Cherries—a Vietnam experience and a half

Helicopter drops grunts in landing zone. U.S. Army photograph. Public domain.

Authors writing from personal experience about combat know that conveying their experience is ultimately an impossible task. The chasm between those who lived the trauma in a place like Vietnam, or some other version of Vietnam in another war, and those merely reading about it is nearly unbridgeable with mere words or images. But like many other veterans before him, John Podlaski tries to do just that in his book, Cherries: A Vietnam War Novel. And in this basic mission he successfully describes what Vietnam was like for some. I have to say some because in a war where the vast majority of those in uniform served as support personnel, most of the hardship fell on those few actually in the field. But more about that later. Continue reading

Justice would demand they be sentenced to dig up frozen human waste with their bare hands

Escape from Camp 14

Escape from Camp 14

Saying we face many political and economic problems in America—problems that appear overwhelming—seems like an understatement. But then along comes a book that puts things in perspective and reminds us how good we really have it when compared to people in certain other places in the world. Appropriately enough, I finished reading such a book just before Thanksgiving Day. The book is Escape From Camp 14, by Blaine Harden. No one in the US, no matter whether they are incarcerated or just dirt poor, is forced to dig up frozen human waste each winter with bare hands, then chop it up and spread it on fields. But it’s a fact of life in North Korea, Harden informs. Continue reading