Book Reviews

Reviews of books by MWSA members. Reviews appear in reverse chronological order, with the most recent review posted appearing first.
Note: Some older reviews are being reposted to this site and those will appear out of order.

My Last War: A Vietnam Veteran's Tour in Iraq

Title: My Last War: A Vietnam Veteran's Tour in Iraq
Author: Charles M. Grist
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Reviewer: Mike Mullins

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 1440152705

Central Florida police officer Charles M. Grist is one of the few Vietnam veterans to have served as an enlisted soldier in the Iraq war. In 2004, he volunteered to be the sergeant-in-charge of the Protective Service Detail for an Army Reserve general in Baghdad.

Grist and his unit, the C.O.B.R.A. Team, were based inside Baghdad's Green Zone, but their travels with the general led them along the deadly roads of Baghdad, to the throne of Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon, and through the picturesque hills of Kurdistan. It was a fast-paced life of high adventure, filled with convoys, mortar or rocket attacks, and the constant threats of ambushes or improvised explosive devices.

As a Vietnam veteran, Grist knew that Operation Iraqi Freedom would be his last war. He used his daily journal to record his team's wartime experiences, to document the events that shaped Iraq in 2004, and to preserve the heroic deeds of some of the Army Reserve and National Guard warrior-citizens with whom he served. That journal became the basis for this book.

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Grist, Charles M.

Missions of Fire and Mercy: Until Death Do Us Part

Title: Missions of Fire and Mercy: Until Death Do Us Part
Author: William E. Peterson
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Reviewer: Joyce Faulkner

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 1450509770

Memoir of my Vietnam tour with C/227th AHB, 1st Air Cavalry in 67-68 as a Huey crew chief/door gunner. This book relates both missions of fire and missions of mercy. This will put the reader in the crew chief seat and take him/her on the ride of their life that they can't possibly experience anywhere else. "White Robe Six" (the aircrew's call sign for God), is given praise often as He protects the flight crews from almost certain death. The subject of PTSD is touched on and highly recommends that Vets seek the free help that is out there. The purpose of Missions Of Fire And Mercy is not only to reach Vets and assure them that they need not have the guilt complex that many have. In addition, it teaches the loved ones of the Vet what they not only experienced, but what they are still haunted with in so many cases.

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Peterson, William E.

Roadside Bombs and Democracy: An American Police Officer in Iraq

Title: Roadside Bombs and Democracy: An American Police Officer in Iraq
Author: William Little
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Reviewer: Joyce Faulkner

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 1606048260

This book is a narrative of my personal experiences working overseas as an International Police Advisor in Kosovo with the U.N. and in Iraq.

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Little, William

NAM SENSE: Surviving Vietnam with the 101st Airborne Division

Title: NAM SENSE: Surviving Vietnam with the 101st Airborne Division
Author: Arthur Wiknik
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Reviewer: Bob Doerr

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 1935149091

Nam Sense is the story of a combat squad leader in the 101st Airborne Division in the thick of combat during the Vietnam War. The author was a 19-year-old kid from New England when he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1968. After completing various NCO training programs, he was promoted to sergeant "without ever setting foot in a combat zone" and sent overseas in early 1969. Shortly after his arrival on the far side of the world he was assigned to Camp Evans, the 101st Airborne's northern most base camp only thirty miles from Laos and North Vietnam. On his first jungle patrol, his squad killed a female Viet Cong who turned out to have been the local prostitute. It was the first dead person he had ever seen.

Arthur Wiknik's account of life and death in Vietnam includes everything from skirmishes with the Viet Cong and combat with NVA regulars to base camp hijinks, including faking insanity to get some R&R. The 101st Airborne was one of the last U.S. outfits to launch full-blooded offensives in Vietnam, and its assault on the NVA stronghold in the A Shau Valley has since become the stuff of legend. Wiknik was the first man in his unit to reach the top of "Hamburger Hill" during this famous operation, the last one in which Americans attacked rather than defended in order to reduce their casualties. Later, the author discovered an enemy weapons cache, thus preventing an attack on his advance fire support base. Between episodes of combat he mingled with the locals, tricked unwitting stateside food companies into providing his platoon a year's worth of hard to get edibles and after defying a superior officer was punished with a dangerous mission. All this time, he struggled with himself and his fellow soldiers as the anti-war movement back home began to affect their ability to wage victorious war.

Nam Sense unveils the battlefields of Vietnam with a unique blend of candor, irony, and humor--and it spares nothing and no one in its attempt to accurately convey the true experience of the combat soldier during this unpopular war. This work does not fixate on heroism or glory, haunting flashbacks, or soldiers wallowing in self-pity. It instead portrays ordinary young Americans thrown into strange yet brutally violent circumstances, while only seeking to uphold the honor of their comrades and country. The GIs Wiknik lived and fought with during his year-long tour did not rape, murder, or burn villages, were not strung out on drugs, and did not enjoy killing. They were simply there to do their duty as they were trained, and to try to get home alive.

"The soldiers I knew," explains the author, "demonstrated courage, principle, kindness, and friendship--all the elements found in other wars Americans have proudly fought in."

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Wiknik, Arthur