Hard Men Humble: Vietnam Veterans Who Wouldn't Come Home

Stevenson, Jonathan

Published by Free Press, 2002
ISBN 10: 0684842645 / ISBN 13: 9780684842646
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Synopsis: It is finally time to come to terms with a generation of underappreciated, now middle-aged men: America's Vietnam veterans. In many ways they were no different from the men who left for Europe in 1917, or for Asia and Europe in 1942. They were young, freshly trained, scared yet determined soldiers. In "Hard Men Humble," Jonathan Stevenson introduces us to a fascinating community of expatriate Vietnam veterans -- the men who wouldn't or couldn't leave Southeast Asia, and could not leave behind the people they had fought and defended. Some were military heroes and remain unalloyed patriots. Some questioned or condemned the war and find their patriotism forever compromised by it. Some stayed behind in order to relive the best part of the war with girls, golf, and Singha beer at smoky saloons. Others were moved to atone for the war with charity -- educating Thai children, building hospitals for the Vietnamese, or providing medical care to Laotians they had befriended when soldiers. Whatever each man's motivation, the one attribute virtually all expat vets share is the desire to do what so many Americans don't want them to do: remember the Vietnam War. "Hard Men Humble" brings a vivid cast of characters to life: Major Mark Smith, a much bemedaled winner of the Distinguished Service Cross and former prisoner of war who works out of Bangkok relentlessly searching for MIAs; Ken Richter, once a Jersey City tough, who discovered discipline and honor in Special Forces and who now donates much of his earnings to Southeast Asian charities; Robert Taylor, a former Green Beret from Alaska who formed a bond with a Lao tribe with which he worked, and who founded a medical charity for them; andGreg Kleven, an Oakland-born Force Recon marine who lost faith in the war and in his country, descended into dissoluteness and self-destructive drinking, and believes that moving to Ho Chi Minh City saved his life. The expatriate Vietnam veterans are, ultimately, just like any other cross section of Americans: some are heroes, a few are knaves, and others are just ordinary men trying to make a living. Ironically, the very dismissal of Vietnam veterans in the United States has driven some of them to build a life abroad of greater imagination, adventure, benevolence, and fulfillment than they might have found at home. Whether or not Americans doubt the wisdom of their larger historical mission, Vietnam veterans risked their lives to serve their country. We owe them our gratitude.

Review: Some Vietnam veterans returning to the United States were so scorned by their fellow countrymen that they decided to make lives for themselves in Southeast Asia, reports Jonathan Stevenson. "There are close to a thousand expatriate veterans" in the region today, mostly in Thailand (which is "certainly pro-American"), but also in Vietnam and Laos. This collection of profiles reveals that many of them are losers and misfits, though there are a few real heroes in the bunch, such as Major Mark Smith, a former POW who won the Distinguished Service Cross and now devotes himself to tracking down MIAs. The book is mainly about the expatriates, but the best passages reveal everyday life. Stevenson describes old men in Saigon who let passers-by use their bathroom scales for a fee: "Vietnamese are generally rail-thin and do not need to diet; the commercial enticement is the prospect that a customer has gained weight, as a little extra fat prestigiously indexes prosperity." Nuggets like these fill Hard Men Humble; it is a unique entry in the literature of the Vietnam War and its legacy. --John Miller

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Title: Hard Men Humble: Vietnam Veterans Who ...
Publisher: Free Press
Publication Date: 2002
Book Condition: Good
Edition: First.

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Book Description New York, NY, U.S.A.: Simon & Schuster, 2002, 2002. Hardcover. Book Condition: Very Good. Dust Jacket Included. 1st Edition. VG/VG. First edition. 228 pp. DJ lightly rubbed with shallow edge curls. Fore edge top corner lightly stained. Spine square, tight. Interior bright, clean. No marks. Very nice reading/reference copy. Bookseller Inventory # 8250

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Book Description Free Press, 2002. Hardcover. Book Condition: Very Good. Dust Jacket Condition: Fine. First Edition. Previous owners blindstamp seal to front endpaper, black line (remainder) to bottom edge, no other marks. Clean hardcover; binding with a very slight twist, sharp corners. Crisp unclipped dustjacket with negligible wear and no tears. NY: Free Press, 2002. First Edition with full number line, 1st printing. xii, 227 pages; photos. - From the flap: "Stevenson introduces us to a fascinating community of expatriate Vietnam veterans -- the men who wouldn't or couldn't leave Southeast Asia, and could not leave behind the people they had fought and defended." - - Carefully packed and promptly shipped with tracking provided. Bookseller Inventory # b1s3-160817-01

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