It grows harder to understand Vietnam every year. To those people who were not in Vietnam or who know too few people who were there, it grows more convoluted with every step of history. But to the soldiers on the ground, as in any war, it was always black and white. Daily concerns outweigh the abstracts of those uninvolved and half a world away. David Volk was one of those soldiers and he writes about his experiences in Vietnam in his new memoir, Draftee: A High School Teacher Goes To Vietnam.

Volk is a more gentle Tim O’Brien with pictures of the human side of war shining through the cracks in his soft ramblings. War memoirs are too often affairs where one either wraps themselves in the flag or go out of their way to burn it. David Volk falls in the kind middle, exactly where you would expect a South Dakota kid fresh out of college to land.

Volk was drafted at the apex of his early life, right at the point where, as he says, he “had it made.” Instead of going west three hours to teach high school in Pierre, he was drafted and ended up halfway around the globe. From the moment he enters basic training to the moment he sits at his desk and writes about finishing this book, there sits before the reader a vast array of all possible emotions and stories. Volk writes with a sarcastic tongue and a kind wit, casting a well-lit path of humorous stories so readers are better able to handle some of the darker tales he tells in the course of the book.

In one of the most personal and telling segments of this book, David Volk steps aside from his flowing narrative to speak about fighting wars everyone already knows are lost. He says that everyone knew Vietnam was lost from 1970 on. He goes on to say that the same is true for Iraq and that the US should avoid the unnecessary deaths as much as possible. The genius and skill of this section is that it does not sound as though Volk has climbed upon his soapbox and is railing against America. In keeping with the rest of his memoir, Volk gently comes alongside his readers and talks to them in a lowered voice with kindness about his informed views on war and loss.

David Volk’s is a voice which should find itself welcomed into the halls of those who write about that enigma of war which is Vietnam. He places a human face next to all those other views of that war which already exist. In the voice of a 22 year-old draftee from one of the mildest parts of the Midwest, he shows a little of how the big picture of war is made up of so many individual parts. He reminds us that those parts are everyday people with families, dreams, and stories to share. It’s a good thing that David Volk decided to share his.

This book can be purchased at Amazon.com

Nathaniel Jonet 

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