DOC: PLATOON MEDIC

Reviewed by Joni Bour


Have you ever just known something you canít explain knowing? I have. I knew this book was going to be special before I even opened it. It has a vibe that I donít expect you to believe, but it does. Maybe it is because I share a sort of kinship with Mr. Evans. He was a corpsman who served in the Vietnam War. I was a medic myself for several years and though I have never felt a bullet whiz over my head or feared for my life, I have known the shame of not saving the life I had tried so hard to save. I have stood at a sink and kept scrubbing at the blood on my hands that had long since been scrubbed away and I can remember the screams of a father begging me to not let his child die. I have seen some things in my dreams that I do not need to share, but suffice to say Mr. Evans might understand. Sometimes only someone who has seen what you have seen can understand. I guess that is how I knew this book was for me.

This is a very good book. As it urns out, it was way better than "just" a good book. To say that implies that is merely flat and plain and words on paper, as if it is something to pick up or put down at your leisure. In fact, it is none of those things. Mr. Evansí recollections have a life of their own; they pull you in to his thoughts and feelings, take you back to a place where you can feel the mud, imagine the leeches and sense the suffering. The young soldierís story is so real you will feel it brush across your face like a cobweb in the darkest corner of the attic. You will be leery to look into the attic for all the forgotten memories, lost souls and pain packed away in boxes. You would prefer to walk away or pretend you donít care. But that wonít work. It is time to unpack. And you do care, or you would not be at this website, or looking at this book. It isnít going to be John Grisham or Danielle Steele. It is about a war that still divides opinion in this country and touched the lives of generations before and after those who served in it. Even though you may know the history of the war in Vietnam, you will find yourself wanting a second chance to do the right thing and to stand up to honor those who served our country - not just for Mr. Evans and the men he served with, but for America itself.

The author weaves his story the way a spider weaves its web: first one thread and then another, somehow tying each end together, forming a piece of art that is different than any other web. His web is strangely beautiful and a little scary at the same time. He is diligent, drawing each corner of his web to a proper angle, adhering it firmly to the doorway we must cross through to learn more. We are lucky indeed to find a man so willing to bare to the world what is so deeply, personally his. Imagine being a girl-chasing, car-loving, movie-going young man one moment and a hunted soldier the next? One moment being squeamish at the sight of blood and the next trying to treat a sucking chest wound. How can you explain to someone why something horribly and ghastly is hysterically funny? Do you tell them the truth - That laughing is the only way you can cope with such devastation and loss? How do you tell people that killing a man might be easy, when one moment it seems as if it is and the next it isn't? Can ordinary people understand how it comes to be that you donít recall what you had for dinner three days ago but you have instant and total recall of one single moment in your life in the jungle of Vietnam in 1968? Can they understand how the man you call your brother is no blood relation at all?

I think Mr. Evans answers every question when he puts words to his story and little pieces of his life on every page. He is a teacher, whether he knows it or not. I believe that anyone who reads this book will feel as if Mr. Evans has given them some tiny little bit of something they never had before. It could be they will learn that the Corpsman is probably the bravest, most selfless creation ever touched by the hand of God, just like a firefighter, because no matter what, when everyone else is running away from danger, they are running or crawling toward it. Or maybe the reader will find out that the Vietnam War was neither won nor lost. That it is not really over for most of the men and women who served there. Or maybe they will change their minds about something they used to believe was true. After all, that is what a teacher is supposed to do: open hearts and minds.

I believe Mr. Evans wanted to reach out to his veteran brothers to tell them he is still here, that he understands what they have gone through, because he went through it too. Maybe he is telling them they are not alone and there can be strength in knowing there are others to support them through a kinship and brotherhood. It seems to me Doc Evans is doing what he has always been destined to do: bandaging the wounds of his brothers.


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Posted 4/4/04