

    He stopped, looked back at me, and grinned.

    “Just like that!”

Chapters

10

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JamesRevoir wrote 975 days ago

Hello David:

Different people write about war for a variety of reasons...more often than not because sex and violence sell, and war movies/books more than deliver.

I am speechless as I read this work...it is absolutely amazing beyond words. I can tell you how intensely gripping the book is from the very start, but I sense you wouldn't care. What makes makes this book so unique is the heart behind it: a heart which has gained a tremendous amount of wisdom through some very harsh experiences which most of us will never have to know. I believe that the trauma which you have experienced is not without redemption. You may be saving many lives unawares by virtue of imparting your hard-earned wisdom to those who might otherwise make the same mistakes as you did in your youth; i.e., being caught up in the "glory" of war.

I pray that you may continue to find healing and peace. A thankful (and unfortunately, even a thankless) nation owes more to you and to your fellow soldiers than they will ever know.

Blessings to you and thanks for so transparently giving of yourself to write this book.

James Revoir

J.Adams wrote 1112 days ago

The way this book is written is like I'm sitting at David's kitchen table, coffee in hand, listening to him talk about how his life went into this completely unplanned direction that took him on a profound and profoundly unexpected, never-dreamed of journey. His understanding of who he was as a teen - over forty years ago - is recalled as though it was yesterday when he half, or more than half hoped his parents would reach out and reel him back in before he had signed his fate away to the military. His disillusionment with the treatment in boot camp is strangely juxtaposed against his pride in having accomplished both getting through basic training and his learning to start reading people and situations - something kids don't often do, but adults must learn to do.

I can't help but feel angry with his parents for not protecting him, but I don't know what it would be like to have a father who served in the military (my father had scoliosis and was denied), I don't come from a family that takes pride in military service or accomplishments - although my sister's father-in-law recalls his time in the military, during WWII as the most rewarding time of his life, the time he was most alive. I don't have sons, only daughters, so don't know how to relate to a mother who would not only let but enable her son to join the military. In our home, if either of our daughters decided to go into the military I would go into complete and irreversible shock, I think. So from my experience, I can't help but feel angry with David's parents.

This story is compelling and I will be back to read more. It is written as though it is being spoken and I can hear it being told to me, rather than feeling like I'm reading it. It's absorbing and I have not found myself distracted in any way. This is a story that needs to be told and I feel privileged to be included among those who are reading it.

David, I'll be back, I wish you all the best. You said you're still working on chapters 16 and 17. I'm a slow reader, so I have plenty of time. You've only just come out of boot camp and had an awkwardly lit cigarette in front of your family.

Wishing you well,
Judy

Vtdeb wrote 1141 days ago

The Cover is a PERFECT fit for the story inside. Your writing draws the reader in as an observer and as a participant which encourages you to continue on to see what the next adventure is and the feelings related. So many of the feelings expressed are feelings anyone can relate to and others leave one wondering how you ever forged ahead. Your expression of feelings is also extremely brave. Not many people would admit to feeling them in the first place, let alone publish them in any public forum. I admire your service and your willingness to be vulnerable in a book that is written about such a difficult time in your life and our history, which is again where we find ourselves now. The way you have written your book is not the usual war related book, it covers so many facets; growing up, family and life in general. Your descriptions of how easily seemingly simple choices can impact one's entire life are so clear and would be difficult for anyone to challenge. I would hope it would make someone stop and think a bit before making similar choices. Reading, I can actually see your Mom asking you if you are sure, and feel the pain she must have felt when you answered. I am not finished reading and will make additional comments but just wanted to share with you the impact reading your book has had on me and encourage you to continue! This would be a good book for teens who may struggle with some of the same feelings you describe but would never share them. Thank You for Your service! Welcome Home!

vessels wrote 1159 days ago

Oh David, you write about something most of us will never experience and you do it so vividly. These chapters are gripping. One suggestion is to delete the exclamation marks -- they're distracting and the text reveals the tension, as well your emotions. Just use exclamation marks for things exclaimed - "Full Suppresion! Both sides!" etc. Also, I feel something similar about the italics used for emphasis and I'm guilty of the same thing in vessels. Your short pitch caught my attention. Your long pitch should be broken into a few smaller paras for easier reading and "countries" should be "country's". Great work! Backed!
Katherine of vessels

Cathy Hardy wrote 324 days ago

Hi David.

