War up Close -- Russell's Lament

by Norman L. Russell

Excerpt of his book, "Suicide Charlie, A Vietnam War Story"


Author's Note

Though this story reads much like a novel, it is a true one. . . , to the best of my memory. . . .

The soldiers of Suicide Charlie were young men forced to deal daily with situations that would test the wisdom of the greatest philosophers. If sometimes we seemed silly and immature, if occasionally judgment lapsed before experience, it is because we were only kids. We just didn't know it at the time.

The true miracle is that we comported ourselves so well -- even nobly -- under such difficult circumstances. Much suffering throughout Southeast Asia and the United States might have been averted if only the leaders of our nation could have done the same.


. . . [Ed. Russell's father had committed suicide which was assumed to have been prompted by his combat experiences in WW II]

At 44, I have now outlived my father by six years. No longer do I feel fated to follow in his footsteps. Time has proven otherwise, and for that I am grateful. Such is not the case for many Vietnam veterans, however. It is said that well over twice as many of them have committed suicide since the war than soldiers died in Vietnam. It is harder to imagine a more damning testimony to the tragic nature of the combat experience.

The legacy of the War continues to affect many, if not all, of the members of the Vietnam generation. Few were not touched by the War in some fashion or another. Reports that we, as a society, have finally put Vietnam War behind us are greatly exaggerated. I hope we never do. To me the true lesson of Vietnam, and any conflict involving civilized people, is that every life counts, each single human being matters. I firmly believe that combat veterans are uniquely qualified to affirm this principle, and I hope in some way my book may add to the dialogue concerning war and encourage other veterans to break the fraternity of silence that united the veterans of World War II. It is only through our voices that the memory of the pain, anguish, and despair of combat can be kept real.

As the mania that swept the United States during the war in the Persian Gulf demonstrated, it is only too easy to forget the humanity of the soldiers on both sides of the wire. Many of the Iraqi troops who were buried alive after being pounded senseless by a month of unrelenting B-52 bombing attacks were boys just like myself when I was [on the Cambodian border at advanced bases] Mole City and Frontier City. Their fatal sin was that their military lacked air superiority.


[Ed. A reader of the library copy had marked this last paragraph on both sides. The comment added is "Thanks Geo. Bush! And the rest of his crowd." Russell's book was published in 1993.]


"Suicide Charlie, A Vietnam War Story," Norman L. Russell, Praeger, Westport CT, 1993, ISBN 0-275-94521-9

Norman Russell was a mortarman in C Company, 4/9, 25th Infantry Division, late 1968 to late 1969.

Published under the provision of U.S. Code, Title 17, section 107.


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Published March 11, 2002
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