A Vietnam War Novel

**** A Vivid Memory That Lasts Forever     Review by Rox Burkey

Author John Podlaski delivers a detailed journal of his journey and horrific experiences in Vietnam. When viewed as a realistic memoir, you find a different type of character development. The characters are those John served with as a family. In relating events over his tour of duty, he reminds readers and listeners that no one was unchanged when they returned home.

Early on, John sets the tone for his story. Note, some conversational exchanges that seem sanitized though still highly realistic. I suspect the language at times was a bit more colorful.

“This is your captain speaking,” the voice announced on the public address system within the Pan American jet, “we will be landing in Bien Hoa, South Vietnam, in about forty minutes. They are reporting sunny skies, temperatures of 97degrees and 100% humidity.”

Whoops and cheers erupted from the military passengers. “Welcome to Hell,” someone called out.

The captain continued, “As you know, we’ve passed through several time zones since leaving California, so let me take this opportunity to get you all up to date. First, there is a time difference of thirty-one hours between Vietnam and the west coast of the United States. For example, in Oakland where many of you started your journey, it is 8:30 on Friday morning. And right now, in Vietnam, it’s Saturday, August seventh, and 4:30 in the afternoon.”

Again, some referring to a time machine and blasting into the future echoed from the rear seats.

Throughout the book, John relates his growth and resiliency in ways only those with this experience can understand. His details of the surrounding terrain, equipment, weapons, and fellow soldiers are vivid and realistic. My heart often caught in my throat listening to the story as told by narrator Michael Sutherland. The quality of the audible was good, with no issues in the production. The pace and intonation added to the memoir.  There were a few places where the music behind the narration was slightly distracting.

I recommend this story for those who want to understand the individual’s perspective on fighting in this controversial war. I have so much respect for those who honor us by serving in the United States military. I lost friends and family to this war. It was a difficult listen for the sad memories awakened, but it reminded me that men and women will adapt and unite to face a situation and survive.

Author John Podlaski

John Podlaski (1951 – ) was raised in Detroit, Michigan and attended St. Charles and St. Thomas Apostle Catholic schools, graduating in 1969. Immediately afterward, John started working for one of the automotive parts suppliers in the area and then attended junior college full-time in the fall. After four months of overwhelming pressure, John dropped out of college – choosing income over education. This turned out to be a huge error in judgement as a school deferment protected him from the military draft. Uncle Sam wasted no time and Mr. Podlaski soon found himself inducted into the Army in February 1970. Then after six months of training, John was sent to Vietnam as an infantry soldier; serving with both the Wolfhounds of the 25th Division and the Geronimo of the 101st Airborne Division. During his tour of duty, John was awarded the Combat Infantry Badge, Bronze Star, two Air Medals, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, and several other campaign medals. Back in the states, Mr. Podlaski spent the next four months in Fort Hood, Texas before receiving an early military discharge in December 1971.

The War Veteran returned to his former position with the automotive supplier and because of his military experience, he was promoted to shift supervisor. He met Janice Jo a few months later and married in 1973. The G.I. Bill helped them to purchase a home in Sterling Heights, MI, they continue living there to this day. A daughter, Nicole Ann was born in 1979. Using additional benefits from the G.I. Bill, Mr. Podlaski returned to college part time; graduating four years later with an Associate Degree in Applied Science.

In 1980, John began working on his memoir about his Vietnam experiences. He had carried a diary during his year in Vietnam, and his mother had saved all the letters he had written from the war zone – both were used to create the outline. He toiled on a manual typewriter for four years before finally completing his work. About the same time, a new national veteran group, akin to the V.F.W. was formed in Washington, DC. They called themselves “Vietnam Veterans of America” and chapters quickly sprung up around the country. John joined Chapter 154 in Mt. Clemens, MI, and as an active member, helped to launch their inaugural Color Guard – marching in parades and posting colors for local events. The members of this chapter were a closely knit group, but wives often felt left out during the many discussions about Vietnam. When learning that John had authored a book about his tour of duty, the wives asked to share a copy of the manuscript, hoping it would help them better understand what their husbands might have endured during their time in Vietnam. The memoir was well received, and wives were now joining their men during these discussions. All were increasingly supportive and urged him to locate a publisher. After hundreds of rejections, a publisher from Atlanta, GA finally came forward and offered to consider the manuscript if it were re-written to a third-person format.

Atari had just come out with a new computer console and a word processor – making re-writes and editing much easier; his work now saved on floppy diskettes. The re-write continued until 1989, consuming all his spare time. John had finished half of the manuscript, then suddenly lost interest – discouraged, and not wanting to work on it any longer – it was ten years already and there was no light at the end of the tunnel. So everything was boxed up and moved to the garage for storage.

Mr. Podlaski continued working for various companies within the automotive sector; primarily in Management roles tasked in either plant start-ups, financial turnaround, or plant closures. John returned to college in 2000 and received a Bachelor Degree in Business Administration two years later. He and his wife retired in mid-2013.

At John’s 40th high school reunion, many of his former classmates who read his original manuscript twenty years earlier had questioned its lack of publication. It was a great story and all were relentless in their efforts to get him motivated and finish the rewrite – offering help wherever needed.

After learning that the conversion of Atari diskettes to the Microsoft Word format was extremely cost prohibitive, John’s daughter offered to retype both the completed manuscript and the rewrite, saving both on a USB memory stick. Nine months later, “Cherries” was completed and published. It took almost thirty years, but seeing it in print made it all worthwhile.

During his retirement, John published a second book about his Vietnam experience called, “When Can I Stop Running?” in 2016. Additionally, he’s published two short stories: Unhinged and Unwelcomed; all are available on Amazon.

Narrator Michael Sutherland

Michael Sutherland is known for his deep, rich, , authoritative, sexy and sultry, warm and caring, conversational, character voices, friendly, humorous, dramatic storyteller, movie trailer, radio imaging, celebrity impersonations, video game characters, hard sell, soft cell ,thoughtful, in-your-face, abrasive, passionate, intelligent, southern, Texan, foreign accents (any),imitations of Iconic announcers, Announcer, Non-Announcer, redneck, sophisticate, many dialects, and on, and on, and on…..


    2 replies to "Cherries"

    • Jan Sikes

      What a wonderful review of John’s book. This one is waiting for me on my Kindle! Thanks, Rox.

      • RoxBurkey

        It is a good journal of the times. I am glad those times are in the rear view mirror. Thank you for stopping by Jan.

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