Friday, October 05, 2012

The Year of the Rooster

One day a few years ago I was walking on the street and someone called my name from a cafe.  He introduced himself as Joe and he said he knew of me and he wanted to ask me a favor.  He had heard that I write and he had written a draft of a novel and would I be prepared to review it for him and give him my opinion. When he described the story I readily agreed.
Joe Moritz was born in the USA and as a young Jewish boy, stirred by stories of derring-do and adventure, in a weak moment, he had abjured college and had volunteered for the Marine Corps to fight in Vietnam.  One of his motivations was to show that a Jewish boy could fight with the best of them.  He was accepted and trained and shipped out to Vietnam in 1969, the year of the rooster, hence the title of his book "The Year of the Rooster." 
In his book he describes his family's shock at his decision, and in the present he expresses his distraction from real life due to flashbacks.  Then he tells the tale of his induction into the Marines, his entry into Vietnam, his shock at the living conditions in holes in the ground on the edge of an impenetrable jungle.  His interactions with his fellow marines, their officers and with the Vietnamese civilians.  He describes fire-fights and retreats and sudden death, and then his own terrible injury, shot though the shoulder by a large piece of shell.  What is different about this memoir from many others of that period is that Joe dwells on the time after his injury, the treatment and the nurses and orderlies who attended him, the kindess and the fear and overwhelming pain.  He was shipped out of Nam to a Naval Hospital in South Philadelphia where the conditions were dreadful, where men lay in sweat and vomit and there weren't enough staff to attend to all the wounded.  Where the walls were peeling and the toilets were filthy, but the medical treatment was good.  After some time he recovered, although his left arm is permanently disabled. 
I'm glad that Joe got his book published and it is available on Amazon.  I have a copy before me and I'm glad that I helped him, even if only a little, to bring it to a conclusion.  His writing is gritty and authentic and I highly recommend it.  Joe is now writing another novel, and I'm pleased that he got his visceral experience in Vietnam out of his sytem and can move on with his life in Israel.


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