THE BOOK: My Vietnam – A Gift to My Daughter
THE AUTHOR: Jack Billups
THE EDITOR: Skip Press
THE PUBLISHER: Self-published through “Publish Drive”
SUMMARY: With my daughter’s birthday a couple of weeks away, I was at a loss about what I should get her. A few days passed, then Naomi called me and solved my dilemma.
“Hey Dad,” she said. “Instead of a gift, would you sit with me and share your Vietnam experiences?”
Wow, that was totally unexpected! I certainly couldn’t deny her request, but I knew that telling those stories that way would be extremely difficult for a host of reasons I didn’t want to explain. So, I replied, “Naomi, how about I write my memoir?” She agreed, and I took a deep breath knowing I now had time to scrutinize my memories. So, within four months of my commitment to Naomi, I had completed the bulk of putting my memories to paper. I sent what I had finished over to her.
It was several weeks passed before she called to comment. “Dad, this is the best birthday gift I’ve ever received,” she gushed. “Thank you Dad!” She continued, “I liked it so much I went back and read it a second time.”
Now, that really pleased me, but there was more coming, something I never expected, although I should have.
Naomi was born with a heavy dose of adventure in her DNA. After a few days, she called again with a question. “Hey Dad, how would you like to go back to Vietnam, just you and me?”
Her request stunned me, catching me flatfooted. Wanting to respond immediately, I found myself frozen with the thought, “Are you crazy?” The challenge of returning to Vietnam initially seemed dark, unrealistic, and heavy. Obviously, Naomi had a desire to experience some of what I had described in my memoir about the land and the culture. Like so many people her age, however, she wasn’t content to simply read about something; she wanted to feel it, to get as close as possible to the reality of the experiences of her father had as a young man only 20 years of age. Could this be accomplished?
My book takes several paths that conclude in the end on one, reconciliation. Along the way the stories of Jack’s life growing up in the 50’s and 60’s adds a favorable dimension of history surrounding this Asian war. This is not only a war book.
THE BACK STORY: As mentioned above, I wrote my memoir per my daughter’s request. Once completed I sent the memoir to my 95-year-old uncle. After uncle Bill read it, he called me to say, “Jack, you must turn this into a book for the public to read. Not to argue with my uncle I said, “Okay!” This project took three years.
I believe that my book provides many points of interest. (1.) War experiences of a 19- year-old kid. (2.)The relationship between a father and daughter that pivots around the Vietnam war. (3.) The element of reconciliation with Vietnam, and my daughter. (4.) The historical value of growing up in the 50’s and 60’s in an America so different than today. (5.) The present day experiences my daughter and I had when we returned to Vietnam. Take your choice, this book has an interest point for many personalities.
WHY THIS TITLE: Other than creating intrigue, which it does, the title explains itself.
WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ MY BOOK: As stated above, this book was artfully constructed as to present, “the whole picture.” There’s many blood and guts war books and hero books — a category that caters to men who are into that world. However, much more revolved around that crazy Asian war. My daughter! A relationship component that draws women like crazy! The curiosity of growing up in the 50’s. The reunion of old soldiers some 50 years later. My book had a wide circle that accurately portrayed the FEEL of those times that no longer exist!
“Bravo Billups, not just another Vietnam book! You nailed it!” Skip Press, author, scriptwriter and editor.
“Be prepared as the author is honest so it does get rather ‘gritty’ at times, but tastefully done as well. GREAT READ.” — 5 Star Amazon Review Book seeker
“I can’t thank Jack enough for devoting the time and effort in bringing the 3rd platoon together again through this great piece of work.” George C. Colclough (Retired), Colonel, United States Army Infantry
“Everyone, man or woman, young or old, can enjoy this great story. A wonderful read!” — Mike Boyle, host of the Mike Boyle Radio Show. Denver, Colorado
Verified Amazon Review
Beautiful Journey to Healing
“We listened to an interview the author gave on the Mike Boyle Show. My husband, a Vietnam veteran, was eager to read the book.
“The author delivered on our hopes for a healing response to what our boys faced over there. My husband usually can’t read much Vietnam War material due to his PTSD. He read this in just a few days, it was that good. Our thanks to the author for undertaking this topic and telling his story.” — Kitty Meeker.
