Sunday, December 19, 2010

Search and Destroy by Dean Hughes

Rick Ward has just graduated from Milliken High School in Long Beach, CA - Class of '69. He has no set plans. He hasn't applied to college like his girlfriend Judy who will be heading to Cal, Berkley in the fall. He thinks he's like to be a writer but he doesn't have much to write about at this point in his life.
He's on the cusp of adulthood; life is changing and his relationship with Judy is changing too. Judy looks more like a hippie now in bell bottom jeans and peace beads. Rick still wants to hang and have fun.

Rick is curious about experiencing war and with the ongoing Vietnam War this might be his chance. He hopes some life experience will give him something more substantial to write about and what could be better experience than that of war. He's filled with self-doubt though.

When he quits his job and gets thrown out of the house by his abusive dad, Rick impulsively decides to enlist. He decides he wants in to Special Forces - a goal he ends up achieving. But both Vietnam and war is not what he ever thought it would be. The stifling heat and sheer terror of each recon mission is almost more than Rick can handle.

Assigned to Charlie Rangers near Phan Thiet, Rick is befriended by Kent Richards, a young Mormon draftee whose gentle demeanor and maturity provide Rick with an anchor. Kent is the male role model Rick lacked in his father. Both men suffer devastating wounds but despite this it is Kent who helps Rick put his life back together.

Author Dean Hughes read numerous books on war, the Vietnam conflict and also reconnaissance units and this is quite evident throughout. Search and Destroy accurately portrays the realities of war and the dehumanizing element for soldiers from both Vietnam and the US as well as the Vietnamese people. The book brought back memories of watching the nightly newscasts on American TV and the fear it brought into my life (since I was too young to understand fully what I was watching).

Hughes also effectively relates the disconnect that existed at the time (early '70's) between the peaceniks in the US and the Vietnam veterans who returned home after fighting in the conflict. The idea that the veterans of this war were heroes was a preposterous one to the average civilian like Ricks girlfriend Judy. Thankfully, it no longer remains so.

Short and to the point, well written and a great read for teen guys.

Book Details:

Search and Destroy by Dean Hughes
Simon Pulse 2005
216pp

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