Good pitch and excellent prologue. Your story is cleverly crafted and pulls the reader in straight away. The opening scene was harrowing and described so well that I could see it in pictures. Then the time flip to the beginning was such an interesting contrast.. and again, very cinema-esque.

The battle of wills with the family was painted incredibly well and had me on the edge of my seat.

I kept thinking,'don't do it, you're too clever!' but you did which of course was the making of a wonderful story. Then we get more of the nitty-gritty, very action packed and I am a good way in now - time permitting, I will be back...again :)

Reading on...top stars! :)

karelkoninkrijk wrote 340 days ago

Great writing! I also like your attitude. Doesn´t matter if I make it to the top or not. I feel the same. Yet your story is worth being published. Read up to chapter 13. It's like a movie.
Karel AFRICAN DIARY

Cathy Hardy wrote 496 days ago

This is a very exciting, heartfelt story. High stars and good luck with it.

Cathy x

Seringapatam wrote 500 days ago

David,
Very gripping and compelling. I am ex military and so this is the book I look for. I know it is sad, I find it hard to read other genres.....
Well done mate. Its a winner.

Sean

Linda Horowitz wrote 685 days ago

...your writing is compelling David.
Sharp, riveting and drawing me in to your sensitive story... thanks for giving me the privilege to read it.

best wishes,
Linda Horowitz,
While the Sands Whisper

Six Foot Bonsai wrote 717 days ago

Hello David.

Thank you for everything you have done for US. I've often wondered what it's like for a boy be forced through a maturing process like war. I saw this book and the alluring cover on another person's list and I had to check it out. Since I work a crazy job that is taking too much of my time recently, I try to chose a couple chapters from the middle and one near the end when I look at books here.

I agree with some of the comments below regarding the voice of this story. It is not pretentious or over done. You write like you are telling family or friends. Your voice is a younger you - not that of an older, wiser man looking back and trying to tell the story.

I like it overall. I'd like to read more. There are a few tense issues that caught me off guard and made me stop and go back and some repetativeness in word choice - but nothing a little polishing would not fix.

Best of luck! You are appreciated. God bless you.

Stacy G.

Tarzan For Real wrote 727 days ago

David I'm not quite fifty but I took care of and drank with a lot of veterans when I was in and out of the service. I'm digging your attitude and your book. I'll keep reading and review after. Also while I didn't do much fighting in Persian Gulf I, I did stir up a rukus for two and half years all over West Africa. I don't know if I'll ever have the courage to put that to paper.--JL

Wanttobeawriter wrote 745 days ago

WHEN PRIDE WAS NOT AN OPTION
This is an interesting story. It opens with a look inside at what it feels like to be a soldier in the middle of a battle. Then goes back and describes what it was like to live in the 60s. The mark of this is your writing style. You write with a great deal of detail (which makes everything that is happening seem real) but you also know not to include so much detail you bog down your story. I’m sure you’ll find a wide audience for this among veterans who will like to be assured the horror of war they experienced wasn’t unique (it was happening to everyone). You’ll also find readers among soldiers’ families as it can help family members understand why a loved one came back from a war a different person than the one who left). Highly starred and added to my shelf. Wanttobeawriter: Who Killed the President?

Margaret0307 wrote 746 days ago

Wow - what a wonderful book! The writing is straight from the heart - vivid and exhilerating. It took me into a world about which I know very little and I was drawn into the story right from the start. The way you think aloud in the story is brilliant and means the reader is right with you every step of the way. Feeling your uncertainty, your anguish, your fear - every raw emotion. It must have completely drained you to write in this way and I very much admire and respect you.

