ďWhy didnít you get me outĒ - I wonder how many times a person can ask that question before it either breaks his spirit or he learns to live without virtue of a reasonable and decent answer. Would he just stop asking or would he just stop waiting to hear an explanation? I wish I could ask Mr. Anton what he has done with this question that has probably burned many a hole in his heart. It seems that the Vietnam War has no end to its ability to wage hell and devastation, even after all these years. I say this because if you read this book you will ask that same question - why didnít we get him out? Why didnít we save those men? Why couldnít we pull a Chuck Norris or a Rambo and just bring them home where they belonged and deserved to be? Maybe it is because life cannot be lived like a Hollywood movie, leaping grass huts and riding helicopters low over rice paddies. Or is the truth that we could have brought Frank Anton, Everett Alvarez, Bud Day, John McCain, Jim Stockdale and so many other soldiers home had we made a firm decision to do so? We need only to look back through history to see all the things we Americans have done when we set our jaw, firmly planted our feet and said, ďWe arenít going to take it anymore.Ē So was it that our government just did not want them out badly enough or was that we just could not figure out how? I guess I know the answer and our author believes he knows the answer, though it is too shameful to say out loud. So I think instead it might be wise to tell you a little about the book in hopes that you will want to read it for yourself and draw your own conclusions.
Throughout the book, Mr. Anton is very self-deprecating, quick to say that he was often too sick to work or help others, often too depressed to really have hope, somehow trying to paint himself as something less than a hero. That picture doesnít fly with me. If there is one thing I can say with certainty it is that he was cut from the cloth of heroes. He survived his imprisonment and thrived. He has become a father and husband, a teacher of life and a writer willing to share his history and knowledge. He qualified for the annals of heroism every day he willed himself to live when others might have been unable to keep their grip.
Mr. Anton was a POW for 5 years, which is 1,825 days or an unbearable 2,678,000 minutes of his life. He suffered unconscionable attacks to his immune system, spirit and mind. He was nearly starved to death both in nutrition and in mind. This book should come with a warning label and yet be required reading by all. I suggest it may have a lasting impact on your life, but I beg you to read it all the same. You owe this to the author and the men he honors in his book. I say this because it is my true belief that just as these soldiers suffered unbelievable assaults, so should our sensibilities. Naturally, we donít want to know what happened to them. We donít want to believe we are responsible for their suffering because we did not demand our government get them out. We donít want to remember, and yet I believe we should never be allowed to forget.
It would easy to sit on my sofa and watch a sitcom on TV or read a book about romance or mystery. But the origins of these stories are in the imagination of a writer who has never lived the plot or bore the burden. This book is difficult because no one wants to be looked in the eye by the one they have wronged. This book will leave you feeling beaten and broken. It will leave you hungry just as the man who wrote this book was so many many days and nights. Your hunger will not be satisfied by the food or drink you will want to reach for. Perhaps there can be satisfaction in the pride we should feel in knowing the great fortitude and mettle these men were made of. Perhaps you will find satisfaction in seeking out those who have served our country and making an effort to thank them for their sacrifice. Or for me, it was when I realized that Mr. Anton has found a way to live a good life. He has allowed his memories a peaceful place to rest and continued to live his life in the present. He has risen against his adversity and triumphed. I am not sure I could have done that. I would have become angry and bitter, unyielding in disappointment and frustration at being abandoned and unworthy of my countryís effort. As it is, I am ashamed of the way our country treated the men and women who served our country during the Vietnam War and the lack of regard given to the men who were held as prisoners of war is enough to make me hang my head. I am reminded of something once said about the real crime is not when bad things happen so much as it is when good people do nothing. For that, I am completely and utterly sorry for how our country betrayed her sons so far from home.
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