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... Of Bags, Counts and Nightmares

by Ron Marks

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Tommie Bauer arrives in Vietnam during the middle of September, 1967 and is assigned to the 25th Infantry Division as an infantry soldier. The men of Charlie Company patrol through the jungles Northwest of Saigon near the Cambodian Border and seem to attract the enemy wherever they go. Helicopters get shot down, constant fire-fights seem to last forever, friends die, the men are alert most of the night - getting very little sleep, then move throughout the next day - cutting a path through thick jungle to locate the enemy. The men are exhausted physically, emotionally and mentally, their ranks - quickly depleting; they need to catch a break and recharge, but the enemy is on the move and they must be stopped. There is no time to rest.

The division soon creates a Recon Platoon - Tommie and some of his friends are recruited into this new outfit. They spend the first two weeks in training to learn tactics, stealth and other skill sets needed to operate in small groups, then chopper out the next morning on their first mission, These new missions require them to be invisible in their movements, then setting-up in small groups to "observe" possible enemy movements. They are not to engage, but must memorize every detail of what they witness about the enemy and then forward the information to division intelligence. Compared to what Tommie and his friends had experienced with Charlie Company, this new opportunity promises to be a great improvement. Unfortunately, the teams are ambushed immediately upon landing, choppers are shot down, friends are killed, and they are on the run - now outnumbered 5 - 1.

Firefights continue and it's "deja vu" all over again. Only now, they operate in units of less than 10 men - team members continue to rotate in and out of the unit, replacements forego the two-week training program and join the units in the field within two days of arrival. The enemy is everywhere and supplies continue to move east toward Saigon. Rumor has it that the enemy is planning to stockpile supplies and then attack Saigon - forcing their surrender and ending the war. Little do they know that they are only two days away from the great Tet offensive of 1968.

There is a side-story taking place in which Tommie questions his relationship with two girls he'd left behind. When wounded, he engages a new relationship with his nurse - an Army Lieutenant, Rachel; they adore one another and become lovers. Her memory is the only thing keeping him sane.

"...Of Bags, Counts and Nightmares" is written in the first person, readers find themselves right there with Tommie - sharing his burdens and thoughts. It is also a wonderful representation of what soldiers experience in war. Perhaps, the experiences shared here are a little over the top and might qualify as a "worse case" experiment, but if this was not fiction, I would venture to say that Tommie suffers for the rest of his life - whether he has Rachel's help or not. PTSD is a terrible disorder and does not go away! Learning, understanding and control are key in keeping this mental illness at bay!

Lastly, I just want to mention that there are several instances where the author uses "there" in place of "their", "here" instead of "hear" and some other minor typos. No big deal though - it don't mean nuthin'. Great book! Could not put it down to see what happens next to Tommie and his friends! Thank you Ron Marks! ( )
  JPodlaski | Mar 13, 2014 |
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