By Judith Kelliher
In 2013, after reading a popular nonfiction book about a World War II soldier’s incredible story of survival, Judith Kelliher began to wonder about her older brother Bobby’s experiences in the Vietnam War in the late 1960s. With 12 years separating the two, Judy was too young to understand what Bobby had been through.
This book, based mostly on interviews Judy led with Bobby, tells the story of his two, back-to-back tours in Vietnam and his life after the war. Bobby barely survived the first year of service as he had more than the North Vietnamese Army with which to contend. A bait-and-switch by the government in his second term landed him again on the front lines serving as an operations and intelligence advisor to the South Vietnamese Army. One incident in particular was so unbearable and incomprehensible for Bobby he would have preferred facing the enemy with guns drawn.
Back at home, Bobby, like so many veterans of the war, was anguished yet vacant, unable to feel or acknowledge his brokenness. Re-entry into marriage, children, and career became unmanageable as Bobby could not escape the horrors of his service. It would take the constant love of family and friends, and the support and guidance of strangers to make him whole again.