Some stories can’t be told, and I’m a storyteller.
In 1968, the Marine Corps An Hoa Combat Base was situated southwest of Da Nang in a valley that earned its nickname because so many Marine radio operators were killed and wounded there.
It was there, just down our lines from me, that Pvt. Dan Bullock became the youngest U.S. servicemember in Vietnam killed in action, at the age of 15. It’s where a patrol was launched on my second day in country and I asked the Marine ahead of me: “What’s on our boots?” Fifty years later, I learned Agent Orange can steal your kidney.
In 2018, after years trying criminal cases, I underwent three months of inpatient care for combat-connected health conditions. While recovering at home, my wife encouraged me to dust off two books I had written 20 years earlier. Both had been published and critically well received. So I began enhancing them, and a publisher recently released second editions.
"A Run to Hell" tells of a joint FBI/CIA operation to take out Gen. Manuel Noriega before the launching of Operation Just Cause, when U.S. military forces became the world’s largest posse to capture the Panamanian dictator and drug kingpin.
"The Boardwalkers" is a salty murder mystery set in the adult playground called Atlantic City.
Next, I was encouraged to tell of moments that have hung with me half a century: what happened in the valley where we served. Tell the stories of those who lived, died and cried.
Every veteran remembers those places and faces. There are even reasons I feel compelled to tell the tales: most significantly, to explain why some veterans live with moments that never leave their minds … and why those experiences take the life of one vet every 65 minutes by suicide.
Of course, there is a reason those stories aren’t always shared. As combat veterans sometimes say: “We tell those who know. To those who don’t we don’t.” Some stories can’t be told.