By Jack “Doc” Manick
Author House, Bloomington, IN, 283p
Review by: Ron Camarda, MWSA
Late last night I finished the last sentence of the 39th chapter: “This was a dream, my dream; one that I hoped would never see the light of day!”
It could have happened. The same fear gripped me after I read Chapter O, which was not a dream. When I fell asleep after reflecting on this book, I dreamed. I was surprised at how I was not fearful of the chaos of my dream. I was in a foreign war and I had to let go of everything I most loved and cherished.
Jack “Doc” Manick’s active duty military career in the Army spanned the years from 1968 through 1971. His Tour of Duty included in 1969 in the Central Highlands of Vietnam with the 70th Combat Engineer Battalion and the 131st Engineer Company. I was merely nine-years old when “Doc” was in Vietnam. Jack was an ordinary and innocent kid who was faced with horror and grace. I was delivering newspapers in Massachusetts when the Vietnam “Conflict” was still going on. My innocence shielded me from the horror on the front pages of the papers I labored to deliver on my bicycle. Often a local boy or girl who had died in Vietnam pierced my bubble of avoidance. My family of nine was terrified that my eldest brother would have to go to Vietnam. I made a silent vow to myself that I would never carry a gun or go to war. Only half of that vow has become a reality.
Little did I grasp that what “Doc” and countless others endured in Vietnam would profoundly help me deal with my own story of combat experience 34 years later in Fallujah, Iraq. I was 45 when I was recalled with the Marines to serve with a M.A.S.H. hospital during a most gruesome battle in 2004. In his book, Incoming, Doc heard from his bunker in New Jersey, “Padre down!” Without hesitation and at a cost, he came to me. I am grateful for his service both in Vietnam and especially for his time back in America, when America has not always been so kind.
Jack has written an incredible and moving account of his experience of Vietnam. He writes it colorfully and realistically. He took me back into the City of Fallujah while the battle raged. He helped me to wrestle with my inner conflicts that came home in my duffle bag.
I met Jack at the Military Writers Society of America while covering a table for book sales of fellow authors. We all were more concerned about the books we wrote than the books of others.Incoming won the Gold Award. The previous year my book won the Silver Award in spirituality. Writing and publishing one’s first book is monumental and exciting. Selling the book is humbling and frustrating. Instead of flying back home with our books, “Doc” and the “Padre” exchanged signed books. On 10\1\11 he signed his book to me:
“Lest we forget”
Jack “Doc” Manick
“Docs” and “Padres” hold a very special place among the troops in all branches of the service, especially in the Army and Marines. In chapter 17, Doc tells it how it is in, “Never Mess with Doc!” In Fallujah, I served with Marines, Soldiers and Navy Corpsmen, “Docs.” When the incoming “Docs” were wounded or killed in action, our hearts were blown apart even more than we could accept.
The last line of Chapter 34, Ambush, caused me to chuckle. For those who were non-believers, “we cheated Death for yet another day.” For believers, “It wasn’t yet our time.” At Bravo Surgical in Fallujah we had a motto called, “Cheaters of Death.” This we changed to, “Ready to Receive” for obvious and not so obvious reasons.
War has always seemed like a big waste, except for those who profit from it. When I was engrossed in the little and big battles of Jack in the war, I had to be aware of the “incoming” rockets, enemy troops, indifference or ignorance of our superiors, frustrations, rats, insects, boredom and the wounded needing immediate medical care or a medical evacuation.
When Jack handed me his book on that first day of October, I wasn’t expecting my latest “incoming." For those of you who dare to read Jack’s story, it is more than just another Vietnam memoir, or any war story for that matter. This is the story of a young boy who matured into a fine young man and a very wise veteran who admits he is getting older and pudgier. Jack was “coming” to be the person he is. Through the war experience of Vietnam and the 30-plus years since coming home, we experience in this book how Jack’s detonator has been lit. Jack is now “incoming!”
In chapter 40, Jack begins by saying: “I was going home and I was pissed!” He's so crafty as a writer that I was pissed that the book was ending. Jack had warned me in the beginning of the book's Notes from the Author, “Soldiers are dreamers, they dream about going back home to wives or girlfriends or to Mom and Apple Pie. Incoming is their story…it is our story…it is my story.”
Yes it is, Jack! Yes it is! Thank you for your service in Vietnam, and mostly for your service as a gifted writer and gracefully surviving the incoming insults from those who have hated you both abroad and here at home.
Ron “Padre” Camarda
Author, Tear in the Desert
January 17, 2012