Many Vietnam veterans today are finally recognizing PTSD as a diagnosable, treatable illness and beginning to tell stories that continue haunting them since leaving Nam for what they call “The World” — America. Among those telling these stories are a courageous few who are either recounting their personal memoirs or collecting and writing fictionalized tales of other’s real life experiences. Night Flares, is one such book, which author Robert Pacholik, a still photographer in Vietnam, describes is “not about geopolitical movements, or global strategies on the chess boards of superpowers,” but rather,“… the personal story of an individual American fighting man caught up in the maelstrom of counterinsurgency land warfare in the 1960s.”
In short, each story is Pacholik’s fictionalized account of an eyewitness event, told in the first person by six different men. Written as Pacholik says he intended, to be as real as possible, each story succeeds in providing insight into the lives of enlisted men, thrust into a new kind of war neither they, nor their military leadership was prepared for.
The first three stories take place in Vietnam before, during and after the Tet Offensive in late January and early February of 1968. The last three told by men living in “The World,” years after the war ended. Riveting and in all likelihood troubling for those who were there, and poignant and shocking those who weren’t, Pacholik’s stories are a must read for those unfamiliar with the a veteran’s sacrifice—especially the 60’s “Flower Children:” spoiled brats who burned their draft cards and ran to Canada to avoid being drafted; yet had the arrogance to insult those patriots who proved themselves loyal Americans by going to Vietnam, enduring hell, and by the grace of God returning.
Pacholik completes his work with a comprehensive summary of the Vietnam War; including the following quote, which identifies America’s problem in Vietnam and subsequent wars, “Robert S. McNamara, (the earlier Secretary of Defense), had resigned in November 1967 and his successor, Clark Clifford, was stunned to learn that there was no concrete statement of U.S. goals in Vietnam.”
I recommend this book for college students and mature citizens. Vietnam was, in this reviewer’s opinion, America’s first failed war and maturity is required to grasp the message of each story. It is my hope that Pacholik’s short stories will encourage more veterans to write their stories, thereby facing their hidden demons.
Reviewed by: Lee Boyland (2014)
NIGHT FLARES: Six tales of the Vietnam War, is a frank and graphic combined hybrid fiction and fact look back at one of most painful eras in American political and military history.
Written by a two-tour combat photographer/journalist who served and witnessed the fighting in 1968-69, these six tales tell the highly personal stories of men who served, endured, survived, and paid a heavy price for their service to country.
Two unique features of this “hybrid” e-book short story collection are: “Prelude”, which spells out little-known, historical details about combat tactics and strategy in “A Soldier’s Tour of Duty”; and “Aftermath”, a detailed 25 page-plus chronology and timeline of the personalities, the politics, the leaders, and the battles that consumed South Vietnam between 1964 and 1975.
“If you want to know/understand what the Vietnam War was like, really like,” author Robert M. Pacholik said, “then read and savor every page of this book. It’s that good,” he added.