Valor in Vietnam – Book Review
Valor In Vietnam, Chronicles of Honor, Courage and Sacrifice: 1963–1977. Allen B. Clark. Casemate, 2012. 288 pages. $29.95
Vietnam is quickly becoming a faded memory in our country’s psyche. Forty-five years ago a generation of largely post-war “baby boomers” were actively engaged in combat while a very vocal minority were opposing their participation. Today, the anti-war activists are largely discredited and the veterans are venerated.
In Valor in Vietnam, Chronicles of Honor, Courage and Sacrifice: 1963–1977, Allen Clark has done a superlative job of capturing the essence of the war from the perspective of those “on the ground.” In a collected work reflecting many veterans from different services and backgrounds, Clark tells the story of America’s involvement in Vietnam. While most of his subjects have never met one another and they served in Vietnam in different places during different times over the years, they share one common denominator: they served with patriotism and honor.
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Clark has his own story to tell. As a young captain with Special Forces, he lost both legs during a mortar barrage against his post. Years of recovery and working with the V.A. gave him access to the memorable stories of fellow Vietnam vets, which are captured in his book. The nineteen chapters of his book generally follow different people through their particular experiences. It traverses the years from the United States’ early involvement to its inauspicious departure in 1975.
For younger, post-war readers, the book chronicles the extreme heroism of common people. Staff Sergeant Patrick Tadina’s five back-to-back combat tours ranks as a record few would want to emulate but many highly respect. This remarkable soldier did things that would even make Rambo movies seem tame. Captain Marian Weller saw the war from a different perspective as she fixed and healed our “wounded warriors” from Vietnam’s battlefields, suffering the trauma of seeing brave young men who were critically injured as they were brought to the 95th Evacuation Hospital at Da Nang.
Clark does a tremendous job of tying the disparate stories and experiences together by transitioning the chapters by time-line. As the preceding subject finishes a tour in Vietnam, Clark introduces the arrival of another subject. This lends itself to establishing a thread of continuity to the book and covers the major involvement of the military in Vietnam.
Inserted into several chapters are some timeless nuggets of military leadership advice. Time-tested and pertinent even today, Clark provides what he labels as “Combat Leadership Lessons.” Young soldiers would quickly identify with these lessons and know that they are as true today as they were in Vietnam.
There are some surprises in the book that require reading it chronologically to get to the “rest of the story” at the end. The reader won’t be disappointed.
This is a great book for young people to understand what their parents’ generation experienced in a tough war against an unrelenting foe. The veterans today can hold their heads high because of the stories like those in Valor In Vietnam that chronicle the best attributes of Americans.
LtCol Edwin L. Kennedy, Jr enlisted in the Army in 1971. He is the son of a WWII, Korean War and Vietnam veteran and currently teaches leadership at the US Army Command and General Staff College.