Summary: The story of an artistic soul crushed out and lost in the stupidest war of all.
My Thoughts: The author throws out a disclaimer at the beginning of the book, saying that as he's no expert on the grander themes of the war, he won't get into it. But, then, he efficiently and effectively describes the war in succinct fashion. It was surprising how easily he did explain it.
Anyone telling the story of Vietnam has a choice to make: back the war or don't. More than once, he makes the point that while Americans thought they were fighting a war of containment, it wasn't the war that the Vietnamese were fighting. Their belief was that they were fighting off yet another imperialistic nation-state, attempting to avoid oppression.
Caught in this mess were hundreds of thousands of American military men and women, pawns of the political games being played in Washington, D.C. (My dad, at 19, volunteered, thinking the war was a noble effort; he came home dismayed).
Michael O'Donnell was one of those unwitting men. He tried to preserve his life, finding a profession - helicopter pilot - that would take a lot of training, and hopefully buy time for the war to come to an end. He wasn't a warrior. He was a poet, a songwriter. He shouldn't have been there.
In the end, he was a hero.
His death shocked his family, but his mother and father never found out how he died. He was listed as missing in action until the family begged the government to change him over to deceased, so they could find some peace. But, three decades after his death, word finally arrived that his remains had been found.
The story is about an era that we'd like to forget, and an America we wish never existed, from the top of the federal government on down. The war took far too many Americans who didn't have to die, or be wounded physically, mentally, spiritually, like Michael O'Donnell, and like my dad.