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Inhaltsangabe: “Kids like me didn’t go to Vietnam,” writes Jack McLean in his compulsively readable memoir. Raised in suburban New Jersey, he attended the Phillips Academy in Andover, MA, but decided to put college on hold. After graduation in the spring of 1966, faced with the mandatory military draft, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps for a two-year stint. “Vietnam at the time was a country, and not yet a war,” he writes. It didn’t remain that way for long.
A year later, after boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina, and stateside duty in Barstow, California, the Vietnam War was reaching its peak. McLean, like most available Marines, was retrained at Camp Pendleton, California, and sent to Vietnam as a grunt to serve in an infantry company in the northernmost reaches of South Vietnam. McLean’s story climaxes with the horrific three-day Battle for Landing Zone Loon in June, 1968. Fought on a remote hill in the northwestern corner of South Vietnam, McLean bore witness to the horror of war and was forever changed. He returned home six weeks later to a country largely ambivalent to his service.
Written with honesty and insight, Loon is a powerful coming-of-age portrait of a boy who bears witness to some of the most tumultuous events in our history, both in Vietnam and back home.
A lyrical memoir of a prep school boy who creates his own path to higher learning: enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps, fighting in Vietnam, and then studying at Harvard.
Kids like me don’t go to Vietnam.
Raised in suburban New Jersey, Jack McLean attended the prestigious Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, with George W. Bush. After graduation, and eager for change, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. At the time, Vietnam was a country and not a war.
In Loon, McLean takes readers from Andover’s privileged campus, to the infamous Marine Corps boot camp at Parris Island, to the battle at Landing Zone Loon in the rugged hills along Vietnam’s Laotian border. During that period, Jack transformed from a sheltered boy, into a Marine, and ultimately into one of a handful of survivors of a horrific three-day assault during some of the heaviest fighting of the Vietnam War.
Richly textured and full of action-packed battle scenes, Loon is a piercingly honest and beautifully written story of an infantry Marine and his comrades as they face the challenges of boot camp, stateside service and, ultimately, war. It neither glorifies nor mystifies. It simply tells the story, and in so doing, teaches us a great deal about courage, honor, sacrifice, and is a powerful portrait of a period of American history.An Essay by Author Jack McLean
The seeds for Loon: A Marine Story were planted in 1993. I was working in Washington, D.C. Bill Negron, our company commander in Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, 3rd Division, was teaching English as a Second Language to Vietnamese children in Scottsdale, Arizona.
I’d had no contact with my marine buddies since I departed Vietnam in July 1968. I had been a corporal serving out the final weeks of my enlistment. Negron had been a captain beginning his second tour in Vietnam.
Over time, I was able to locate him and write the following letter:
There must be little in you that could recall me after twenty-five years back in the world, but your memory rekindles in me often in a most positive way.
I was visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial last night saying yet another fond good evening to our many friends. It’s been twenty-five years since those awful three days that we spent in June 1968 on LZ Loon. The Wall has a lot of black marble dedicated to the memory of our company mates.
I have lost touch with everyone that was with us. I pushed the experience out of me for many years. Time has smoothed out the rough edges, however, and I am increasingly interested in trying to figure out what in the world was going on over there and how others of us have reacted over time.
What happened with you? Perhaps you were awarded a Navy Cross or a Silver Star. I can think of no one, Skipper, who upheld higher standards of character under fire than you did. You were an exceptional leader and I owe you my life for getting us off that hill.
Bill’s reply arrived several weeks later.
There is still a part of my memory left that recalls you, not many of my troopers left Vietnam to go to Harvard. I haven’t heard from more than two or three guys who survived “Loon.”
I’ve only been to the wall once; it was one of those snowy cold winter days that shuts D.C. down. My tears froze on my face. Yes, Charlie Company is well represented in black marble. It is up to us, the living to keep their memory alive. We must remember them as they were, laughing, talking, having a beer.
I returned to Vietnam in 1973, my third tour. I guess I got pretty burnt out and became a real problem for my family and the Cops. I did manage to eventually retire in 1981 as a Lieutenant Colonel. My first wife divorced me because she thought I was a little “f***ed up,” she was probably right.
P.S. I was nominated for a Navy Cross, but it was downgraded to a Silver Star. I’m very proud of my Silver Star.
Several days later, I was surprised to receive the following letter from Bill’s wife Myrna:
The letter you wrote my husband, Bill Negron, brought him to tears. He believes very strongly that his kids from Vietnam may be suffering. He feels responsible for every man that served with him that didn’t make it home.
Seeking Bill out was important to him. He is proud of you, and I think that’s important for you to know. I wish he could hear from other men that were with him. I never fully understood the meaning of closure or PTSD until I met Bill and other Vets from Vietnam. If you know of any other men that served with you, I’m sure Bill would like to know they made it home.
Bill Negron is probably the toughest, kindest, gentlest man on earth. This is the man I married and the man you fought next to in Vietnam. He is a proud American, and very proud of you too.
From that moment, Bill Negron and I began to track down the lost boys of Charlie Company one by one. Tens years later, I was driven to write our story. It has been at once the most glorious and humbling experience of my life.A Look Inside Loon Click on thumbnails for larger images
|Combat Boots||A View of LZ Loon||A Young Jack McLean|
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