Skyhook: My Vietnam Experience
by R. Carel Byrd

"Nothing could prepare other soldiers or me for a war zone."

This short but poignant memoir takes an intimate, no-nonsense look at one veteran’s experiences on two tours of duty in Vietnam from 1967 to 1969. It will be a welcome addition to the genre. Like many other Vietnam vets, Byrd grappled for decades with PTSD before his recent diagnosis and even now suffers from a lack of sleep that began during the war. The negative pall cast over Vietnam veterans because of the war’s unpopularity at home and abroad is also an ongoing theme in Byrd’s life. He held a social status in common with many Americans who chose to enlist in the military. As a young working-class man, he had limited financial and educational opportunities when he graduated from high school in San Jose, California. He has “done things backwards,” as he puts it, and after a career as a machinist and engineering and development technician, he obtained his BA in communications in 2010.

Byrd’s clear-eyed practicality, honesty, and lack of guile show clearly in his writing. His story is a plain, no-frills account of his three years in the U.S. Army, often under great duress as a convoy driver—a big responsibility for kids eighteen to twenty years old. He unapologetically offers his memories of his life in the 563rd Transportation Medium Truck Company (Pleiku) and later, in the 8th and 64th Transportation Groups, supporting his narratives with a photo or two in many chapters. Byrd showcases his creative and emotional side with a heartfelt minimalist verse in the header of each chapter. Readers searching for a candid, firsthand account of a soldier’s time in Vietnam will find it here.

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