“What book changed how you see the world and why?”
My first thought is:
“What book hasn’t?
I have had many arguments with non-fiction-only readers who say that novels, poetry, etc. are a waste of time and don’t enrich your knowledge.
I could not disagree more.
Oh, there is garbage out there, and descriptions that one should not tarnish one’s soul with, but even knowledge of evil and ugliness can fortify and enlarge your life so that you can be aware, and armed.
Naiveté is no protection from the bad that happens in the world, in fact, I will give an argument below that it makes one all too vulnerable.
A great story, even just a good one, that gives insight and hope can be truly inspirational and edifying, not to mention educational in any and every aspect.
I could make quite a long list of edifying fiction, but I am going with non-fiction.
I had to check into past posts to see if I had ever truly gone into a book that I may have mentioned, but always wanted to talk about, however, I don’t see that I have.
Forgive me if I am repeating myself, but this one is important to me.
I read a book for a challenge about the women in WWII’s Army Air Corp, and the development of the Women’s Air Force [WAF] afterward. The work of the women pilots then, when few women even drove cars, was incredible
and incredibly dangerous at times,
and incredibly, the American women go next to no credit.
They were mustered out of the service with little to no recognition of their work and sacrifices just before the end of the war. Their British counterparts were given rank, commissions, and honored in every way.
Shortly afterward, I picked up a book on women who served in Vietnam. I have lost my notes, but I believe it was “A Time Remembered”. NOTE: Four weeks later I realize that “A Time Remembered” may be as good a history, but the book that I actually reviewed here was in fact another book, “In the Combat Zone: An Oral History of American Women in Vietnam” by Kathryn Marshall.
I had no idea how many women had served in Vietnam.
I knew there were nurses, secretaries and clerks, but I had no reference to the sheer number of how many more were there, and I suppose that I thought they were all basically protected.
I was wrong. They were in a great deal of danger, and not all from the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong.
One thing that I did not know about, (and yet was really no surprise with how badly things seem to be bungled when put in the hands of those who run most of the government), were the young women recruited as some sort of morale workers.
Government officials appealed to young women’s sense of right and wrong, and their patriotism. Because they were looking for those and other characteristics, they mostly sought out (targeted) young, innocent girls going to small colleges in the Midwest. They thought that wholesome young women would not fall prey to temptations. They didn’t want street-wise young city women who were experienced emotionally, physically and had seen a lot of life.
Boy, did they get it backwards. If they wanted to send anyone, those were the young women to send. The ‘Farmers’ Daughters’ found themselves in situations that they never knew existed and had no coping skills. They fell prey to all the unscrupulous men who would use them and just the scared ones who were lonely. Temptations from the fear, homesickness, desperation, shock and loneliness gripped them and they lost or gave up their moral compasses. They were kept behind the ‘lines’, but there were still shellings and sabotage, and the men. They had been given quick training in games, sing alongs and all sorts of fun stuff that the men who were stuck in offices or pulled back from combat had no interest in. Boredom was a problem, but a rousing game of Parcheesi was not going to do it for them. Drugs were everywhere in Vietnam, yet in the 60s in the cornfields and wheatfields of the States they weren’t prevalent as yet. The women had no experience with them or with people using drugs, the looseness of morals of the men who were engulfed by fear, guilt, had been close to death or simply surrounded by prostitutes. (Do not get me started on how much was promised to the people who fled North Vietnam of the south, or how the war ruined businesses and farmlands. Prostitution was often the only way for any money to come in to feed families. It was one horrific situation after another there for everyone.) The young American women were vulnerable and at a loss and if they wanted protection, they generally needed to tie themselves to the highest ranking man who would accomplish that; it was trading one bad circumstance for another, always leading to heartbreak.
The nurses and clerks were expected to be in uniform, even in nylons, a great deal of the time in all the horrific heat of S.E. Asia.
What I found was the most tragic part of reading this was finding out how hard it has been to get the women to tell their tales.
When my son was in the regional VA hospital and as I walked in one evening, a woman approached me to ask if I were a veteran. I said no. She followed me. It was a Saturday evening and she said that they had been having an open house for women veterans. I said that was good, and tried to keep walking, but she wouldn’t let me go. She started in again on what they were trying to do, find women veterans and let them know how much was now available to them. I was rather at a loss, but kept telling her that I had to go see my son, and I finally got away. I now know why she pressed me:
most of the women who served in Vietnam in any capacity never talk about their experiences.
They never even tell anyone that they were ever there.
Many, perhaps even most, of their families never knew that Mom, Grandma or Auntie was a nurse, clerk, or morale worker in Vietnam.
Many of the women who were approached by the author of the book refused to talk to her. Some said that they would, then changed their minds, or if they did, told her afterward to please not use their stories,
not even anonymously.
That is why the woman in the hospital pressed me; she thought that I might be a veteran and thought that I may have walked in for the open house and changed my mind, so she was trying to get me to open up.
A few brave women who attempted to join veteran’s groups were told for decades that they were not truly veterans, even though male office clerks, supply men, maintenance guys and others who never saw combat were welcomed to join.
But you must realize that many of the nurse saw more combat than some of the grunts on the ground.
I know that I have gone on a great deal, but this book truly hit me hard. I knew a lot of women Marines after The Brother came back from Vietnam and brought friends/girlfriends in. The Sons have female friends who are veterans, mostly Son #2, as he is a veteran, and would date them or also bring them as friends to visit.
I go to the VA hospital The Husband and get into conversations with others and more and more of the women waiting there are not wives, but veterans themselves. If I get them to talk, they speak of their families; one has to press them to get them to tell how and where they served, and they are proud, but generally the conversations come back to their families and always, if they have children.
(By the way, a signal that a veteran is willing or wishes to talk of their service is generally their hat. A ballcap with a branch of service, a section of that branch, a ship’s name, conflict’s name, the name of a unit, etc. is a signal. Give a veteran or other lonely person an ear for a few minutes whenever you can. Mother Teresa said that listening to a lonely neighbor was better than going to Calcutta to care for lepers, and that loneliness was the most terrible thing that a person can suffer. I practice what I preach here. If there is anyone who saw and understood human suffering, it was she.
Most people have no idea how many women veterans have served or are serving, and how many are permanently wounded from combat, mines and at the hands of fellow service personnel.
ALL veterans are wounded; no one ever comes out of war unscathed.
Before you get caught up on the sufferings of others around the world, those which may or may not be being represented honestly to us, please pray for a settlement to all of the conflicts going on, (or maybe one big one which could come), because causing more damage to our people and the people of other countries cannot be the answer.