I read several chapters and a couple of small points in the early chapters caught my attention and may help. In the first chapter 'It's time I made a wave' I didn't quite understand the bit "No I wasn't" in the para which starts 'It sounded like he was going to go along with what wanted etc'. The 'No I wasn't' didn't seem to refer back to the previous para but it may have been just my misunderstanding.

The other point is the use of 'your' rather than 'you're' in several places e.g. 'So... your home early' and 'I guess your right'. But these are small things and I soon forgot them as I was drawn further and further into this excellent book.

Thank you so much for sharing this and I hope to continue reading when I have some more time! Highly rated and I hope to find some space on my shelf in the not too distant future!

Margaret Weston
How do I know I know God?

strachan gordon wrote 893 days ago

Hello , very exciting and above all conveying the stresses of combat , which are normally ignored or glossed over, it puts ones own petty fears in perspective , though of course they are real enough - the fear before making that important phone call! Before telling a girl how you really feel! Though ,of course, you don't wind up in hospital or the cemetery with those experiences. You really have an excellent, very trenchant style which is perfect for the subject you are describing. Watchlisted and starred.Definite publication potential.Would you have the time to look at the first chapter of my novel 'A Buccaneer' which is set amongst Pirates in the 17th century , with best wishes , Strachan Gordon

KGleeson wrote 914 days ago

Just finished the chapter, Bigger Steps and enjoyed it very much. You have a real knack of remembering well what it really is like as a teenager, the things you think about and want to do, the need to be treated like an adult and get in on the "men's talk." It comes across authentically and very ordinary which is an important image to create in this section here before you hit real combat. It's good to establish well who you were before the Vietnam experience and you do this well. Your honesty rings through and adds more to the narrative. The scene in the airport is well drawn and add a nice bit of shock value to the end of the chapter (jees I'm sure it's common but it's something that never crossed my mind).

The only bits of suggestion I might have are in the first section when you're on leave be careful with your tenses. You plunge into "I was home on leave" towards the beginning and there is no break in the page so it really plunges us in. Since you're sort of in present tense throughout you might want to insert spaces or asterisks to give the reader a pause to absorb the change. The tense there is okay but further down you write "part of me that started growing and hasn't stopped..." when you're writing about a desire for combat. With the tense structure you're inferring that you're still interested in combat or at least that part of you that started growing.." If you reword it to "hadn't" we get the sense that it grew back then only. They are only little nits though. Kristin


KGleeson wrote 924 days ago

I've read the next chapter, Next Steps and found that very engaging. You give us a real sense of what the initial training is like and how it set against your expectations. The first incident with your friend Bruce trying to score with a hooker was so classic it could be in a novel. You also gave a good accurate sense of who kept you company on the bus, the motely crew that arrived and needed to be shaped up into a unit. The drill seargents are classic and well characterized too. The polished narrative flows along well and you pause at just the right times to immerse us in key scenes that reveal your own development and thoughts and sense of disillusionment and reordering of your ideas.

There are just one or two elements I wondered about here. Though we all have our ideas of what a base looks like from films and what your barracks looked like you might give us more of a sense of it here. This would emphasize more what I suppose is the only area you saw in your 6 weeks there-- the barracks, the canteen, the grounds. The only other element I wondered is what happened to Bruce? Did you make other friends at all yet? I don't really get a sense except a hint that you didn't really when you talk about the brotherhood. (funny enough Bruce was my other brother's name, the one who went AWOL. He enlisted in late 68 I think, though he was in NJ and then later onto CA. Scored high on test. They wanted to make him an officer, he said no way. They had him as an mp for a while then assigned him to missile training--hated it. Drug dealers mostly and they got him on some hard stuff).

