Reviewed by Joni Bour

Most of the books I read I pay for out of my own tightwad pocket, but now and then an author (through this website) sends me a copy to review. These are the books I worry about the most. I select my books carefully, so I know what I am getting when I arrive at the counter to pay. But the unsolicited ones mailed to me: Uh Oh, what if I hate them or don't understand them or spill diet coke on them and never finish reading them? What then? It is an unnatural fear, I know, but here we are, with one of those books...

Turns out, I thought it was going to be nothing like what I normally read and would most likely bore me to tears. I am here to say I stand corrected. It is true that this is not what I would have chosen to read. If you have read any of my other reviews, you know I read almost exclusively non-fiction or memoirs. This book is not remotely like my usual, and yet I found it not the least bit boring and actually very readable. I usually avoid books about the Vietnam War that were not written by a veteran. Again, this books fits what I usually duck down another aisle to avoid, but I am glad I didn't. I would even go so far as to recommend this book to all the people who might read its title and otherwise likely decide not to read it. I will admit when I saw the cover and title, I thought, "What? Either this man is a little left of the center divider or he must have something in there I better read." So I did read it and I am glad I did. You should read it, too, and just see if you are as surprised as I was!

This man never served in the Vietnam War, but it is very obvious he cares about those who did. Just one more reason I like him and his book. He cares and is not afraid to step out on a limb to show the truth about the war that has divided our country for over thirty years. Did we win or lose or did the war seem to never really to end at all? You've just gotta like a guy who is willing to risk any number of responses to his belief. I can think of a few people who could learn a little from his example and his book. I did. I thought I knew a lot about the Vietnam War and I do, maybe more than a lot of people. But I cared about things that aren't logical or countable, like courage and suffering and survival and never cared about logistics, fact finding missions or anything President Johnson had to say until Mr. Owens showed up.

In contrast to my approach, Mr. Owens does not talk about fear or emotion. He talks about the things you can count, measure and write on paper. He writes about things that are tangible. Even though this is clearly a book about facts and undeniable proof, all things that are not supposed to make you get angry or sad, I believe there is emotion woven into the very fabric of his story. It seems as if emotion is what drove him to write this book. Which, in some ways, is exactly like the book I say it is not; his ideas have weighed heavily on his intelligent brain and gentle heart for as many years as our veterans have been home from the war. In a way this book is sort of a memoir. He has put to paper his own personal battles with what he has seen as right and wrong. This book should be of interest to anyone who feels they have a well-founded opinion about the winning or losing of the Vietnam War. If there truly is a season and a time for every purpose, I hope this book has found its season to be recognized.

Throughout the book, the time and effort the author has placed on being historically accurate is obvious. He is careful in every way to be precise. It is an easy book to follow and I never felt lost in a sea of numbers or comparison studies. There is something else you may notice. In between the lines of facts and figures there is the undeniable faith of a good man who firmly believes we must right what has been wrong. I share the reverence that Mr. Owens shows to those of you who answered the call to go to Vietnam. I am beside him all the way. He has written a book that shares my heart-felt belief. You are the good and decent men and women who were sent to Vietnam with a goal to free an oppressed people. You have not been treated with the respect you deserve for standing up for those who had no power of their own. This book seeks to reach out a hand to every Vietnam veteran, in both thanks for your service and apology for the pain that has been caused to you. For that alone I will cherish this book and am thankful Mr. Owens had the guts to write it.

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Posted 4/20/04