AFTERMATH: A Soldier's Return From Vietnam, 1968 by

AFTERMATH: A Soldier's Return From Vietnam, 1968

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A bare four months into his Vietnam tour, as recounted in The Killing Zone (1978), Downs was blown apart by a land mine; his physical ordeal, straightforwardly reported, is far more involving than his unreflective, unquestioning account of battle. (Downs seems never to have wavered in his sense of duty or commitment to the armed forces.) The story begins, harrowingly, with a nurse in a field hospital dropping Downs' left arm into a garbage bag. He also suffered severe lacerations in his legs and hips, and serious damage to his right arm. To put the pieces back together entailed daily surgical removal of dead skin, and constant, unremitting pain from the amputation--with, in the background, the suffering of other casualties in the ward (many of them burned or blinded). In the field hospital, too, Downs and other G.I.s cheered when a Vietnamese woman, a fellow patient, died: having a Vietnamese in the next bed was simply too painful for most newly wounded soldiers. From the field hospital, Downs was moved to the amputee ward of an evacuation hospital, then to the Philippines, to Japan, and finally ""home""--to an army hospital in Colorado. During his stay there, apart from the pain of his wounds and the rigors of rehabilitation therapy, he was divorced by his wife--and though the conclusion finds him remarried and enrolled at the U. of Denver, he still wonders ""if my country could ever welcome us back. . . in body and spirit. Or would we always remain a flaw in America's vision of itself."" Factual and affecting.

Pub Date: Feb. 20th, 1983
Publisher: Norton