This is really very well polished and very engaging. Part of its strong appeal is that it's so very honest in its self appraisal. Kristin

KGleeson wrote 926 days ago

After reading the prologue and chapter 1 it is evident that this memoir is in the hands of a real storyteller. The prologue gives a real build up of tension and fear and draws the reader in with its compelling detail that makes the reader feel as if they were right there alongside of David. As we move into the first chapter we are thrown back into his home town where we see David in his family environment and school and observe the type of boy he was before his army experience. The time period is clearly laid out for the reader so we know how he viewed his world and what its particularly limitations were for that time. He was an ordinary kid in an ordinary town, something he conveys well with his desire to be one of the gang, to cruise around in a car and stare out the window in Latin class. But how ordinary is he really? To get up out of class and decide there was nothing more to learn shows us something different about David. To make the choice to enlist and to commit to it after finding out he'd gotten into a college at junior year (what about SATs- or was that what the test was). It is a crazy move but one the author helps us to understand -- the sense of distinction, the need to prove himself in that way and of course the army hard sell.

Your pace and style suit the memoir style story you're telling and create something that is very compelling. The only things you might consider is in the prologue, if you would explain what an L.Z. is the first time that would help us non soldiers. And in the first chapter you wrote "I think I'm wanna drop out." Both of which are just tweaks. The final thing I wondered was if you knew anything about Viet Nam at all. Were you aware of the conflict at that time? I know it was on the news then, but I can see that you might not have. Your parents, too. Didn't they mention it at all? I think you might want to address it one way or the other in the first chapter.

This is a story that reads really well and on that merit I will come back. But I also found it so interesting in comparing to my brother. You helped me understand a bit more why he gave up college (he was 17) and enlisted, making my parents sign the papers. Highly rated. Kristin

MrKarats wrote 932 days ago

David,

I read your prologue and the chapter after it.

I think that your prologue is an atmospheric one, but could use a bit of tidying up. You use a lot of fragments and short sentences in order to build tension, but its use was not careful and made it a touch heavier than it could be. It is a fine prologue however, one tat made me turn the page.

The chapter that followed was a long one, filled with straight-forward narration of events. I enjoyed the first part where you paint the scene with colors of times past. In very little room you made me feel as if in one of those movies in sepia colors, where gangs gathered and formed pirate stations and yelled out of convertibles. Your images at this point were easy to follow.

BUT you chose to carry on with this kind of narration all the way to the class - to the home -to the next scene etc... with minor exceptions of glimpses of dialogue...

I read on your profile what your point of view is about your work and the site in general. You might even find my thoughts here of little importance, but I will go ahead and share them with you. The only person that could keep reading after the middle of the first chapter, would be someone who knows you personally. Someone who can relate to the events of your life no matter what.

My suggestion is -and you can discard it without a second thought- since you are working hardon this novel, to make it a bit richer. To add a few up-close moments inbetween your narration (infodump is a better way to say this). Think about it. Wouldn't this be more interesting.

It is an interesting story, David. And I felt awkward not being able to concentrate to read more of it. You can make it shine, I'm sure, there were moments where I enjoyed, even laughed with your MC's thoughts.

5 stars from me for the interesting story and to encourage you to carry on with your hard work.

All the best.

Yannis
The Book of the Forsaken

JamesRevoir wrote 975 days ago

Hello David:

Different people write about war for a variety of reasons...more often than not because sex and violence sell, and war movies/books more than deliver.

I am speechless as I read this work...it is absolutely amazing beyond words. I can tell you how intensely gripping the book is from the very start, but I sense you wouldn't care. What makes makes this book so unique is the heart behind it: a heart which has gained a tremendous amount of wisdom through some very harsh experiences which most of us will never have to know. I believe that the trauma which you have experienced is not without redemption. You may be saving many lives unawares by virtue of imparting your hard-earned wisdom to those who might otherwise make the same mistakes as you did in your youth; i.e., being caught up in the "glory" of war.

I pray that you may continue to find healing and peace. A thankful (and unfortunately, even a thankless) nation owes more to you and to your fellow soldiers than they will ever know.

Blessings to you and thanks for so transparently giving of yourself to write this book.

James Revoir

S.V.L wrote 984 days ago

OMG! I'm a teenager in vasity. I don't know what I'd have done if I were thrust into such a situation.
Brilliant story telling. Can't wait to read more.

