logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: Vietnam
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2018-06-30 02:54
A diary, a memoir, and a war.

Dang Thuy Tram is pictured on the far left, Lynda Van Devanter second from right. 

 

Because one of my goals in writing Courageous Women of the Vietnam War was to understand the conflict from multiple perspectives, I tried to feature women from different sides within each chronological segment. In the section labeled "Richard Nixon's 'Peace'", I included the story of Communist surgeon, Dang Thuy Tram, and American nurse, Lynda Van Devanter and found them to be movingly similar.

 

In 1969 Dang Thuy Tram was a three-year graduate from medical school and Lynda van Devanter a newly trained nurse. These young women could have put their skills to use in relative safety but chose instead to serve their countries -- North Vietnam and the United States, respectively--by going into a war zone: South Vietnam. 

 

The United States had just sworn in a new president whose campaign promise had been “an honorable end” to the Vietnam War. Precisely what Richard Nixon meant by those words would not become clear till much later, but nothing he said before his inauguration or anything he did afterwards could shake the resolve of the leader in North Vietnam who remained determined to see Vietnam united. In the same month Nixon began his presidency, Thuy, already working with the VC in the south and longing to be accepted into the Communist party,  copied a speech from Ho Chi Minh in her diary:

 

…This year greater victories are assured at the battlefront. For independence—for freedom. Fight until the Americans leave, fight until the puppets fall. Advance soldiers, compatriots. North and South reunified, no other spring more joyous. (1)

 

Ideology also spurred Lynda into the war. On night, during her last year of nursing school, she made up her mind to join the army and go to Vietnam, believing that the US was “pursuing a course that President Kennedy had talked about in his inaugural address: we were saving a country from Communism.” (2)

 

There were brave boys fighting and dying for democracy…And if our boys were being blown apart, then somebody better be over there putting them back together again. I started to think that maybe that somebody should be me. (3)

 

Thuy traveled down the dangerous Ho Chi Minh trail and landed in the Quang Ngai Province, an area with a history of intense resistance to foreigners. On June 9, 1969, just six months after Thuy recorded Ho’s speech in her diary, Lynda became one of those foreigners, working 244 miles away at the 71st Evacuation Hospital in Pleikuk.

 

Both Thuy and Linda were involved in life-saving surgeries and both found triage emotionally difficult. Lynda stated it bluntly: “Essentially we were deciding who would live and who would die.” (4) She later described her first experience of a “mal-cal”—a mass casualty situation:

 

The moans and screams of so many wounded were mixed up with the shouted orders of doctors and nurses. One soldier vomited on my fatigues while I was inserting an IV needle into his arm. Another grabbed my hand and refused to let go. A blond infantry lieutenant begged me to give him enough morphine to kill him so he wouldn’t feel any more pain. A black sergeant went into a seizure and died while Carl and I were examining his small frag wound. (5) 

 

When Thuy’s team decided to not operate on a dying patient, she “conformed to the majority’s opinion” but poured regret into her diary:

 

He died with a small notebook in his breast pocket. It held many pictures of a girl with a lovely smile and a letter assuring him of her steely resolution to wait for his return. On his chest, there was a little handkerchief with the embroidered words Waiting for you. Oh, that girl waiting for him! Your lover will never come back; the mourning veil on your young head will be heavy with pain. It will mark the crimes committed by the imperialist killers and my regret, the regret of a physician who could not save him when there was a chance. (6) 

 

Thuy never wavered in support of her government’s war aims. While the war was absolute hell for most Vietnamese people, it wasn't hard for Ho Chi Minh's followers to keep their motivations stoked. The US, in their minds, was simply following China and France as the most recent colonizer and the southerners, they thought, were wealthy traitors. Each new Viet Cong or NVA death increased Thuy's hatred for the enemy and her desire for victory.

 

Every American death had the opposite effect on people like Lynda; it was difficult for the average American serving in Vietnam to maintain their ideological reasons for supporting the war. How was their presence promoting democracy, exactly? Increasingly haunted by the deaths of far too many young Americans under her care, Lynda wrote home, “We should either pull out of Vietnam or hit the hell out of the NVA. This business of pussyfooting around is doing nothing but harm. It’s hurting our GIs, the people back home, and our image abroad.” 

