For Self and Country: for the wounded in Vietnam the journey home took more courage than going to battle by Rick Eilert

Reviewed by Jayne S (Library Staff)

This is the memoir of the author’s journey back from Vietnam in 1967. It was a powerful story when I first read it in 1983. Reading it again in 2021 it still pulled me in, and also helped me understand why there are homeless, troubled Vietnam veterans to this day.

It was reprinted in 2010, with a note on the cover that said President Reagan was so moved by this book that he invited the author to the White House.

The book starts with Rick’s horrific combat injury and his long flight to Great Lakes Naval Hospital in Illinois. He is the oldest soldier on the hospital floor; he is 20 years old.

He endures dozens of surgeries and horrific dressing changes trying to save his legs. He worries that his girlfriend will dump him, the anti-war protests dishearten him, and if he will be a “gimp” forever.

There are light moments too: his blind bunkmate is the floor lookout, he plays chicken with another wheelchair bound patient and re-breaks his leg, and the young soldiers, of course, ogling the Navy nurses and female visitors.

This book was not in the Bridges Library System, Emily the DPL circulation manager found it using the State of Wisconsin (WISCAT) InterLibrary Loan system.

If you watched the Ken Burns Vietnam documentary on PBS, this book will add another dimension to the time period. I strongly recommend it.

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