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In this intimate memoir, Perry A. Ulander chronicles with powerful clarity the bewildering predicament he confronted and the fellowship and guidance that transformed him during the year he served as an American GI in the jungles of Vietnam. Conveying with unadorned precision the harrowing experiences that shatter his core beliefs, Ulander also captures the camaraderie and humor of his platoon, the hostility between "lifers" and draftees, the physical hardships of reconnaissance missions, and the unrelenting apprehension underlying everyday life. Ultimately, he describes the surrendering of social norms and accepted identities that allows him to glimpse a previously unimagined realm of heightened awareness.
"Walking Point" offers a powerful narrative for readers with an interest in the effects of war and violence, American involvement in Vietnam, PTSD, and how trauma can be a catalyst for spiritual transformation. Giving voice to profound insights gained through extreme adversity, Ulander movingly captures the depth of trust and commitment among a group of unwitting warriors who struggle to stay alive and sane in unchartered territory.
North Atlantic Books is a non-profit book publisher based in Berkeley, California, with the aim to develop an educational and cross-cultural perspective linking various scientific, social, and artistic fields; to nurture a holistic view of arts, sciences, humanities, and healing; and to publish and distribute literature on the relationship of mind, body, and nature. 2016-06-28 21:11:21 GMT 2016-06-29 16:00:00 (GMT -08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada) Yes (click here to learn more about ) Closed 13 13 0 direct invitation(s) have been sent by the voice seeker resulting in 0 audition(s) and/or proposal(s) so far. Voice123 SmartCast is seeking 15 auditions and/or proposals for this project (approx.) Invitations sent by SmartCast have resulted in 13 audition(s) and/or proposal(s) so far.
Since no specific orders had been issued for the rest of the afternoon, we were free to roam about. I claimed a cot by throwing my duffel bag on it. When I turned around, I saw Rodrigez grinning at me.
“Let’s check the place out,” he said.
Rodrigez was one of the guys who had been with me on the wild jeep ride from the airstrip, and although the open jeep hadn’t allowed much conversation, we’d already sized each other up—a couple of fuck-offs, for sure.
There really wasn’t that much to check out, but we learned that they showed movies at the snack bar at night. So after an afternoon of lounging on my cot and watching a high-powered Korean Bible salesman trying to convince a few of the manically depressed guys in the tent to buy huge $50 deluxe Bibles to send to their folks at home, I went to the snack bar and waited for the show. I’d just bought a Coke and lit a cigarette when Rodrigez appeared, eyes shining.
“I was over at the transport battalion across the street,” he said. “One of the dudes over there gave me some pot. Let’s go get high.”
As we walked off, Rodrigez proudly produced a nearly microscopic joint, fired it up, took a toke, and passed it to me. I was amazed to find myself getting high while I held the first hit. In the time it took to finish the joint, things were going in slow motion; my body felt like it was floating. My mind went blank, but my senses were amplified. We’d pretty much made the rounds of the small compound, and in front of us was the headquarters building, which was illuminated by small floodlights aimed at its façade. It was beautiful, shimmering and shining, surreal, translucent, like … the Emerald City. Evidently, Rodrigez wasn’t nearly as impressed; he grabbed my sleeve as I stood gawking. “Come on, man, let’s get the hell out of here. There might be lifers hanging around.”
Even though the snack bar was only fifty yards away, it seemed like a miraculous feat of navigation to get there. Each step was a surprise in itself. I was considerably relieved when each foot, in turn, finally touched the ground. I felt like a child just learning to walk, and when we reached our destination, I found it, too, was transformed. The movie was already half over, and between the indecipherable sound track, the din of the people talking, and my newly discovered sensitivity to ambient emotions, it was almost unbearable to be there.
Rodrigez must have felt the same, because with very little hesitation, he said, “Hey, man, this place is too heavy for me. Let’s split.”
The oppressive feeling lifted quickly as we headed for the tent. Most of the guys had already crashed for the night. Only one guy was still awake; he smiled knowingly at us, watching us straining to be cool. After a few minutes of conversation, we relaxed, recognizing a kindred spirit.
His name was Calendar. In spite of his boyish face, he was a couple of inches taller than me—and I was six feet two. There was also an ironic contrast between his cherubic looks and the mischievous sparkle in his eyes. As he told of his two years at Purdue (also in engineering), I found it easy to imagine him amiably loaded on beer at weekend parties, chasing women, and getting rowdy with the boys. He’d discovered an enlisted men’s club across the street and suggested that we check it out. It sounded okay, but I remembered that at the orientation we’d been given on our arrival, we’d been told to stay in the company area. I mentioned this.
As if on cue, Calendar and Rodrigez looked at me and said in unison, “What are they gonna do? Send us to Vietnam?”
The enlisted men’s club—the EM club—was easier to deal with than the snack bar, particularly after the first beer. Calendar seemed to be thoroughly enjoying himself playing the slot machines for tokens, and Rodrigez wasted no time in trying to put the make on the Vietnamese bar girl who was delivering drinks. But for me, it soon seemed to be too chaotic, so I wandered back to the tent to crash.
The next morning, after chow and formation, I found myself on trash detail. There were three of us in the cab of a big two-and-a-half-ton truck, known as a “deuce and a half” in country, as it headed out of the compound and down the highway to the dump. I felt edgy; the driver had brought along an M16. The notable absence of weapons in the bases I’d been in so far had been an indication that we were in a relatively secure area. The dump was only a couple of miles down the road, and we were greeted by three grubby Vietnamese boys who were obviously familiar with the procedure. As the truck backed up to the pile of junk, the kids positioned themselves directly behind it. They clambered barefoot over the cans, cardboard, and smashed crates to get dibs on the stuff from the new load. The driver dropped the tailgate, and the other newbie and I began shoveling the stuff off the back end. The other guy took no notice of the kids, and occasionally the garbage would land right on them as they scrambled for unopened C-rations, broken shoelaces, and mess-hall scraps. I tried to get them to move back but got no response, and when I tried shoveling stuff over the side, one of the kids moved to the new location.
“Don’t bother about those kids,” the driver said. “They won’t move.” He was right.
Shortly after we returned to the compound, another formation was called. Classes were about to begin. The first class was about the dangers of drug use among the troops. It was given by a CID (Criminal Investigation Department) major, who, from his puffy face and red nose, looked as if he must not have been listening too closely to the class he was teaching.
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