FOR SELF AND COUNTRY: A True Story by Rick Eilert


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The medical ordeal of a soldier wounded in Vietnam--played to the hilt for grue, grit, sentiment, and Animal House comedy. His legs shattered by a grenade in 1967, very young enlisted-man Rick--after some grisly in-transit moments--wound up in the US Naval Hospital in Great Lakes, Illinois, where his injuries, though devastating, were less horrific than many of the other ward patients': amputees, the blind and disfigured. For all, the pain was a constant--especially the endless dressing changes. (""Feels kind of like you just got raped by a lion, don't it? Well, stand the fuck by, 'cause they still got to dress the wound."") And, for Rick, there was the horror of his mangled limbs (""That's not my leg, that's nothing but a piece of mush. . . This isn't my leg!""), repeated operations, withdrawal from Demerol to Darvon, the agony of skin grafting, and later on the rigors of physical therapy. Still, there was also ward camaraderie to help the wounded survive their physical/psychic ordeal--with buddies Steve and Ron, with double-amputee ""Stumps"" (""He looked just like a Charlie McCarthy doll""), eventually even with understandably silent Al, a formerly handsome man now eyeless, near-faceless from burns. (Al nobly forces his beautiful girlfriend to leave him: ""With all he'd lost in the Nam, now it looked as if his heart had been tom out."") There are wheelchair races, hoaxes to get closer attention from buxom nurses; when a complaining newcomer-patient wakes everyone up in the middle of the night (causing injuries), the gang collects excrement and shoves a shoebox-ful of it in the newcomer's face; the patients also share their anger at anti-war protesters. (""I owe those American brothers Dick Shit. They owe me the fucking world."") Through it all, however, Rick's most worrisome concern is old girlfriend Cheryl--who isn't as doting and loyal in her visits as Rick's family is: they'll break up for a while, in fact, but reunite for a ""fabulous"" marriage some time later. Too stagey in the non-stop wisecracking for full credibility--but an energetic, if sometimes wearisome, mix of war-casualty horror, raunchy/talky ward slapstick, and inspirational recovery.

Pub Date: Sept. 26th, 1983
Publisher: Morrow