Tested in the Fire of Hell
Although many young Americans are highly trained to be skilled soldiers, they have little or no training in dealing with the realities of combat. They have not been trained to deal with the consequences of war, namely: psychological injuries, deaths of close friends, and the betrayal of what is morally right. All this has lead to soldiers experiencing a spiritual death and emotional numbness. The church and the government have ignored the soldiers who have been acting out. “Silencing the survivor”, is not working, too many soldiers are suffering and it is time for the church and government to aid these heroic warriors. This is a personal story of my struggle with my conscience and what I was asked to do. It is a story of my battle with the psychological consequences of war and the spiritual battle that took place within my soul as I tried to recover from the horrors of war. I in hope that it will help other young men and women deal with the realities of war.
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Review Written By Bernie Weisz, Historian, Vietnam War, Pembroke Pines, Florida U.S.A. November 10, 2011 Contact: BernWei1@aol.com Title of Review: :The Sounds of Vietnam: Explosions, Cries of Pain, Bursts of Rapid Fire & the Sharp Cracking of Lead Flying All Over The Place!"
The sounds of war did not bring forth in Richard Vnuk's mind songs like Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyres", Creedence Clearwater's "Suzie Q" or even the Rolling Stones' "Jumpin" Jack Flash." On the contrary, the reverberations of war made him nauseated, downright sick to his stomach, exhausting his mental faculties to its breaking point. It is as if it was just yesterday that the author heard these sounds, despite a span of forty three years elapsing since he last listened to them. Indelible impressions were being made on those American youths that answered the summons of President Johnson's war trumpet, and sadly for some these would be the last they would ever see or hear. America's involvement in the Vietnam War in the mid 1960's was running at full speed and it was an aberration of the harshest kind for a young man fresh out of high school to wonder if by this time tomorrow he would be zipped into a body bag. Vietnam proved to be a cruel assault on Vnuk's senses, as shortly after his high school graduation he would be drafted and zipped across the Pacific on a silver wing tipped, flying chariot. Instead of working on calculus, trigonometry, zoology, Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway, Vnuk would watch B-52 strikes, observe enemy artillery hurling hunks of metal over his head at supersonic speeds, and witness in horror the "death mask look" on the corpses of his fellow soldiers, whom just hours before were men he had thought of as his friends, sharing his hopes, dreams and aspirations with.
Pessimistic to the utmost, Vnuk reminds the reader that throughout his one year tour he expressed thoughts like; "I thought for sure I was a dead man," as well as "I'm going to be in a body bag for sure." After watching American soldiers laying dead all around him, he incredulously mused; "I felt as if I should have died over and over, but I was alive." When Richard Vunk reached an emotional standoff where he admits he was overwhelmed with survivor guilt, extreme fatigue and drained numb of emotion, he concedes that death was an attractive alternative to the torture of war he was involuntarily a part of. While this might sound absurd, after reading "Tested in the Fire of Hell" the reader will commiserate and identify with Richard Vunk as to why he would make such a statement. You will also understand why the author described himself at an impasse; which was to either go insane and lose touch with reality or spend all his time and energy on trying to survive this war physically and pray to his higher power to empower himself to control his emotions and maintain his sanity. He chose the latter and as a consequence is here today to embody the sagacity of that choice. His description of his comrades deaths, his close brush with the grim reaper, and his faith in God to bring him home so he could be with his family again in spite of the odds is nothing less than a nonstop, page turning, riveting read! Even the most emotionally stoic will be affected by this historically important, well written memoir! Highly recommended!