Things I’ll Never Forget by James M. Dixon

This is not my usual genre to read. I am not a big nonfiction fan, let alone stories about war, but Mr. Dixon did such a great job writing this story that he drew me in and held my attention. I read it quickly because it was an easy read.

War is not a pretty subject, so I didn’t expect to like this story. I was afraid that I would not be able to stomach it or that it would cause me to shed many tears. So, imagine my surprise when I found myself enjoying this story because Mr. Dixon tells this story so personally. Of course, it was personal for him. He was there, but through his writing, he “showed” me what it is like to be a Marine, and most specifically, what it was like to be a Marine in Vietnam.

I was a very young child during the Vietnam War, but I have heard about how badly the men and women who served in Vietnam were treated when they returned and I never understood that. I still don’t, because I am grateful for men and women who are brave enough to serve in such circumstances to aid people in other countries (or at least try to), and to protect us and our freedoms.

Maybe participating in the war in Vietnam was a bad decision, but it was our government’s decision, and they were going to send people over, whether they wanted to go or not. After all, that’s what “the draft” is. So to treat those who served badly upon their return by calling them names, spitting upon them, etc. seems way so disrespectful and cruel to me after the horrors many of them saw and experienced in Viet Nam.

I don’t like war and would rather that we never have to participate in it, but sometimes it is necessary. I’m sorry for the digression from the book review, but Mr. Dixon shared about how poorly they were treated when they returned and it got my hackles up.

Mr. Dixon shared how hard it was to be in Viet Nam, to see friends die, to kill innocent people because you couldn’t really tell who was really innocent and who was working for the Viet Cong. Yes, war is ugly, but Mr. Dixon did a good job of showing what it’s like to be in war in a tasteful, almost gentle way.

I really liked the way that Mr. Dixon began each chapter with a paragraph or two about something in his recent life and then he tied it to or related it to his time and experience in Viet Nam.

Mr. Dixon also shared stories of some good times that he experienced while in the Marines, stories that were humorous, stories that made these Marines real, and when some of them died, the reader felt the loss and the heartbreak, but these Marines didn’t believe that they were in Viet Nam for no good reason and they believed they would help the Vietnamese people. The fact that that the war was lost despite their best efforts, I’m sure was hard to accept.

One of the stories, Mr. Dixon told was both suspenseful and a bit humorous. It had to do with a water buffalo who took a disliking to Mr. Dixon. You’ll have to read the book to find out the whole story.

I do have to issue a couple of words of caution: Because this IS a story of war, there is some graphic violence, some things that you will find disgusting/offensive, and quite a bit of profanity. I don’t like to read books with profanity, but I know that military personnel use profanity and I understand why it’s in this book. Don’t let these things stop you from reading a book that will help you to see what being a Marine in Viet Nam was really like. Reading is knowledge and knowledge hopefully makes us wiser and more understanding.

I recommend this book to any American adult, even if it’s not your favorite genre to read. It’s worth the read.

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