Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Review of "Vietnam: Free-Fire Zone," Chris Lynch

Review of

Vietnam: Free-Fire Zone, Chris Lynch ISBN 9780545494274

Five out of five stars

 When Rudi joins the military during the height of the Vietnam War, he appears to be in deep trouble. He is one of those kids that were heavily picked on in school until he acquired his buddies Beck, Morris and especially Ivan. They faced down his tormentors and kept him safe, but starting at Marine boot camp, he is alone. Life as a soldier is hard at first, Rudi is laughed at, with a common statement referring to his actions is, “Is he for real?”

 Once Rudi is in Vietnam and assigned to a combat unit, he begins to adjust and even thrive in the very rigid environment of doing what you are told. Over time and with a little help, he becomes a killing machine, a man that shoots when and where he is told to. Rudi begins volunteering for dangerous actions and when he has a phone conversation with Morris, Rudi tells him that he is in Vietnam for the duration. Morris recognizes the difference in Rudi and tells him to lighten up and remember what he was before he took on the life of a soldier.

 This book is about how combat action changes young men to the point where their best friends before they became a soldier find their attitude unnerving. Such transformations are common, an elderly woman I work for told me that her grandson went to fight in Iraq and now she is unnerved by his attitude and approach to life. It is an old, sad story but one that humans seem destined to repeat ad infinitum.

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