Bullets and Bandages – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat and Think With Your Taste Buds – Desserts
“Where have you guys been?” I said. “We ran out of time! My buddy here needed help, but now he’s dead!” They tried to calm me down. The flight medic replied, “We’re sorry about your man. We left the base as soon as we had word. I’ve seen this snake before. It’s one of the most poisonous in the world. No one can survive the venom unless they’re right outside a hospital when they are bitten.” He was right. It wasn’t their fault. The choppers lifted off and banked over trees, but I just stared at the body bag, feeling so very tired. I would never forget him. He saved a lot of lives and lost his to a tiny snake. I prayed for him. I prayed for his family and for his lost soul; I prayed it wasn’t my turn next.
Sergeant Jakes had already survived one tour in Viet Nam. He knew the VC as well as the jungle. He knew what to watch for and what to listen for. Now he was now successfully taking his team through yet another tour. He had been through just about everything the VC could toss at him and lived through it. The one thing he didn’t live through was the bite of one of the most poisonous snakes in the world. One that made his home in the jungles of Viet Nam.
That was just one of many deaths that Rob Doc Marrino would have to face while serving as a Medic in Viet Nam. He would experience the horrors of war that only someone who lives through it can truly claim talking rights. Those of us who have never experienced this act of greed called war can never completely understand what these men and women went through. Some will tell us about their experiences, some just want to forget what they saw, heard and felt during their days in hell.
Being a baby boomer, I knew many boys who quickly became men due to the Viet Nam War. Most came back, some in the bowel of the plane, some in the passenger seats. A lot came back physically damaged while others came back mentally damaged. I have a friend who was there and luckily returned whole, at least in body. Now 40 years later, he, as well as many others like him still have nightmares that wake the house with his screams as he re-lives the horrors that took place right before his eyes.
As I read Bullets and Bandages I realized that the war horrors produced by Hollywood is nothing compared to the real experiences these men and women actually went through. Author Saniscalchi has captured on paper the events and stories that his own brother experienced as he served in the military in Viet Nam. He allows you to feel the bond of friendship that forms between yourself and your buddies. You experience the strength of their will to survive and the strength of true fear. But most importantly, their understanding of the importance of God in their survival.
I can’t say that I loved Bullets and Bandages but I can say that I didn’t want to put it down, that it made me hurt as well as cry and that I was so glad when the book ended. In the past I’ve heard men talking about their experiences in Viet Nam and actually blocked it out. Now I listen because these men and women need to be heard. They need to get their memories out in the open instead of allowing it to fester like a cancer until it consumes their whole body and life. And we need to be the ones listening.
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