Thursday, June 12, 2008

Vietnam War and MRS. LIEUTENANT – Part I

The following Amazon review was written by Diana Faillace Von Behren (“reneofc”), an Amazon Top 500 reviewer. I asked her permission to post this review on my blog because I love the way she talks about the Vietnam War era. My only changes were to break up long paragraphs into shorter ones. So, without further ado, here’s Diana:

When I was a girl in middle school, my homework assignment for one winter evening was to write a Christmas letter to an unknown soldier serving in the jungles of Vietnam.


At that time, just the word conjured up all sorts of morbid illustrations projected onto the big screen inside my head. I could imagine the intense heat, men, no mere boys, dressed in fatigues carrying canteens slick with condensation, dog tags dangling from silver chains that jingled perilously as they walked stealthily through foliage that grew thick and frighteningly multitudinous like some big banana leafed forest in a Rousseau painting.

The teacher at the time, forbidden to express her views about a war that perplexed the American public urged her class to be kind these boys were far from home, from the pleasures we took for granted rides in red convertibles with the tops down, the smell of crispy fries from the new hot burger stand McDonald's, the look and fresh scent of a pretty girl swinging her newly straightened hair as she glanced behind her to see just who was watching her in her plaid miniskirt and dark tights. . .

These random mental snapshots typified the American way of life and justified detouring countless American boys from dreams they had dreamed from the time they were old enough to dream.

I wrote my letter; I don't remember the soldier's name. I knew he was nineteen and probably didn't care about what some sixth grader had to say. While I organized my litany of seasonal trivial events in a neat little handwritten format, I could hear the news the somber voices of Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather recounting the number of American deaths amidst the cacophony of gunfire and chopper blades.

Uncertainty became something familiar an old friend like the grim reaper the shadow of his sickle hovering over all our heads like the darkest rain clouds. The persistent feeling of dread penetrated the sanctity of one's inner spirit like the tattoo of the television's images of helicopters, fire and screaming children.

I thought of my cousin, just ten years older than I was would he be sent away from the huge family dinners of lasagna and laughter? Would men I knew be receiving letters from young adolescents that they didn't even know?

And then on a larger level I wondered if I would be able to sleep at night as the world as I thought it should be would never be the same after all the controversy the peace marches draft dodgers running to Canada the anger over Jane Fonda posing with the Viet Cong Civil Rights protestors raging in faraway places like Alabama. How would all this effect the dawning of the new era what the flower children called the `Age of Aquarius?'

Would my soldier ever get my letter? I never received a response, yet somehow that event that writing of the letter etched in my memory for all time the sensation of losing control. The boys with low draft numbers were devoid of that sense of managing their lives. ROTC became an option, as being an officer was far better than being an enlisted man.

I hadn't thought about my personal origin for that dark feeling of `dread' in a long time that is until I picked up Phyllis Zimbler Miller's novel, `Mrs. Lieutenant.'

Read Part II in the next blog post.

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