Guest Post: Writing About the Vietnam War by Richard Vnuk

Today’s guest post is from author and Vietnam War veteran Richard Vnuk.  His book, Tested in the Fire of Hell, chronicles his experiences with the Vietnam War as a draftee and is written after more than 40 years of silence about how profoundly the war impacted him.

Please give Richard a warm welcome.

After thirty six years of silence, I felt compelled to write about my Viet Nam War experience. After I was awakened from my sleep, everything that was conveniently tucked away in the subconscious came to the surface. I started to read and I could not stop. I wanted to find the truth about what happened to over three million men who served in Viet Nam. Then one day my daughter and son-in-law, both teachers in Skokie Illinois, invited me to speak to their students just before Memorial Day. I was very uncertain at the time; I didn’t know if I would be emotionally up to it. I prayed a lot for the strength and courage to come up with a presentation that would clearly present all the cruel hardships that the combat soldier and their families had to endure.

With the help of my daughter and son-in-law, my presentation was more successful than I could imagine. I was so impressed with these young students! They were so sincere and reverently sat and listened to every word I said. These young students were a great inspiration to me. After the first presentation I promised to return over and over. I could not think of a better way to honor those who have shed their blood and tears in this unforgiving war.

At the time, I was a substitute teacher so I got into many schools and as I did I always checked out their libraries to see what available for students to read about the war. I was shocked; there was absolutely nothing to speak of. As I was plowing through all my personal readings I found that most books were not fit to be put in school libraries because of the descriptive language. My book is written so that it could be put into schools and it will give the students a very descriptive and honest read.

I was ordered to report for induction into the Armed Forces on November 16, 1966.  I can honestly say that I was politically naïve and completely unaware of what was going on in Viet Nam. What I did believe is that we were the good guys fighting the bad guys, and just like “John Wayne,” we will be victorious. I had a very sound Christian education from the Franciscan Sisters of Charity for eight years. I felt that war was the greatest evil, the masterpiece of the devil’s work here on earth. From the very moment I knew I was going to war, the thought entered my mind, will I be able to kill someone. After I was sent from boot camp to Advanced Individual Training (AIT) and found that I would be an infantry soldier I was torn apart emotionally and spiritually. How could I walk in the footsteps of Jesus and train to kill someone I do not even know? I eventually went absent without leave (AWOL) over this, but returned after 20 days because I did not want to dishonor my family back at home.

My memoir, Tested in the Fire of Hell, is a personal story of the struggle with my conscience and what I was asked to do. It is a story of my battle with the psychological consequences of war and the spiritual battle that took place within my soul. It is a story about a combat soldier suppressing all his emotions in his subconscious and later having then resurface (PTSD). This is a story of reconciliation, returning to Viet Nam to do volunteer work and finally sponsoring a young Vietnamese woman to study at college and live with his family for the past three years. My story continues as I am still trying to search for the truth about the Viet Nam War and pass this understanding on to our children so that they understand the great sacrifices made in the time of war.

God bless the USA!  Richard J Vnuk

Thanks, Richard, for sharing your experiences with us.

FTC Disclosure: Links will take you to an Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase is required, though appreciated to cover postage and shipping costs of challenge prizes.

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3 Comments

  1. Thanks for this powerful post, Richard! Many Vietnam vets find it hard to talk about their experiences; my dad was no exception. It’s great that the students were so receptive.

  2. I’m glad that you found the strength and support you needed to break your silence about the Vietnam War and to create a book that students can read without so much graphic information. Thanks for your service and your efforts to teach students about this war. Also thank you for coming today to share your thoughts with the War Through the Generations readers.

  3. I served from April 67 -68. My name is Jake Goodrich. I might have served with you sir.


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