This is one of the best war novels I’ve ever read. Jones uses memorable characters to depict a story not merely about war, but also about the psychological impact war has on the soldier and his loved ones when he returns from the field as a survivor. Powerful!
Johnny leaves home to go to Vietnam as a Corpsman. Under fire from the moment he lands, Johnny transforms from the polite young man he was back home in central Illinois to become JD, the survivor and veteran. But thirteen months later JD’s tour ends and it is time for him to return to the States and resume his life as a stateside soldier.
The intervening time has changed JD completely. And yet, almost nothing has changed back home. How is JD supposed to speak to anyone about his experience when all they have to frame it in is what they’ve seen on TV? Betrayed by the very strategies he used to survive in Nam, JD feels nothing but lost back in his own hometown.
What is there left for him to do? Take another tour in Nam? Go on to an obscure training that will ensure his never returning to Nam?
Johnny learns two things very well: whatever world you leave will change when you’re away; and what leads to survival in war is totally antithetical to survival in the ‘civilized world’.