Vietnam … Can’t Get You Out of My Mind, by Jim Jones. May 2019. 274 pgs. Softcover. ISBN 0-945648-46-8. $15.95.
When President John Kennedy challenged young people to help their country, Jim Jones decided on a career of public service: With the Army in Vietnam, later as a U.S. Senate staffer, Idaho Attorney General and on the Idaho Supreme Court. This book chronicles Jim’s tour in Vietnam, living and working with South Vietnamese forces, helping an orphanage, serving as an aerial artillery spotter, and getting to know the Vietnamese people. Those 407 days were the most powerful
influence on his life.
From the introduction:
This is not a typical book about combat. It is a recollection of my path to the Army, my service in Vietnam, and the indelible impression that service left on my life.
Wartime service is generally a defining experience in the life of any veteran. For the majority, it is probably the most significant and important thing they have done in their lives—to take up arms and risk life and limb for an important cause. There can be nothing more noble.
Although my father did not serve in World War II, many men from my small Idaho community did. It was the thing you did, unless you were growing food for the troops. And, it was a grand and noble cause. Our nation’s future was at risk.
Our troops won the war and came home to a thankful and grateful nation. While many of the veterans suffered physical and psychological problems after the war, they could reflect on the fact that they had helped protect the country from an existential threat.
For those who served in Vietnam, the cause was not so clearly noble, the result was calamitous, and thankful countrymen were few and far between, at least for many years afterwards. That left many Vietnam veterans with the same physical and psychological problems suffered by veterans of other conflicts, but with the added feeling that it was all for naught and that their service was either not appreciated or actually despised by their countrymen. As a result, a significant number of returning troops had a difficult time readjusting to civilian life. And, they did not receive the help they needed and deserved.
I was always proud of the fact that I volunteered for service in Vietnam, even though I could easily have gotten out of it. I never did anything particularly heroic, was not traumatized, and have had no serious service-related problems since then.
But I had the opportunity to see and do things that many others did not, like going to a Vietnamese wedding, being saved from oblivion by a poker game, observing a large enemy camp just across the border in Cambodia, working with an orphanage, having an audience with the Pope of the Cao Dai Church, watching earth-shaking B-52 strikes from an airborne box seat, and defending U.S. soldiers in court martial proceedings.