 

The war had a devastating effect on the lives of both women. It ended Thuy’s--she was shot by an American bullet sometime in June, 1970. Lynda boarded her “freedom flight” that same month but returned home to face the hostility of strangers, the misunderstanding and indifference of friends and family, and years of untreated PTSD. 

 

But their stories were destined to have major post-war impact. When Lynda wrote her moving war memoir, Home Before Morning, in 1983, it became a bestseller, inspired the award-winning China Beach series, and illuminated the unique plight of American Vietnam War nurses.

 

Thuy’s diary was found by an American military intelligence officer who took it home but brought it back to Vietnam in 2005 where it was published that year. There were plenty of war memoirs and biographies in Vietnam by this time, but Thuy’s diary revealed the voice of a flesh and blood human being who questioned her own motives, grieved for the lost, and hoped for an end to the war; she was not a hero carved in marble spouting all the correct sentiments. Last Night I Dreamed of Peace became a bestseller and was translated into English in 2007.

 

War inflicts wounds not only on those who fight in them but on those who dedicate themselves to heal wounded warriors. Thuy and Lynda paid dearly for choosing the role of healers but they became the voices of their generations, and in speaking from their frame of reference, helped countless readers understand the war from the other side.

 

1. Courageous Women of the Vietnam War, 125. 

2. Home Before Morning: The Story of an Army Nurse in Vietnam by Lynda van Devanter, 49. 

3. Courageous Women, 137.  

4. Courageous Women, 138. 

5. Courageous Women, 142. 

6. Last Night I Dreamed of Peace: The Diary of Dang Thuy Tram99-100.

7. Courageous Women, 145. 

 

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2018-05-17 16:14
Amazing!!!
Courageous Women of the Vietnam War: Medics, Journalists, Survivors, and More (Women of Action) - Kathryn J. Atwood,Diane Carlson Evans

Okay, first of all, let me say that before this book I knew next to nothing about the Vietnam War. For the past three years, Kathryn J. Atwood has sent me each of her books to review. So, after I received this book in the mail, I dove right in, eager to fill in the gaps.

Reading “Courageous Women of the Vietnam War” has been quite an education for me. Not only did it recount how America was drawn in and why, it went all the way back to the roots of war. Reading the stories of the Vietnamese girls and women, who yearned for nothing more than to be free, touched my heart. They simply wanted to live in a world untouched by war. Then learning how many American women voluntarily went over as nurses and even journalists, was extraordinary. Not only did they set foot in an uncharted territory, they did it knowing that some back home did not support them or their sacrifices. But it was the story of Phan Thi Kim Phuc and her journey to freedom that has stayed with me, and inspired me to do further research. I really highly recommend all of Kathryn’s books, but especially this one, because the Vietnam War is an important part of history and it should never be forgotten. 

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-05-07 16:11
Forgiveness In The First Degree (True Crime Account) by Rondol Hammer & Phillip Robinson, with Margot Starbuck
Forgiveness In The First Degree - Rondol Hammer,Phillip Robinson,Margot Starbuck

The gun was never supposed to go off. When a drug dealer assured twenty-nine-year-old Ron Hammer and his brother-in-law that they could make some quick easy money, they were intrigued. He promised them that when a local grocer delivered a bag of money to his store to cash Friday paychecks, they only needed to show him a gun and he d hand over the bag. But high on meth and dulled by liquor, they ended up in a scuffle with their target, and the gun accidentally fired. And when Phillip Robinson rushed from the shelves he d been stocking to investigate the commotion at the front of the store, he saw his father lying on the sidewalk, dying. The lives of Ron Hammer and Phillip Robinson, whose paths should only have ever crossed at the grocery checkout line, became inextricably linked by one foolish decision that would shatter a web of lives. Over three decades the two men came to discover not only that they both needed to be set free, but that in God s unlikely economy of redemption their liberation was bound up with one another. Like the famous prodigal son and his dutiful older brother, the moving story of Phillip Robinson and Rondol Hammer reveals how two men wrestling with law and grace discover unlikely redemption. 

