By Aria Gmitter
Editor, Your Tango
No matter what happens, love is what gets us through …
Strange as it is, love and hate never seem too far apart. When hatred abounds and war erupts, lives across the entire world are affected.
The Vietnam War remains one of the most emotionally charged times in international history, and its impact is felt to this day. The aftermath of that war molded American families’ view on love and commitment and severely challenged our dedication to military veterans.
In my own family, three men fought in the Vietnam War.
My mother’s oldest brother voluntarily joined the Marines. He met his future wife while on leave and married her just a few weeks later, determined to be wed to her as he left to fight in the war.
My other uncle was drafted into the Navy. He met his wife shortly after returning from Vietnam. I’m certain had his experiences been any different, he may not have been as open to marriage, but facing the possibility of death awakened him to the importance of living life in the now.
And my father was drafted shortly after he and my mother had committed themselves to each other toward the end of high school. He left her with a promise they had no idea he’d be able to keep — a promise that he would return and they would marry. But the boy who left her to fight in that war was not the man who returned. Like many other military couples who married before, during or after the war, they had to deal with an unexpected and brutal complication to their marriage — his
posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
For many of these couples, the way they emerged together from that war defined what it meant to love someone.
They had a sense of pride in the awareness that out of that chaos their love endured. Their love was stronger than the pain and suffering war brought into their lives.
With sorrow in those soldiers hearts over the
loss of friends who didn’t make it out, it was difficult, if not impossible, for many of them to talk about, let alone write down, their stories. Yet, thankfully, some bravely did.
These 9 heart-wrenching love stories during the Vietnam War express the way love can revive our hearts — and are sure to warm yours as well.
1. For Two Cows I Ain’t Half-Bad: The Memoir Of A Young Girl In The Vietnam War — Bac Eaton
Every person who has ever had to make a difficult choice will value the story told in this book, a hauntingly touching story that follows the struggles of a young girl from Southern Vietnam who works alongside the Navy and meets a military man who later becomes her husband. Striving to do whatever it takes to provide for her family, at any cost, Bac battles poverty, abandonment, and religious and racial tensions and shares what it was like to live during the war.
Quote: “He’s my hero. I do love him. He said he’ll be back for me. I’ll wait, even if it takes my whole life.”
Fun Fact: The foreword and the book were written by the author’s husband during her illness to help speed the publication of the material along prior to her condition worsening.
2. For Love and Country: A Vietnam War Love Story — by Philip Lawrence
To be loyal to what you don’t believe in was a choice many men called to fight in the Vietnam War had to make. A gripping story of a young airman who is sent to fight in the Vietnam War meets a young woman and falls in love at first site. Soon after, he is injured and gone before she has the chance to profess her love. Now separated by tragedy, the only way to be together is for her to rise up and fight all the odds stacked up against them.
Quote: “A Jeep pulled up, driven by a female Airman. Nick couldn’t help but notice that she was also the prettiest WAF he had ever seen.”
Fun Fact: This book falls under the ‘short reads’ category and can be read from start to finish in 90 minutes or less.
3. Viet Nam: A Place Of Miracles? — Edward “Eddie” Phillips.
If you’ve ever loved someone, lost contact and hoped to reconnect again, this book will tug your heartstrings like no other. An honest rendition about a man who decides rather than forget his painful past, he wants to go back to what harmed him and heal. On a mission to confront his worst nightmares and get rid of them once and for all, he embarks on a multi-layered adventure of emotional freedom and to find the woman he left behind.
Quote: “In November 1999, I embarked on an adventure to find an ex-girlfriend I had 29 years earlier in Vietnam.”
Fun fact: The author was three units shy of getting his college degree when he was drafted into the war.
4. Yard Bull: A Railroad Detective’s Memoir — Dean O’Shea
Dog lovers discover new depth that runs between a man and his furry best friend as Dean O’Shea shares his experiences of love, war, and romance alongside his “best dog.” He confronts his own bias, anger, and shortcomings and discovers what it means to be a better husband while working as a railroad detective in a less commonly discussed branch of the military while in Vietnam. Packed with intense stories and graphic descriptions, you won’t be able to put this book down once you start, especially if you have any experience in law enforcement.
Quote: “My stomach lurked as I realized the smiling girl would never feel his arms around her again.”
Fun fact: This book has a first-edition signed publication under a different book cover.
5. Paris To Saigon — Larry Potesta
Raw and honest, the realities of war, the choices that men made to escape the pain and suffering only to return back to the battlefield to face their own demons come together in this powerful book. A young man and his friend in the Vietnam War tell of their travels of lust, love, and anguish in Rice Land. Mickey, the main character gets to leave the center of the war zone as he’s stationed in Germany, but soon decides after one sexual escapade after another, that he must go back to fight the war that took his best friend’s life, and wants to now claim his.
Quote: “No more ready to defend and kill in the name of democracy, I was both fearful and smart enough to know that I couldn’t run.”
Fun fact: From Paris to Saigon was Lawrence J. Potesta’s debut novel.
6. Out Of Da Nang — E.P. Moore
Some live life to the fullest and yet their own runs the risk of true tragedy. An emotional rollercoaster ride through the life of a Marine who serves in the Vietnam War. As he holds on to hopes of pursuing his dreams of love with one woman and a career as a pilot. After saving countless lives, he is confronted with the one thing that can stop him from all he’s ever dreamed of having — death.
Quote: “Mr. Blizzard, this is Bill Waterman. We met at your son’s funeral.”
Fun fact: Using his own real life experiences and stories previously declassified, E.P Moore compiles them into this fictional story to share the internal journey of a Marine and his life during times of war.
7. Enlightenment: A True Story of Life, Love, Interracial Marriage, the Vietnam War, and Prejudices — Randall L. Got
From the perspective of a Chinese-American, a bold recount of how life experiences mold a person’s decisions but it’s character that determines the man. In this open memoir, we explore the ties of family, loyalty between blood and love, and how racism can threaten
happiness when you marry someone from another country. Learning from each fight for personal freedom, this story reveals how lessons from war can be built upon to a successful outcome for everyone.
Quote: “Through a marriage broker he selected an eighteen-year-old girl, named Lonnie Tom, for his wife, and took her back to Washington, California, and subsequently she bore Suey Chung eleven children over the next 18 years.”
Fun fact: The author wrote this book shortly after his 69th birthday.
8. We Were Soldiers
This complicated and shocking film reveals the atrocities that seared themselves into the minds and hearts of the men and women who served in the Vietnam War. Depicting the true life first major battle between the United States and North Vietnamese forces, viewers learn the real expression of love of country, mankind, and valor in the face of death.
Quote: “That’s awful. Your husband is wearing the uniform of a country that allows a place to … to say that his laundry’s not good enough when he could die for … I’m sorry, I just …”
Fun fact: We Were Soldiers began as a short story that won the U.S. News first National Magazine Award and was later developed into the book We Were Soldiers Once … And Young , before being turned into a major motion picture.
9. Lost And Found
What happens when a soldier loses his glasses in the middle of a war? This short film is a dramatization of the real-life story that happened to one Vietnam War veteran who lost his glasses and was left unable to see. Despite being told he would have to wait weeks before a replacement comes in, he is encouraged to discover that providence had a plan to keep his spirits up and his faith alive.
Quote: “Until you find them [my glasses] you can just call me Squints — like everyone else seems to do.”
Originally Published on Your Tango