Timothy Trainer writes a poignant, moving portrait of a man he referred to as “Dad” but many more knew as “Top,” a senior non-commissioned officer serving as a company first sergeant.
First Sergeant Emerson Trainer (the author’s father), was a career infantry soldier who served in combat in Korea and twice in Vietnam, the second time as the senior enlisted soldier in Bravo company, Second Battalion, 7th Cavalry (or B2-7). Fourteen of the soldiers he served with relate to his son what his leadership meant to them.
The United States Army in Vietnam was very different from the one recently fielded in Iraq and Afghanistan. It had a solid core of non-commissioned officers and senior officers who had seen combat, but the basic grunt and the junior officers were in many cases unblooded draftees. Those soldiers needed the leadership and experience of those like Top Trainer in order to stay alive, and they relay in magnificent detail how his leadership, mentoring, coaching, and caring kept them alive through what was the most difficult times in their lives.
I particularly enjoyed how soldiers with different ranks and jobs all discussed how one single person so greatly impacted them. Officers, junior soldiers, and fellow NCOs all discuss how their interactions with Top Trainer made them better and kept them alive. Some of them were only around him for a few short months, and still the message is clear. “We survived mostly because of him.”
Those who enjoy period pieces from the Vietnam war or combat memoirs in general will find this entertaining. It can also have some application in a leadership curriculum.
Review by Rob Ballister, MWSA Awards Director
The Fortunate Son: Top, through the Eyes of Others, takes two paths. One path sheds light onto what it was like to be an Army brat during the Vietnam years. The second path describes the journey that many young men traveled as they were transformed from civilians to soldiers. Decades later, the Army brat, whose father was the combat seasoned senior NCO, meets thirteen men who served under his father in Vietnam. In total, fourteen men whose lives were touched by Top provide this Army brat with their words and a new understanding of what sacrifice at home meant to young men who needed leadership to survive.
Book Format(s): Hard cover, Soft cover
Genre(s): Nonfiction, History, Memoir
Review Genre: Nonfiction—Memoir/Biography
Number of Pages: 146