Recently, I was able to ask author David Volk a few questions about his life and his book, a tale of his time in Vietnam reviewed earlier on this site.

Dave, the blog South Dakota Straight Talk referred to you as “one of South Dakota’s savviest political animals.” Do you feel you deserve that title?

If I was one of the “savviest political animals” in the state I would not have lost my last two elections for US Congress and Sioux Falls City Council. With age comes a certain knowledge and considering that I just turned 60 I have accumulated a little political acumen.

Obviously, you were involved in politics before you were drafted, but in your book, you speak of how frustrating it was to fight a war everyone already knew was lost. To what extent did that impact your involvement in politics?

If Vietnam had any effect on my political career it was giving me the courage to run for State Treasurer at age 25. As I mentioned in the book my time in the army taught me I was capable of more then I thought possible.

What was the greatest struggle to overcome in the writing, editing and publishing of your book?

I suppose recalling those long ago young men who lost their lives. I do see them as they would be today, getting ready to retire, first grandchildren, etc. War is horrible waste.

Was there any moment that occurred when you in Vietnam after which you thought, “that would be the perfect thing to write about someday?”

Never thought about it. I was 22, going to live forever and writing ‘memoirs’ was the furthest thing from my mind.

You were State Treasurer in South Dakota for 17 years. Was it ever crazier being a part of that than it was in Vietnam?

No. Politics and government was my element. Going to the army and Vietnam was as alien as Hell.

Your book reads at least somewhat similarly to the Desert Storm classic Jarhead by Anthony Swofford in the emphases it has. Was that intentional, or is it simply indicative of how military life is?

Must be indicative of military life as I never read “Jarhead” although did see the movie. There is currently a beautiful internet piece that shows pictures of our troops in Iraq and is set to the music of a song called ‘Homeward Bound’. Even thought the terrain, enviroment, uniforms, civilians, etc., are totally different then what I experienced, those pictures remind me so much of Vietnam and my comrades of that long ago experience. The site by the way is:

How do you hope that those who read this book who have been part of military life will respond?

I hope they will take it for what it is. I wrote it to be a remembrance of that crazy time in our youth and hope no one is offended.

What is one question in general you wish people would ask you and what is the answer?

Damn good question and one that is not easy for me to answer. I guess it would involve the whole dichotomy of being a soldier and fighting in a difficult, unpopular war and separating the support for the service and sacrifice of the soldier from the war itself. Don’t know if I even have a good answer but think it is very applicable today. That you can support and honor the troops without having to support the war.

Nathaniel Jonet 

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