Muddy Jungle Rivers, a Vietnam War memoir, thrusts the reader into life in the Brown Water Navy onboard an armor troop carrier with the Mobile Riverine Force. Like Karl Marlantes, author of the novel Matterhorn, and the nonfiction What It Is Like To Go To War, I lived with this story for over thirty years before I started putting it on paper twelve years ago.
Today, a few Vietnam veteran friends and I meet occasionally for breakfast. The last time we were together, Mike said, “When I think of myself, I’m still that twenty-year-old Ranger. I look in the mirror, shocked at the old man staring back.”
I believe that’s true for many of us. Our psyche froze in a dimension we shy away from, deny, yet unconsciously embrace; a dimension of youth that forged our identity. Several years ago in a post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) vet’s counseling group, the psychiatrist said that our last conscious thought as we die—a peaceful old age—will be back to our time in Vietnam: it will be a coming home.
The men in Muddy Jungle Rivers necessarily froze, also. The voice and tone and those intangible nuances that are singular to an individual are in the minds-eye, but not the exact words. Dialogue flowed as memories resurfaced; dialogue is, of course, reconstructed.
Over decades of sleepless nights, operations blended, at times became composites, details blurring, like shifting sandbars beneath silty currents.
As a twenty-year-old cox’n—river assault boat driver—I was not privy to operational details. My world was limited to the view through one inch slits in the armor surrounding the cox’n flat. To jungle-covered riverbanks and the next curve in the river. Others who were there might say, “That’s not how I remember.” But Muddy Jungle Rivers is not a historical document. It is a memory journey from a twenty-year-year-old cox’n’s point of view about life on the boats—about the fallibility of people; their successes and failures.
Muddy Jungle Rivers will be available in print through Hawthorn Petal Press info@hawthornpetalpress and Amazon Kindle in May 2012.