“Billups’ observations and accounts show the maturity and the perspective of one who has spent time coming to terms with his past; and gaining an understanding of the historical context of the times. He neither romanticizes the experiences nor lingers with bitterness over them. My Vietnam is a GOOD READ! — Perky Granger, author and retreat organizer.AUTHOR COMMENTS: I’m not a professional writer, although it appears I could have been. I say this not from a point of arrogance, but from the realization that we all are unique and have a story to share. I’ve discovered through this process, that PASSION, conquers fear and doubt. I did wrote book from a point of passion, a strong feeling of purpose, the desire to accomplish a goal no matter the challenge I needed to overcome, for the benefit of the end result, the prize. Way beyond literary classes and studies, the element of the desire to accomplish a goal, I believe, is most important, when there’s passion, the rest will fall in line!
SAMPLE CHAPTER: 1 LEAVING NAM
To fulfill Naomi’s request, I documented my thoughts and memories of my military tour in Vietnam from June 1969 to August 1970. Collectively as a nation, American attitudes and sentiments drastically changed from the time the war was going on until now. The U.S. involvement in this war in Southeast Asia was once questioned, despised, and ridiculed.
In the 21st century, American attitudes toward the Vietnamese conflict had morphed into a mystery, a curiosity, even a sort of romanticism for younger Americans. I’d seen an interesting social evolution over five decades. This was the same war from which returning soldiers were shamed by many of their fellow Americans.
Back then, a Vietnam veteran did not advertise his return from the war. I certainly did not. In a stealth manner we slipped back into civilian life nearly undetected, there was no glory and adoration awaiting us. I was aware of this coming home and had no expectations of a warm reception.
Today, these same veterans are shown gratitude, respect, and sometimes a sense of awe. For those of us who lived through it, the contrast is amazing. In this regard, our country has corrected itself. Now, instead of being apprehensive that we served in Vietnam, we veterans are given permission by those who thank us, to feel proud and to be assured that our sacrifice was of equal value to that of those who served in previous, more popular wars of American involvement. Regardless of the right or wrong of that war, the majority of us went out of love of country, and now, Americans understand this.
The memories I share here will not always be in the correct time sequence, as certain events come to my mind like movie trailers, synopsizing the important essences of events in my memory. Also, some stories would be a bit crude if I portrayed actual events as they happened, so I have made them more polite with descriptions that does not distort the reality of each occurrence.
When I began writing for Naomi, it had been 48 years since I stepped onto the plane that would take me home. August 1970, I had been in country for 14 long months and now I find myself in a place and time that not only seemed like a dream, but an event that would never happen, I made it, was the repeated thought that consumed me.
The clerk looked up at me and said, “Jack, you can go to your locker now and retrieve your personal belongings.” It was something I had forgotten. I walked over to the fenced storage complex and hunted down my locker. I opened the door and pulled out my duffle bag and found just a few items. There were some photos, and the Bible awarded to me as a kid for good attendance at Dunlap Community Church, back home in Yucaipa California.
I threw the duffle bag over my shoulders and kept the Bible in my hands. While walking back toward the entry, I ran my hands over the brown leather King James version while pondering the truth of its divinity. My name was neatly inlayed in gold on my Bible, which remained in pristine condition because of my years of neglect. My mind wandered back to those early Sundays when my parents would drive my sister and I to Sunday school, dropping us off only to return in several hours to pick us up. In later years I understood that in addition to my parent’s belief that this was the right thing to do, it also afforded them a little free time together.
During summer, we enrolled in vacation Bible school. In an arts and crafts session, I discovered my special ability to transfer mental images to paper as I created a masterpiece collage of the crucifixion. With the teacher’s praise, I formed a new unique identity of myself, I was good at visualization which enabled me to be talented in art, this I carried throughout my life.
Snapping out of my daydream, I’m standing at the gates of the fenced complex, I saw a 55-gallon trash container and had thoughts of depositing my Bible in the trash. At that point, I wasn’t sure why I brought it to Vietnam, as I chose not to carry it with me in the field. I stood over the container for several seconds, debating with myself, then I decided to correct my foolishness. I have made it this far without even being wounded, I thought to myself, I still have a long flight back to San Francisco; so, with a dose of godly fear I said, I better not test God! I put my Bible in my duffle bag and continued on.