~from back cover

 

 

 

 

POTENTIAL TRIGGER WARNING: This book discusses the topics of attempted suicide, murder and otherwise extreme violence (mainly in the form of prison stories that describe scenes of eyes being gouged out and ears bitten off)

 

In 1986, twenty-seven year old auto mechanic & Vietnam veteran Ron Hammer, high on meth, carries out armed robbery at a local grocery store. In the process, Ron unintentionally kills the father of the store's assistant manager, Phillip Robinson. Hammer, along with his brother-in-law / robbery accomplice / fellow meth addict, flees the scene with the money. Though he evades escape for a time, Ron is eventually caught and sent to prison. The prison sentence forces him to quit meth cold turkey. It is also there in prison that he finds religion, leading him to the decision to approach the Robinson family with his honest apology for his irreversible actions. 

 

Though at the time of Ron's initial attempt at apology Phillip is a practicing Christian and aspiring pastor, the road to forgiving Ron proves to be a decades long journey. It is not until 1994 that Phillip finds himself ready to honestly hear Ron out on the topic of forgiveness. Once at that place, though, Phillip discovers the blessing that comes in the form of an emotional weight lifted he didn't even entirely realize he was carrying!

 

The format of this book alternates between Ron's point of view of the events, and then Phillip's. As far as the flow of the writing itself, I found Ron's portions of the story more compelling. When it came to Phillip's portions... him losing his father in such a violent way is undeniably tragic, but from a sheer matter of reading enjoyment, something about Phillip's portions came off as more boring and preachy. Not surprising, I suppose, as Phillip IS a preacher, but I'm just sharing the truth of my reading experience. 

 

Still, this story is an important one to be shared because look at the message it presents: a man finds it in his heart to bestow honest forgiveness on the man who murdered his father. If a person can do that, it makes any other seemingly "unforgiveable" dealbreaker-type situation easily traversable, doesn't it? There are also takeaways from the perspective of Ron: one can come back from a life thrown into a tailspin via drug addiction and go on to have a powerful testimony of a life bound to help others out of their emotional mires. The book definitely gives you material to think on. 

 

NOTE: This book does give spoilers for the film The Outlaw Josie Wales and Victor Hugo's novel Les Miserables

 

FTC Disclaimer:  Blue Ridge CWC and FaithHappenings Publishers kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own. 

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-03-07 03:12
THE UNQUIET DAUGHTER by Danielle Flood
The Unquiet Daughter - Danielle Flood

The Unquiet Daughter

Danielle Flood

Paperback, 388 pages
Published September 1st 2016 by Piscataqua Press

ISBN: 1944393188 (ISBN13: 9781944393182)

 

I had read The Quiet American, a while a go, and was quite intrigued when I read the description of this book. The author did her homework/research for this memoir, so there were a lot of description of what was happening in Vietnam when her mom, father, and stepfather were living there. Having a not so wonderful childhood, and parents who either did not communicate well or outright lied to her, I could feel her struggle in trying to figure out who she was and where she belonged. The research Flood has done of her mother's background, as well as that of her biological and stepdad's, gave a lot of insight as to what was lost to her in her formative years. Many of us have a lot more from our parents as we grow up. I did enjoy reading this memoir. At times, I felt as if the author's need for positive attention from her mom and for a relationship with her biological dad came across as a childlike "I want, I want" flare up. I wasn't sure how much of that came from the upbringing she had.


***This copy was received from the Author through a Goodreads Giveaway in exchange for a fair review***

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-12-23 20:39
In Country
In Country - Bobbie Ann Mason

I enjoyed this story even though it was sad to think of this young girl who never knew her father. I have tried to imagine what it was like at war myself but she also wanted to be able to picture what her father experienced. Sam (Samantha) is 17 and she has been asking everyone about Vietnam but no one wants to tell her anything. She gets books from the library but with all the technical language and confusing names she doesn´t learn much and still can´t picture it. She wants to know about Agent Orange and wonders if her uncle Emmett was exposed to it. He has bad pimples on his face and neck and she wants him to see a doctor. She worries he might have cancer from it. He won´t get a job or a girlfriend and Sam wants him to live more. Eventually she learns more about the war and her father but she doesn´t like what she learned. 

Some parts of the book were a bit funny and some where pretty strange, like the dream she had about having a baby. I´m glad I decided to read this even though it is not my usual type of book. I only wish the book told whether Emmett ever did get tested for Agent Orange and the result. Now I´m going to wonder forever.

 

This is my book for square 3.

 

 

Book themes for Veteran’s Day/Armistice Day: Read a book involving veterans of any war, books about WWI or WWII (fiction or non-fiction).  –OR–

Read a book with poppies on the cover.

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?