S.V.L wrote 984 days ago

OMG! I'm a teenager in vasity. I don't know what I'd have done if I were thrust into such a situation.
Brilliant story telling. Can't wait to read the rest.

zap wrote 1112 days ago

hi David,
your story is gripping and emotional, not only for the fact that a young man joins the army, but for the inner struggle and conflict this man has to endure to flee the confinement of a world which is too small for him.

I found the reasoning and deliberations very interesting, almost like analysing the signposts of existentialism. A young man's development into an adult, who will be fully aware of the grit and heartache this entails, seems to be the real story here. The inner dilemmas are well observed and the physiology of choice is superbly dealt with. Backed.

J.Adams wrote 1112 days ago

The way this book is written is like I'm sitting at David's kitchen table, coffee in hand, listening to him talk about how his life went into this completely unplanned direction that took him on a profound and profoundly unexpected, never-dreamed of journey. His understanding of who he was as a teen - over forty years ago - is recalled as though it was yesterday when he half, or more than half hoped his parents would reach out and reel him back in before he had signed his fate away to the military. His disillusionment with the treatment in boot camp is strangely juxtaposed against his pride in having accomplished both getting through basic training and his learning to start reading people and situations - something kids don't often do, but adults must learn to do.

I can't help but feel angry with his parents for not protecting him, but I don't know what it would be like to have a father who served in the military (my father had scoliosis and was denied), I don't come from a family that takes pride in military service or accomplishments - although my sister's father-in-law recalls his time in the military, during WWII as the most rewarding time of his life, the time he was most alive. I don't have sons, only daughters, so don't know how to relate to a mother who would not only let but enable her son to join the military. In our home, if either of our daughters decided to go into the military I would go into complete and irreversible shock, I think. So from my experience, I can't help but feel angry with David's parents.

This story is compelling and I will be back to read more. It is written as though it is being spoken and I can hear it being told to me, rather than feeling like I'm reading it. It's absorbing and I have not found myself distracted in any way. This is a story that needs to be told and I feel privileged to be included among those who are reading it.

David, I'll be back, I wish you all the best. You said you're still working on chapters 16 and 17. I'm a slow reader, so I have plenty of time. You've only just come out of boot camp and had an awkwardly lit cigarette in front of your family.

Wishing you well,
Judy

jllove wrote 1115 days ago

Cover is an eyecatcher! To think one should be in Latin class instead of a war zone really brings home the contrast and innocence. Chapter 1 gives a great sense of David, his upbringing, values and person. The talk and unexpected 50 a nice touch.nThats as far as I read but I hope I am right that this is a coming of age, survivalist experience. Will definetely read more. 6 starred and added to watchlist, waiting room on shelf.

jllove wrote 1115 days ago

Cover is an eyecatcher! To think one should be in Latin class instead of a war zone really brings home the contrast and innocence. Chapter 1 gives a great sense of David, his upbringing, values and person. The talk and unexpected 50 a nice touch.nThats as far as I read but I hope I am right that this is a coming of age, survivalist experience. Will definetely read more. 6 starred and added to watchlist, waiting room on shelf.

gpview wrote 1118 days ago

Dave: You are now backed on my book shelf. Thanks for backing the Dust and the Glory.

Earl Cripe

Ruth Hannah wrote 1123 days ago

When Pride is not an option.

This is a story that will touch a lot of people.
A young man who really just wants to leave school, is given the option, join the services or stay at school.
But in calling his parents bluff he joins the army.
The author tells his story wonderfully, it is easy to read and leaves the reader wanting to read more.
Added to my WL I will return to read more.
Star rated
Ruth
A New Day

scargirl wrote 1125 days ago

really compelling long pitch. it feels like it is going to be an emotional ride after that build up. you could break up your long pitch into paragraphs, too, for an easier read.
j
what every woman should know

markwoodburn wrote 1126 days ago

I read the first chapter. You have an authentic voice. Your story needs told and you do it well. Starred, regards, Mark

Charles Thompson wrote 1126 days ago

I find your subject matter fascinating and the opening lines of the prologue were compelling, but I lost interest fairly quickly. For me, it was a matter of style.

