From the Ashes of the Vietnam War
In this intimate memoir, Perry A. Ulander chronicles with powerful clarity the bewildering predicament he confronted and the fellowship and guidance that transformed him during the year he served as an American GI in the jungles of Vietnam. Conveying with unadorned precision the harrowing experiences that shatter his core beliefs, Ulander also captures the camaraderie and humor of his platoon, the hostility between “lifers” and draftees, the physical hardships of reconnaissance missions, and the unrelenting apprehension underlying everyday life. Ultimately, he describes the surrendering of social norms and accepted identities that allows him to glimpse a previously unimagined realm of heightened awareness.
Written after a lifetime of reflection on the nature of war and the effect of violence and domination on the minds and spirits of those forced to practice it, Walking Point offers a powerful narrative for readers with an interest in the effects of war and violence, American involvement in Vietnam, PTSD, and how trauma can be a catalyst for spiritual transformation. Giving voice to profound insights gained through extreme adversity, Ulander movingly captures the depth of trust and commitment among a group of unwitting warriors who struggle to stay alive and sane in unchartered territory.
CHAPTER 1: Into the Unknown
CHAPTER 2: The Magic Poncho Liner
CHAPTER 3: Initiation
CHAPTER 4: Head On
CHAPTER 5: The Valley of the Shadow
CHAPTER 6: Into the Light
CHAPTER 7: Short Time
CHAPTER 8: No Time
CHAPTER 9: Home
About the Author
Perry A. Ulander served in Vietnam from December 1969 to December 1970 as a Spec 4 infantryman in Bravo Company with the 173rd Airborne Brigade in the Central Highlands. After his military service he worked as a journeyman carpenter, carpenter foreman, project superintendent, and project manager in the Seattle area. He attended the University of Illinois and the Milwaukee School of Engineering.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
"A former GI recalls his tour of duty in Vietnam, and it's not quite the story readers may expect. Ulander was drafted after dropping out of college in 1969. At 19, he was already self-aware enough to recognize and resist the indoctrination of basic training. Once in Vietnam, he found a different war from the one his training prepared him for. Marijuana was ubiquitous, though the officers and other 'lifers' opposed it on principle. Most of the field soldiers he met wore peace signs on their helmets, smoked vast quantities of dope, and listened regularly to the latest rock music from 'the World' back home. It became evident that the real enemies weren't the North Vietnamese soldiers but his own officers, most of whom put career advancement first and the lives of their men a distant second. Luckily, Ulander found mentors in more seasoned soldiers who took him under their wings because the better he was at staying alive, the safer everyone would be. Readers follow him on his early missions, where he learned how to turn off his thoughts and just take in what the jungle was telling him. While he did endure combat—luckily, he came through unscathed—the book is really about the camaraderie and the philosophical detachment he adopted as a survival tactic. Ulander has a knack for capturing the scenes he experienced and for expressing the draftees' dislike of the lifers. The characters are identified only by nicknames, possibly to shield them even after the passage of decades, possibly because some are composites. In the dedication, the author notes that there are parts of the story he leaves untold, and most readers will have an idea what some of those are. One thing is unambiguous: the author came out of the war with a fierce hatred of the military and the social forces that made Vietnam possible. A compulsively readable book for anyone who lived through the Vietnam era—or who wants an idea of what it was like."
"As we remember the past, sometimes the bitterest events soften and we recall mainly the good and the benign. For good reasons, many war memoirs avoid the harsh reality of combat and its attendant horror and inhumanity. But other autobiographical works hone in on wartime experiences, dredging up the worst memories and confronting them head on. That is the case with Walking Point: From the Ashes of the Vietnam War."
—Marc Leepson, The VVA Veteran
"It is way past time that America’s Vietnam veterans are paid the respect that they deserve for fighting the ill-conceived war they were handed by their elders. Walking Point should be taught in every high school in America."
—Sam Sattler, Book Chase
"This voyage of a soldier in war should have been revealed ten thousand years ago. It turns the world upside down. In the same moment, it nails you to the wall and liberates you. Impossible—but it happens. The last three pages alone are a testament and a revelation that should somehow be made visible, wherever soldiers gather, so they know that someone else knows what coming home really means. The author launches a stroke of lightning above the hidden human psyche—from the days of ancient caves to the days of modern cities. Ten thousand years ago, perhaps it would have sent human history down a different path."
—Jon Rappoport, investigative journalist