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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Vietnam Challenge: why, and what I'm reading

The War Through the Generations Challenge continues this year with a focus on Vietnam. I simply had to sign up for this one.

My dad, Hugh Bedford, was a Green Beret in the early years of Vietnam and I've always wanted to learn more about his service there. His experiences weren't exactly a regular topic of conversation when I was growing up, but Dad will usually (eventually) answer any questions that I have.

Here are the basics of what I know for sure:
  • Dad was in the 441st Military Intelligence Detachment, 1st Group Special Forces, from 1965-1968
  • He did Basic Training, then Advanced Individual Training in Okinawa
  • Over approx. 18 months he moved between Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos - wherever he went, it was always as a civilian
  • When he returned to the US, he found that the paperwork showing where he had been during his tour of duty had fallen out of a helicopter and been lost; there is now no record of where he was during those 18 months.
  • He intended to reenlist for another tour of duty after his initial three years were up but when that time came, his mother had a stroke. He asked for a leave of absence to visit her but he was denied. He decided not to reenlist so he could go be with his mother. He later found out that all (or was it most?) of his unit was killed in action just a few months afterward. [Updated to add: I believe that these men were killed in the Tet Offensive, but I'm not 100% certain.]
I'm hoping that the books I read for this challenge will give me ideas of what to ask Dad about during the coming year as I do really want to know more about his life.

My reading list:
  1. War Torn: Stories of War from the Women Reporters who Covered Vietnam, by Tad Bartimus, Tracy Wood, Kate Webb, Laura Palmer, Edith Lederer, and Jurate Kazickas
  2. Once A Warrior King: Memories of an Officer in Vietnam, by David Donovan
  3. Vietnam Medal of Honor Winners, by Edward F. Murphy
  4. The Things They Carried, by Tim O'Brien
  5. The Road Home, by Ellen Emerson White
The first three books are ones I already own so that is bonus. Book #2 is a reread for me; I first read it in high school and have kept my copy ever since. If I recall correctly, the book reflected much of my Dad's own experiences in Vietnam. I've wanted to reread it for quite some time and this challenge is the perfect excuse. Book #5 is a maybe; I saw it reviewed and thought it might be good, but I'm not sure.

You can learn more about the challenge and sign up at this link and you can view some suggested reading at this link.


Serena said...

I like the list of books and the facts about your dad that you provided. I would really like to have you guest post on the War blog about your dad's experiences if you have time. I think that would be great.

I've cross-checked your book selections and added a couple to the ever-growing list.

Thanks for joining us.

Tina said...

Heather, what a wonderful list of books you've chosen. I got a couple of ideas from you, and look forward to seeing your reviews and reactions.

Lisa Scott said...

The Road Home is excellent. I was just thinking about a reread of that, actually.

Pretty much everything E.E.W. does is great. She also did a 4-book YA series set in Vietnam called Easy Company (I think) writing as Zack White. The Road Home is a follow-up of sorts to that series, but you don't need to read them first, and I do think that The Road Home is a better read.

Michelle said...

"The Things They Carried" is great. If you like Tim O'Brien, try "Going After Cacciatto."

Alyce said...

I love reading personal stories about the war, and even the small list of facts about your dad is fascinating. My husband's uncle was in special forces in Vietnam. My dad had a lot of friends that went there, but he didn't get drafted (he was married and had one daughter by then).

I understand how hard it is to try to get information from relatives about war time (obviously a time that most people don't want to remember if they've been in the military). My grandfather served in the army in the Pacific during WWII, and was very vague about his experiences there.

hcmurdoch said...

I debated doing this challenge, but had already signed up for too many. However, it seems like a perfect fit for you; how wonderful to get interesting reading done AND the bonus of talking to your dad about it.

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

very cool that you're using the Challenge to help you understand more about your Dad's War experience. And even cooler that he's (eventually) willing to talk and answer some of your questions. I agree that discussion (with you having a base knowledge) might help him to open up and respond, more than and open-ended "tell me about ..." type of query.

I put THE THINGS THEY CARRIED on my list, as well.

Good luck, and have fun with the challenge.

christa said...

I can't wait to start reading for this challenge, but need a break from war books for the time being (read 3 recently about Iraq). But I look forward to reading others' reviews to get some ideas!

bermudaonion said...

I can certainly see why you feel a connection to this challenge. Good luck!

softdrink said...

I bet it'll be fascinating to hear your dad's stories. Will you be sharing them like you did your grandpa's stories?

My dad was all set to go to Vietnam, got sick, had to go through boot camp again, and ended up in Germany. Sooooo lucky.

Rebecca Reid said...

what a great reason to join a challenge. It sounds like a perfect one since your dad's experience is so personal.

Heather J. said...

Serena - Thanks for cohosting this challenge!

Ti - If you decide to read any from my list, maybe we can do joint reviews?

Lisa - I'd heard it was ok to read as a stand-alone, so that is my plan.

Michelle - This will be my first O'Brien book.

Alyce - Yeah, my dad is much harder to get info from than my Grandpa, but I'm hopeful!

hcmurdoch - I totally understand being "all challenged out"!

Dawn - Exactly. I'm hoping that if I know which questions to ask, I will get better answers from him.

christa - That's why I love that this is a year-long challenge - you don't need to start right away. :)

bermudaonion - Thanks!

softdrink - I'd certainly LIKE to but it will depend on what he tells me and what he says I can share; most of what he did was classified, and I don't know how willing he'll be to have it made public. (And your dad was DEFINITELY one lucky guy!)

Rebecca - I does seem like the perfect fit for me. :)

Anna said...

I'm glad you're joining us again this year, and you've given me some ideas for books. I'm definitely reading The Things They Carried.

Thanks for sharing a bit of your dad's story. I don't even know that much about my father's time in Vietnam. I didn't think to ask the specifics and unfortunately he passed away before I got to hear a lot of his stories. We talked a bit when I took a college course on Vietnam literature, but it was hard because I wasn't living at home.

Anyway...I look forward to seeing your thoughts on these books.

Diary of an Eccentric

Heather J. said...

Anna - I know some of the basics about Dad's experiences, but I had to get those details from him last week before I wrote this post. :) Hopefully I'll be able to share more of his stories here. Thanks again for cohosting this challenge!

Shannon said...

What a compelling story and reason to join this challenge! Excellent book choices, too! I can't wait to read your reviews.

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