As a general proposition, the prologue is not punctuated well (see, e.g., the first three sentences of the second paragraph). Perhaps the unconventional grammar/punctuation is a part of your voice, but I found it off-putting (though I appreciated the action and sentiment conveyed in that second paragraph).

The third paragraph is just too vague. It uses a lot of words to say that "last time" was bad and no one knew what to expect. That idea is easily conveyed, however, in one sentence.

Also, I think you should use exclamation marks a bit more sparingly. Likewise, avoid expressions like "the fact that" (especially twice in the same sentence), for it adds nothing. Indeed, there are many wasted words, cliches, etc. in the prologue that pull the reader out of an otherwise dramatic scene. Likewise, you use too many phrases in each sentence and use too many commas, which stilts the flow. Moreover, it's the idea of repeating the same ideas/thoughts over and over again. Find the best way to express that it was scary and chaotic, yet you found you could act despite the fear/chaos and say it just once. Otherwise, you convey two things to the reader: 1) you don't use words judiciously and 2) either you don't have confidence in yourself to express a given idea OR you don't have confidence in your reader to understand what you're saying. Believe in both yourself and your reader.

Notwithstanding, this is just one reader's opinion and I wish you nothing but the best with this project.

Rhonda9080 wrote 1132 days ago

Love your prologue and first chapters! I felt your uncertainty and fear. Reminds me of the stories my grandpa told me about WWII when he was a grunt under Patton (under the influence of Southern Comfort...). You told us in a voice that didn't seem to be an old guy looking back, but we were with that young man and saw and felt what he did. He read like the frightened, confused kid he was! Having been a journalist and dealt over the years with many Vietnam vets' stories (always include a few for Veteran's Day); your story rings with truth about how it was and what it felt like from the ground. I recently felt moved-to-tears at local parade where the 'Nam vets marched and people stood to their feet and gave standing ovations. Your writing is very succinct and poignant. The Prologue on the helicopter drew me right in. I particularly liked your description of the South Vietnamese soldiers - supposed comrades-in-arms, and how the enemy seemed to always see you, but you couldn't see them.
***I obviously haven't read all the way to the end, but presume you have an epilogue? One thing no one ever brings out is that over 1 million people remain in concentration camps in Vietnam to this day. I also did a several stories of the Vietnamese "boat people", who were civilians that escaped certain death from the Viet Cong after the Americans pulled out, leaving them behind to face the wrath of their northern countrymen. It could be of interest (and in the interest of fairness) to mention a few post-war statistics for Vietnam. Here's a helpful site on the stats: http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.CHAP6.HTM
Approx 3.6 million civilians killed, up to 1.6 million after the war...
For a lot of people, the aftermath of that war for the Vietnamese civilians has been non-existent- all sides had their agenda, and now, out-of sight, out-of mind. Most continue to cling to whatever position they held at the time, without thoughtful review of the results. That said - overall, this is much, much more powerfully written as a personal story from one guy's unique perspective. Often, its this type of personal experience packs a far more powerful punch to future generations than a dry, boring historical presentation. You made it all so real! And - prompted to me (the reader) to think about and write all this! This is the job of the writer! GOOD WORK! My son could sure use this book on his shelf teaching high school history classes!
I've watchlisted and plan to shelf this in my next rotation! Highest stars!

stillshakydave wrote 1140 days ago

Thank you so much! It is becoming more diffulcult to finish the final edit of the writing as I am going over and over those times that I never had the strength to tell anyone before this. Your encouragement makes it a little easier. To you especially, and all who cared and still do....You are so welcome! David

