The only books I've ever read about Vietnam were textbooks from high school. With DEROS Vietnam, by Doug Bradley, I got a dose of reality, from the perspective of a journalist soldier who labored in an office environment in Saigon.
I actually know Doug, as he was an excellent communications specialist for UW-Extension when I was a reporter for Wisconsin Public Radio. In addition, I am concluding a short-term post at UW System while Doug was a former Communications Director there. Despite our association, I knew next to nothing about his service history until reading this book. It's filled with vivid descriptions, salty language and good story-telling.
Doug calls his work of short stories fiction, but there's a real Dragnet quality to these stories and characters. The names may have been changed to protect the innocent and the guilty, but this account sure sounds like the real deal to me.
DEROS stands for Date Eligible for Return from Overseas. Apparently, everybody knew his DEROS date. Bradley describes a nightmarish situation where absolutely nothing makes sense about this war and everybody wants out ASAP.
Given my age, I barely missed the Vietnam War draft and could envision being in the author's shoes, given my own journalism background. Bradley survived this experience, building a long-lasting marriage and a remarkable career, but not everybody was so fortunate.
DEROS Vietnam is a quick read and one worth exploring. It reminds us how not all wounds are physically inflicted, how lives are horrifically disrupted and changed forever by an experience of war and why countries should engage in combat as the absolute last resort.
It appears as though Doug Bradley's facilitation with words has soothed his wounds through the years, with DEROS one more cathartic example of how he is dealing with the reality of the Vietnam War.