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I used “The Killing Zone” for some of my research on the Vietnam War, one of the turning points of my protagonist. In his book, Frederick Downs recounts:

‘A man pointed to the hook sticking out of my left sleeve and said:

“Get that in Vietnam?”
When I affirmed his guess, he replied.
“Serves you right.”
Of one thing I am certain; none of the men I knew who served in Vietnam deserved to die or to be maime
d, either physically or mentally.’

Downs said that, twenty years later, when he returned to Vietnam for the first time since the war, he recognized the hatred he had held onto all these years for the ‘dinks’ was for “an enemy less than human” but, suddenly, he knew better. He recognized a reflection of himself in the natures of a Vietnamese man and his son.

So true! Here’s my perception as I wrote it in Pieces of You:

I wake each day waiting for him to call to me. Then I remember that he was put in a box and the box was covered with dirt. You know, Ban, it hurts more than when the mule stepped on my foot last year. This pain is in my heart. It must have broken into more pieces than my foot.”

Now tears were pouring down the boy’s cheeks and he began to wail, a sound that pierced the invisible listener’s soul.

Consumed by a grief he feared would cause his heart to stop, Mark got to his feet and looked around. In the same moment that Mark stood, the boy stopped crying. For a few seconds he seemed to be searching. Evidently not finding what he was looking for, he walked away…but more quietly as though he had found some comfort nearby.

Mark wanted desperately to cross the line between his reality and that of the boy; to reach out and embrace him but, as he was thinking this, the participants in the memorial service and the boy whose thoughts he had read were suddenly purged from his vision.

In the next instant, Mark was standing between Bob and Zachri but he was not the same man any more. He could not have verbalized the change but he was absolutely certain that his companions knew. He no longer wanted to tell his side of the story.


What is your image(s) of the enemies our military women and men are sent to fight?

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