Vtdeb wrote 1141 days ago

The Cover is a PERFECT fit for the story inside. Your writing draws the reader in as an observer and as a participant which encourages you to continue on to see what the next adventure is and the feelings related. So many of the feelings expressed are feelings anyone can relate to and others leave one wondering how you ever forged ahead. Your expression of feelings is also extremely brave. Not many people would admit to feeling them in the first place, let alone publish them in any public forum. I admire your service and your willingness to be vulnerable in a book that is written about such a difficult time in your life and our history, which is again where we find ourselves now. The way you have written your book is not the usual war related book, it covers so many facets; growing up, family and life in general. Your descriptions of how easily seemingly simple choices can impact one's entire life are so clear and would be difficult for anyone to challenge. I would hope it would make someone stop and think a bit before making similar choices. Reading, I can actually see your Mom asking you if you are sure, and feel the pain she must have felt when you answered. I am not finished reading and will make additional comments but just wanted to share with you the impact reading your book has had on me and encourage you to continue! This would be a good book for teens who may struggle with some of the same feelings you describe but would never share them. Thank You for Your service! Welcome Home!

stillshakydave wrote 1144 days ago

Read the prologue. I remember the same feelings and asking myself the same questions. Very descriptive, very real (to me). If you want to make it much more powerful, go through and take out all the passive verbs and rewrite in active voice. Example: You said, "One hand was gripped tight on the trigger." You could say... One hand gripped the trigger; knuckles white in anticipation. Doesn't change the story, but the active voice brings you in even more. You have several instances of passive voice; just think about my suggestion. It will help you show the reader what's going on, not just tell him about it.

Bob, First of I hope your fishing trip was all that! Thanks for the suggestions. Your so right. I am working on it as we speak. The more I edit, the more I realize that I am better at being real than I am proper writing. After all I only had a ninth grade education :-) Thanks so much for taking the time to read some and I hope you will find it interesting enough to read it to the end. David

Old Bob wrote 1144 days ago

Read the prologue. I remember the same feelings and asking myself the same questions. Very descriptive, very real (to me). If you want to make it much more powerful, go through and take out all the passive verbs and rewrite in active voice. Example: You said, "One hand was gripped tight on the trigger." You could say... One hand gripped the trigger; knuckles white in anticipation. Doesn't change the story, but the active voice brings you in even more. You have several instances of passive voice; just think about my suggestion. It will help you show the reader what's going on, not just tell him about it.

Good start though. I'll catch more later.

Old Bob
A PLACE IN LIFE

stillshakydave wrote 1146 days ago

The entire book is there. The chapters after number 11 still have many I's and italics and other editing errors. Please excuse them. I am editing them and replacing each chapter as it is finished. I sincerely hope you enjoy it! David

stillshakydave wrote 1146 days ago

I'm having trouble with error messages when I try to upload, but will get them up as fast as they allow me to.

stillshakydave wrote 1146 days ago

The chapters after number 11 have not been edited. I have had several requests to put it up anyway.I quickly went through it and removed a few swear words in the original. There will be none in the final work. I might have missed a few but they are not real bad words. I am editing each chapter and updating it as fast as I can. I thank you all for your patience and understanding and hope you enjoy my work!

stillshakydave wrote 1146 days ago

I have had several E-Mails requesting that I put the entire book up and edit it later, and put up the revised edition as I complete each chapter. I will do that tonight! Thank you all so very much for your encouragement and kind comments! David

mvo wrote 1148 days ago

I finished reading chapter 9 last nite, but it was late and I had to sign up to comment. So here it goes,
******** This is a really Great book! Seriously! I have been drawn into the author's life and struggle from page one! It is one of those stories that you want to keep reading to find out what will happen next! I grew up in the Vietnam War Era, and I think that this book is very pertinent to my generation. I was young and carefree at the time, and didn't know anything about what was really going on "Over there". I did not have any brothers and the thought of real people actually volunteering to go fight for our Country wasn't something I paid much attention to. All I knew was that this was not a popular war and a lot of innocent Soldiers were killed. I was trying to get my education and start my Adult life and gain my independence. Then I met my current husband, he was still in the Army, he had to enlist due to the fact his draft number was numer 3. He was still stationed in Fort Hamilton when I met him, and he was looking down the road at the end of his enlistment. He told me very little of what he had been through, but he had not been directly in the combat zone. He had top secret clearance and didn't divulge any information to me.I do know it has affected his life in many ways....

