Wow! The man who was ordered to go to Vietnam against his desires wrote this poem! This passage is key to the flow of this book and the bond of friendship between the co-authors that exists to this day. In the same chapter he writes: It has taken me almost forty years to recollect what I’ve experienced, and it is very difficult to write about oneself in an objective way. I was again in the soup and now I had another “boss” who was angry with me… (P.100)
These men are real and attempt to put it all in perspective as their hopes are dashed and anxieties tighten on rational thinking. At that moment, I was mad, feeling that the military was nothing but a political battlefield played by small-minded people who took advantage of their subordinates. If the subordinates did not “play ball,” the ball was taken away, no matter how good or competent they were. (P.101)
Combat Vets will appreciate the candor and frankness of the authors. Some things about war never change. Some people walk around as “combat vets” without ever really having an idea that a war is going on. Geschke’s words could be my own words with a few changes. It seemed so strange to me that these army personnel were drawing the same combat pay that I was drawing. It didn’t seem right forty-one years ago, and it still doesn’t seem right now, but it was a fact: They were in a different world than we were dealing with in the fields of Vietnam (Iraq, or Afghanistan). (P.158)
Geschke and Toto challenge our status quo in how we understand and approach wars. There is an uncomfortable air about their insights and open-ended conclusions. However, speaking as a combat chaplain who has actually been in the soup of Iraq, I believe they are spot on. The two of them should be expert advisors because they would hold all soldiers and citizens accountable, including me.
Yes! It was a privilege to serve. And it was an honor to review this book. The authors did more than survive the Vietnam era; they thrived and blossomed. And I might add, they inspired this chaplain. Well done!
Reviewed by: Ron Camarda (2012)
DECEMBER 28, 2011 - First Lieutenant Richard C. Geschke and Lieutenant Robert A. Toto co-authored a book sparking emotions and revealing buried memories of the Vietnam War within the book titled In Our Duffel Bags, just published by iUniverse.
Both men are longtime service buddies as well as friends and it is through
this book they share the sometimes harrowing events encountered during their service in the “War with no purpose; no mission statement.” This
narrative book uniquely conveys each man’s first hand experiences as
soldiers serving in the US Army during the Vietnam War era and their
transition to civilian life afterwards.
“I did not realize that I had PTSD, until I started to cry while I was out
walking near my home” said Robert Toto during a recent interview. “This
book became part of my therapy.” As for Richard Geschke, his memories came about differently as he said, “It wasn’t until I had a vivid dream of
reality about a trip down the Hai Van Pass which occurred forty years ago
that the thoughts of not only Vietnam but of my entire army experience came
to my foremost thoughts. I immediately put them on paper, starting with the
chapter titled “Going My Way” and followed by the chapter titled “Was
That Forty-One or Forty-two Rockets?” Both men entered the military through the ROTC program which put them in as an officer once completing college. “During our day there were protests, draft card burnings and a very lively debate about the merits of the war.
Today, because we have an all volunteer army, the regular population is more or less mute on the war. Current debates about the wars are timid in
comparison to the Vietnam era,” said Richard Geschke. Aside from the political unrest our country was going through, these men each had their battles with society dealing with the stigma of serving the country in a war which was shunned by their peers. For Robert Toto, “It was difficult being in grad school once I was discharged. The undergraduate students really had no clue of what military life was.” Richard Geschke commented, “Vietnam was a different era altogether, with the protests and the divisive politics of the times.” He summarized, “I didn’t make military policy, and all I did was to serve my country in an honorable way!”
The stories within In Our Duffel Bags are written in a down to earth manner
using language that makes it easy to relate to the storytellers. This is the
type of book that can be a captivating read for those wanting to indulge in
the mindsets of young men forced into becoming soldiers during a war in which no one wanted to fight.