From there, it was further processing and paperwork. The airport was heavily fortified and had large military transport planes, fighter jets, and helicopters lining the runway. Most certainly, I was in a place where I felt safer than the previous fourteen months.
The commercial airliner that I thought of as, my freedom bird, sat on the tarmac waiting for me. She was beautiful, a man-made mechanical Angel “ready to carry me home.” She represented my success, or luck in surviving this crazy jungle war. With my mind racing in the reality of this long-awaited moment, I became anxious, wanting to get on that plane and end that chapter of my life.
As I entered the terminal, an unexpected moment occurred. Among those waiting to board was Eric, a friend from Yucaipa California, my hometown, he’d come in country with me over a year before. Once eye contact was made, we both grinned and laughed as I walked over to shake his hand. “Son of a bitch! Eric, I didn’t expect we’d fly home together.” “Neither did I. How the hell are you doing Jack?”
“Great Eric, it’s good to see you!”
I learned that Eric had extended his tour in Vietnam by two months, as did I. Nearly two years earlier, Eric and I went through six months of boot camp and advanced infantry training together. When we both arrived in Vietnam, we were separated into different units in the Army’s First Air Calvary. So, it came as a pleasant surprise that we would fly back together, and it was great to see Eric and know that he too, survived.
We both had a seat and waited along with the others who had served their time. Finally, we heard the announcement echoing through the large complex to line up and prepare to board the plane. No problem, I thought, “come on Eric, let’s go home!” I exclaimed.
As we walked towards the plane it sank in that these were my last steps on this foreign soil, or so I thought. It felt surreal, given what I’d been through. When I arrived in Vietnam, the hundreds of days ahead of me, justifiably felt bleak, making this day seem like an illusion, a dream not within my grasp, but now it became my reality.
While climbing up the stairs I kept saying to myself, this is unbelievable, I’m going home! When I approached the door, my thoughts detoured as attractive American women came into focus smiling and greeting me as I entered the bird. Notable was their upbeat composure, much different than when I stepped off the plane 14 months ago. One might have expected the mood onboard to be jubilant, but instead it seemed that everyone’s joy was measured, it was quiet and a bit somber. No one was outwardly celebrating.
Eric and I sat down together. I took a deep breath and exhaled a sigh of relief. We began to converse about where we were stationed and what our jobs were. Eric became a point man with the U.S. Army’s 7th Cavalry, and I was an M60 machine gunner for the 12th Cavalry. Other than that, we didn’t talk much about our experiences because we both understood they were similar. Truthfully, neither of us had an appetite to share war stories.
Once loaded, the door is closed and sealed. The plane taxied to the end of the runway then turned around, my anticipation increased as the engines began to scream, and at last we were racing down the strip and finally lifted off the earth from the country known as, “Vietnam”.
Both of us had escaped flying back home in coffins, unlike so many of our brothers who served in the blood ridden jungle with us. Whether destiny or luck, we both had cheated death in an extremely deadly place, the jungles of Vietnam.
Like me, everyone was staring out the windows to get one last look of the green plush jungle below, riddled with groups of bomb craters filled with rainwater reflecting the sky above. Each individual alone with their thoughts racing as the plane soared towards the heavens. It was eerie to look back on this beautiful plush country, populated by strange people with a strange culture. The country had touched thousands of Americans, then and for years to come, but at that time we had little idea how things would ultimately turn out.
As we flew out over the South China Sea, I settled in with thoughts of the past and what waited for me in the future. I was sure that many others were doing the same. Once Vietnam disappeared from sight, I still found myself thinking, it’s over, or is it? For most of us, our time in Vietnam would leave a lasting mark that would be carried for the remainder of our lives. Our experiences there, both good and bad, had become part of what defined us.
And now, five decades later, my beloved daughter wanted to know all about it. I realized her request could be a blessing because I was far from alone in that unique experience in
this controversial war. There was a whole generation of people younger than me – and maybe some from my own generation who would relish knowing what really happened over there.
WHERE TO BUY IT: Amazon, 432 pages, includes photos of interest, past and present.
PRICE: Printed version $19.95 E-Book $7.95 Audio $23.95
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