This book is very timely, it lets those of us who sat back and didn't involve ourselves in the goings on of the country at the time, sit up and listen to reality. As a mother, I can totally relate to thisbook. I have a son who wanted to enlist in the Air Force, before our country was involved in the current War. He has now thanked me for encouraging him to think twice, and is now married. I could not image parting with my son knowing I may never see him again. I told him whatever he did with his life, it was valued and he didn't need to trade the possibility of death, for a funded College Education. I'd rather he worked mopping floors and was alive, than take the risk! He is now College Educated, and in a field he loves!

In conclusion, I am really enjoying this book, getting a new education and confirming that for once, (I hope), I steered my son in the right direction. The Author is certainly one of the brave few that could endure the stress and change he had to go through to find his place in the world! I applaud him!
Great Book!!

stillshakydave wrote 1151 days ago

Chapter nine is coming soon. They are one chapter behind because of the prologue. I am receiving many kind comments and I appreciate them very much. I am finishing them as fast as I can wiithout sacrificing editing mistakes. Thanks for your patience! David

stillshakydave wrote 1153 days ago

First off, your cover and title pulled me right in! Then I started reading the story and I fell right into your theme. I grew up in the sixties and found it so easy to relate to your first chapter. The music, Latin class, street lights meant time for home, etc. so many great lines. I am shelving this for talented writing and a riveting story. Ill be back for more and further comment. The only editing issues I noticed were that many of your paragraghs begin with "I" or "They" so maybe you can mix that up a bit - easy to fix. Otherwise, thanks for a great entertaining piece of literature. This will do well here.

Skater



Thank you so much for the kind comments! I agree with your suggestions completely! That is exactly what I am working on. The book is finished, this is my final editing. There will be less as I continue. Thank you for being honest with me. I need that. it also made your praise for the book that much more. It makes me feel that I am accomplishing what I am trying to to, and a reason to continue! I look forward to any other comments you may have! Sincerly! David

skaterwriter wrote 1153 days ago

First off, your cover and title pulled me right in! Then I started reading the story and I fell right into your theme. I grew up in the sixties and found it so easy to relate to your first chapter. The music, Latin class, street lights meant time for home, etc. so many great lines. I am shelving this for talented writing and a riveting story. Ill be back for more and further comment. The only editing issues I noticed were that many of your paragraghs begin with "I" or "They" so maybe you can mix that up a bit - easy to fix. Otherwise, thanks for a great entertaining piece of literature. This will do well here.

Skater

stillshakydave wrote 1159 days ago

Oh David, you write about something most of us will never experience and you do it so vividly. These chapters are gripping. One suggestion is to delete the exclamation marks -- they're distracting and the text reveals the tension, as well your emotions. Just use exclamation marks for things exclaimed - "Full Suppresion! Both sides!" etc. Also, I feel something similar about the italics used for emphasis and I'm guilty of the same thing in vessels. Your short pitch caught my attention. Your long pitch should be broken into a few smaller paras for easier reading and "countries" should be "country's". Great work! Backed!
Katherine of vessels

Katherine, Thannk you so much for your kind comments I will take them very seriously. They do make sense! I have uploaded chapter one. Please send me the information on how to get to your book as I am brand new to all this and still have trouble navagating my way around. Thanks again MUCH appreciated! David

vessels wrote 1159 days ago

Oh David, you write about something most of us will never experience and you do it so vividly. These chapters are gripping. One suggestion is to delete the exclamation marks -- they're distracting and the text reveals the tension, as well your emotions. Just use exclamation marks for things exclaimed - "Full Suppresion! Both sides!" etc. Also, I feel something similar about the italics used for emphasis and I'm guilty of the same thing in vessels. Your short pitch caught my attention. Your long pitch should be broken into a few smaller paras for easier reading and "countries" should be "country's". Great work! Backed!
Katherine of vessels

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