MY LIFE AT THE LIMIT ~ Donald Swan

This is a work of Historical Fiction.*  I choose this genre primarily to eschew Internet trolls who are notorious for spending an inordinate amount of time and resources trying to find fault in a non-fiction book. If a real or imagined mistake is found, they attempt, often successfully, to discredit the book and gain support for others to do likewise. Some trolls even suggest that readers who feel slighted or believe the writer was inaccurate in describing a battle they were in should sue the author. So, this is fiction, Historical Fiction. The WWW has been a blessing to tens of millions, but one of the downsides is the existence of these despicable trolls.

My story is, however, based on actual events in my life and from Vietnam, as I remember from some fifty-five years ago. All people, places, and battles are real unless otherwise noted.

What this book is: Forty-six chapters with lots of riveting photos that constitute my extraordinary Life At The Limit. In part II of the book, there are nine bonus chapters, including my take on the best Rock ‘n’ Roll, What I’ve Learned, and stories about other veterans in battle.

I was a Combat Correspondent in Vietnam all of 1967 (while others celebrated the Summer of Love). I served in the elite 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile); It was a tumulus year, an experience that changed my life in many ways. My Vietnam story is about the GIs in the bush, young men, some boys, who volunteered or were drafted. They were a generation defiled of their youth, yet, when called upon, they fought and died for each other with extraordinary acts of courage. One of the soldiers in my story received the Medal of Honor for his bravery during a horrific ambush. At least seven men could witness his heroism because he saved their lives. I watched in awe as Charles C. Hagemeister, our medic, fought the enemy with inconvincible courage and tenacity.  (Regrettably, he died in 2021 at age 74.) But, finally, albeit after death, he’s getting the recognition he deserves through this book. 

Men like Chuck Hagemeister came home to an ungrateful nation and faced many challenges in the country they fought to defend. I believe the stories of these soldiers fighting in the muck, trying to survive in the worst conditions, should be passed on to future generations. Although there are many books on the Vietnam War, none are about Chuck Hagemeister, the ambush, and his Medal of Honor. 

In my writing, I didn’t find it proper or helpful to use offensive and hurtful language to describe the Vietnamese, but you will get plenty of blood and guts elucidation from me. For example, I’m not going to tell you we lost someone on the battlefield. Instead, you’ll hear something like: “He caught a large piece of shrapnel in the gut and kept asking if he was going to die, lied to, then made us promise that we tell his mom he loved her and bled out before the Medevac arrived.” That illustration will seem tame when I portray, in chapter seventeen, how our men were slaughtered in an ambush.

You probably already know that GIs, in the field, often called the Vietnamese g**ks or d**ks.” It came from frustrated and weary grunts fighting a vicious enemy, an adversary that bolted from camouflaged spider holes with AK-47s blazing; they employed hit-and-run tactics and set booby traps and punji pits. The enemy shot at our men from friendly villages, trying to lure the GIs into returning fire and killing civilians. Our soldiers, the ground pounders, were often unable to distinguish enemy from civilian and were saddled with ridiculous rules of engagement. Hence, these infantrymen calling the enemy g**ks. I am not going to judge. 

What this book is Not: There’s no superfluous assessment of the war that most readers already know, no history, no discussion of the draft, no tearful goodbyes from family, none of me playing Army as a kid, no rhetoric at all. I waste no time putting you with me in the sucking mud of the monsoons, stifling heat, snakes, and punji stakes. You’ll hear the anxiety of men walking point, lulled into boredom, running out of food, water, and ammunition. Finally, you will feel the terror of battle and watching your friends die in the most horrible manner. It’s a raw and honest account of what I experienced in Vietnam and other adventures in my fascinating Life at the Limit.

This Novel contains graphic depictions of Combat, Disease, and  Human Frailty

READER DISCRETION ADVISED 

*Historical Fiction is set in a real place during a culturally recognized time. The details and the action in the story can be a mix of actual events and ones from the author’s imagination as they fill in the gaps. Characters can be pure fiction or based on real people (often both).

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