In this slim memoir, Martin Latigue recalls his military service in Vietnam, particularly one brutal battle in the Ia Drang Valley, later memorialized in the acclaimed book, We Were Soldiers Once…and Young.
The narrative begins with a gripping chapter about the death of the narrator’s brother, Wedges, killed while babysitting his niece in the company of two friends. Wedges and his father had been hunting that day, and there was a shotgun on the bed. When one of Wedges’ friends “went to check it out,” the gun went off. “The blast had blown half of [Wedges’] head off. Some of it had hit me in the back,” notes Latique.
The horrifying vignette seems to foreshadow even more ominous things to come. Indeed, the book subsequently follows Latigue as he’s drafted in 1963 and sent to Vietnam.
Most of his Vietnam discussion is devoted to the Ia Drang battle. Describing one day of the fight, he writes: “We had begun the day with five officers and 106 men. After the battle, we had no officers; they were all killed or wounded.” Close to half of the men—42—were dead. Yet, he writes, “When it was time to leave this hellhole, I did not want to stop fighting. Part of me died.”
Latigue also discusses his challenges after the military, including PTSD.
This is rich material to mine. Unfortunately, after a riveting start, the book becomes highly disjointed. Scenes lack context; time elements blur. For example, one paragraph notes that “we had only been in the army for twenty-four months.” The next says: “I had been in the army for six months.” At one point, the time jumps abruptly from the Vietnam era to 2020 and the author’s difficulties getting help from the Houston VA hospital.
Ultimately, the book never gels into a coherent whole, and readers will finish it with far more questions than answers. To attract an audience, revision is required to address the issues mentioned.
Also available as an ebook.