In this dual memoir, a helicopter pilot recounts his service in Vietnam while his wife remembers waiting for his return as she raises their newborn child.
Debut author James V. Weatherill decided to enlist in the Army in 1967—he knew he would inevitably be drafted and longed to become a pilot. After helicopter flight school, James was immediately deployed to Vietnam and, despite his worrisome inexperience, was allowed to fly a CH-47 Chinook helicopter, an aircraft normally reserved for a seasoned pilot. Meanwhile, his pregnant wife, Anne, stayed in Riverside, California, and finished up college. Their shared memoir alternates between their two fascinatingly different experiences—for her, the troubling anxiety of waiting; for him, the terrible wages of war. James proved a capable pilot and ascended the ranks quickly. He became an aircraft commander, but he tangled with Maj. Guilliam, an unscrupulous superior who tried to pressure James into signing a false report regarding the distribution of citations and attempted to sabotage his career when he refused. James vividly recounts not only the nauseating violence of combat, but also the consolation of camaraderie. He expertly unpacks the peculiar life of a Chinook pilot: “War for Chinook pilots is mostly resupply and waiting to get shot.” Meanwhile, Anne contended with the birth of their child alone and the cultural tumult that distempered the United States, culminating in the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy. James’ recollection is by turns harrowing and lighthearted—his year in Vietnam was filled with prankish joking with friends but also grave danger and the pulverizing remorse that followed the death of a friend. Anne’s experience is less jarringly eventful, but she sensitively captures her own predicament: as anti-war sentiment in the United States became more rancorous, she felt compelled to keep her marriage to a soldier quiet. The memoir is both an edifying historical lesson and a touching love story.
A thoughtful remembrance—astute and emotionally affecting.