A distinguished journalist and former Marine’s account of returning home from Vietnam and finding personal and professional success despite life-altering disfigurement.
In January 1967, Timberg (State of Grace: A Memoir of Twilight Time, 2004, etc.) was days away from the end of his tour in Vietnam when his combat vehicle struck a land mine. He survived, but flames scorched his face and arms, leaving him with third-degree burns. In less than two years, Timberg underwent 25 of the 35 reconstructive surgeries he would need to regain his health. Yet by the end, he still looked “like a monster.” Uncertain of his future and in need of a career to support his growing family, Timberg studied journalism at Stanford, where he realized that although writing was a solitary profession, he would still have to interact with others as a reporter and show the face that marked him as a participant in an unpopular war. It was only after he landed his first job as a reporter for the Evening Capital in Annapolis and began engaging with his work that he began his “transition from victim” to committed journalist. Timberg quickly moved from covering local news to reporting on the Naval Academy. Ambitious and yearning for greater challenges, the author transferred to the Baltimore Sun, where he covered local politics and, eventually, the White House. But increasing success came at a price, including the end of his first marriage. Timberg also found that he could not leave his military past behind. In 1986, the Sun tapped him to cover the Iran-Contra scandal, which involved three Naval Academy graduates: Oliver North, Robert McFarlane and John Poindexter. The scandal, and the book that later emerged from it, became a kind of extended catharsis for Timberg. Both forced him to revisit his own brutal experiences and, in so doing, help a nation still tormented by Vietnam find the beginnings of its own peace.
An empathetic and extremely candid memoir from a man who decided “to remember how I decided not to die…not let my future die.”