A YEAR IN VIETNAM AND BEYOND
A BOOK BY MARK FLEMING
Welcome to the home page of Reluctant Soldier, Uneasy Veteran which traces one soldier's odyssey through Vietnam with the US Army in the latter days of the Vietnam war. By 1971 President Richard Nixon was handing the ground war off to the South Vietnamese Army and withdrawing US forces from Vietnam. US casualties were dramatically reduced from earlier years. But Americans continued to conduct military operations throughout the country in 1971. For those Americans Vietnam was still very much a real war, with real bullets--a matter of life and death.
Mark Fleming entered the war in January 1971 because he didn't figure out a way to dodge military service and followed orders into combat. Reluctant Soldier, Uneasy Veteran takes the reader through through that experience: Infantry training, helicopter assaults, jungle patrols, endless walking. Fear and anxiety are frequent topics but boredom and ennui also figure prominently. The bonds and mutual support among soldiers in combat contrast dramatically with the pettiness and bureaucratic procedure Mark encountered after becoming company clerk during the last half of his time in Vietnam.
Reluctant Soldier, Uneasy Veteran is one piece in the mosaic of the American War in Vietnam. It is unique as to time, place and events but also speaks to the universal experience of soldiers in war.
“An infantry platoon in full fire is an unforgettable experience. The noise was deafening, with the crack of rifles and the heavy thud of the machine gun. Small brush was swept away by the initial fire, as if our purpose was to clear the area. As the firing continued, small trees began to fall, bullets shattering their trunks. When cease-fire was called after about 30 or 45 seconds, the air was thick with the acrid smell of spent gunpowder. A patrol went out to look for bodies. The rest of us regrouped. The patrol returned with a report of blood trails but no bodies. Whoever it was, they got away. They were two Vietnamese carrying packs, prime targets in a free-fire zone. Amazing with all of that firepower unleashed in their direction that they weren’t killed.”
From “Reluctant Soldier, Uneasy Veteran” - page 40