As noted in an earlier post, the stories in my novel-in-stories, Friendly Casualties, are all drawn from events that really happened. I believe that the power of the narrative results from its foundation in truth. Most of the stories are set in 1967. I was in Vietnam most of that year working with U.S. military forces engaged in battles in various parts of the country. Not all the real events that led to the stories took place that year, but using the license of fiction, I put them close together in time.
One story, “Short Timers,” almost crosses the line and becomes nonfiction. It is based on my experience working with U.S. Army unit I don’t want to name. During my time with the unit, I wasn’t a journalist, as is the protagonist of the story, but a signals intelligence specialist there to help the unit with information about the enemy. As in the story, during a lull I helped the enlisted men build their club. Unlike the journalist, I was not sent packing when combat was imminent but participated in the battle.
Two of the men I’d worked beside were killed. A third was seriously wounded. I’ve never forgotten them and still grieve for them.