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Review: Draftee Goes to War

Guest Author - Gary King

This book documents life during the Vietnam War era in a way that few can or will do it. David Volk has done all of us a favor, especially those who served during the Vietnam War. He has done it in such a way to be realistic and tell it like it is, using the language the way it was used to point out the TRUTH and impact all of us with the realism of war, especially the Vietnam War.

David Volk's book is one of the best I have ever read about how it really was and how soldiers really felt and acted and he does not hold back any punches. I started reading this book and shortly after I started I contacted him about some of the words and language used in this book, so I contacted him via email and asked him about it. He responded with:

"I certainly understand your feelings and quite frankly when I started all of this I had intended to just write it for myself with perhaps a few copies for some Vietnam vet buddies and then got involved with BookSurge and ended up getting published. As I said in the book, I really wanted this to be 'true' to how things were and have said in all my mailings and marketing that it is really geared to the veteran who shared similar experiences. All of that being said, I do understand your sentiments on the profanity and told a local reporter, in a recent interview, that I would have never written and published it while my mother was alive as I would never have embarrassed her with her bible study group.

"I have no illusions that it is going to be a bestseller or make money but I did want it to be historically accurate and that included 'the good, the bad and ugly' even though I knew it might offend some people."

You know what that tells me? I was one of those offended, to be honest, yet, I realized, as I read this book, that we need to take time to be realistic and know exactly how it was, when it was, while it was happening where it was happening.

Some of the following comments appeared in David Kranz's column in the Argus Leader, which appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday and was published April 23, 2007. You can reach David Kranz at dkranz@argusleader.com.

To avoid being branded by protestors who hated the war and imposing their wrath on those who fought, Volk, like others, took precautions. "I know what it is like to change out of my uniform in a bathroom stall," he said. But when he came home to South Dakota in 1970, he made one thing clear to those who welcomed him back. "I never blamed anyone or complained about the treatment I received when I came home," he said.

In his book he relates that he always felt it was "the times that were responsible" for how people viewed the soldiers. It took a Super Bowl Sunday Budweiser commercial two years ago to get him thinking about documenting his tour in Vietnam. A powerful silence accompanied that brief commercial showing American troops coming home from battle, walking through an airport terminal and greeted with a spontaneous standing ovation. No words were spoken.

David Volk keeps the image bookmarked on his computer as a reminder of what Vietnam War veterans NEVER received when they came home to U.S. soil. After seeing it for the first time, a friend watching the game with Volk responded, "Boy, that's not exactly the homecoming you got."

So Dave Volk decided to tell his story and vowed that he was going to do it right!

That marked the birth of "Draftee," a 116-page book documenting the facts of war, complete with powerful descriptions sprinkled with four-letter words--all defining the ups and downs of his experiences.

"I tried to be totally honest about it, wanted it to be truthful, even the things I did improperly. I thought, 'Don't sugarcoat it.' Don't leave anything out. Even my youthful indiscretions,' " he said. "It's the good, the bad, the ugly."

I served during both the Korean and Vietnam conflicts and I have not found a book as realistic and down-to-earth on this subject matter. I did not like it at first when I found the four-letter words sprinkled in this book, but I had to admit that it was the truth and it was also the way it was. The veterans who read this book will understand and will also agree that this is one of the best books ever written which documents what happened in Vietnam.

You have to read "Draftee" to get a true picture of how it felt to be in the shoes of David Volk and in the shoes of a veteran who was transformed from a high school teacher to the Army's version of a fighting machine. One minute you are someone else, living the kind of life you want and reaching for the brass ring to achieve the things you want in life. Suddenly, your world is transformed to take you on a ride you never could have imagined and to learn what it is like in a world you only read about--a world far from where you ever imagined you would be. You realize you have to drop your books, shift your dreams, bolster yourself, and buckle up to face the nightmare that has been thrust upon you. The fighting machines called soldiers you have read about and put in the back of your mind is now what you must become and you suddenly realize that the Vietnam War, whether popular or not, is now part of your dream and you are the focus of that dream!

I would urge everyone to read this book, despite the four-letter words and any profanity in it, because it is a TRUE and realistic documentation of what it was like to have been propelled into something one high school teacher never thought he would have to face. David Volk has made it possible for you to experience what he experienced, through his eyes. You will feel what he felt and you will put yourself in the same pictures he was in and come to the realization that there is more than one side and corner to the Vietnam War. You will finally learn what it WAS REALLY LIKE IN VIETNAM from the eyes and pen of someone who had the guts to stand up and be counted and who did not sugarcoat anything.

'Draftee' tells it like it is and is a realistic documentation to a war people need to stand up and face. They may not have liked the war and they may have said we lost, but to me, we did not lose the war. We participated and we did the best we could with what we had and we paid our dues. What we did lose was the support of many people in America because the media and the politicians did not have the guts to stand up and support a war that was unpopular. If they had, we might have.....probably would have......won!

David Volk was born and raised in South Dakota. In 1969, after graduating from college, he was drafted into the US Army. He served two years in the Army--a year of that in Vietnam. He served as a combat photographer with the 101st Airborne Division and was awarded the Army Commendation Medal and Bronze Star while in Vietnam.

In 1972, at the age of 25, he was elected State Treasurer of South Dakota, the youngest person in the state's history elected to statewide office. He was re-elected four times. He helped found and served as the first president of the National Association of State Treasurers. He was appointed by the Reagan Administration as Chairman of the Vietnam Veteran's Volunteer Program for South Dakota, and was responsible for setting up an outreach program to troubled veterans from the Vietnam era. He is a member of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Disabled American Veterans.
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