Vet tells his story from ‘Nam to now

I’m not sure how I feel about my latest book selection. “No Where Man: One Soldier’s Journey Home from Vietnam” was written by my high school classmate, Stephen Piotrowski. He enlisted soon after graduation in 1968, and I moved to Waupaca went on with my life. I’m happy to say that we reconnected through Facebook. So when he said he’d written a book, I just had to order it.

The “journey” opens with a little about Steve’s family and hometown. I was a bit surprised to see that he’d changed the name of the town, his family members and friends.

In the next chapter, Steve is in his final weeks in Vietnam. Most people don’t realize that when troops went into the jungles of Vietnam they would be there for weeks, even months. Steve’s unit spent most of their time on patrol. They called themselves “boonie rats” as they spent their time in the boonies, living like rats trying to find the enemy.

Due to a fluke, Steve became the unit radio operator. That meant carrying a 60-pound ruck sack, two bandoliers of ammunition and an M-16 rifle plus a 25-pound radio on his back. But Steve liked knowing what was going on as he relayed information back and forth.

Caution, quiet and alert senses were mandatory. They kept themselves amused by telling tales and complaining about the Army and everything else they encountered. Snipers were a constant threat, friendlies could open fire at any time and poisonous snakes were common. When your survival is at stake, it is good to know that you have a buddy who does his best to keep you alive.

Steve made several good friends whom he knew he could trust with his life. The bond of combat buddies is one of the strongest imaginable. A firefight on the day Steve arrived in Vietnam had convinced him that he probably wouldn’t make it out alive. When his fiancée wrote him a Dear John letter, he even took dangerous chances. All he could think about was getting back the “world” where he could resume his life and maybe go to college.

As their time on active duty wound down, Steve and his best friend, Westy, were moved out of combat to begin processing. He tells about being filthy and smelly as they had been wearing the same clothes for weeks. The heat and wet combined with dirt and sweat rotted their clothing and destroyed their boots. The canned rations were never enough to fill them up, so they’d also lost weight.

Once cleaned up, the pair proceeded to gorge themselves at every meal before heading to the enlisted men’s club to drink themselves silly. Monstrous hangovers didn’t prevent them from doing it again the next day. Westy had agreed to extend his tour and work on the military newspaper, but Steve was more than ready to get home, yet he hated leaving his buddies behind.

Much of the book recounts Steve’s difficulty adjusting to civilian life. He is hurt that no one listens when he talks about ‘Nam, but just as angry when someone asks too many questions. It seems that the world he knew has moved on without him.

Reading how he failed to reconnect with his family and felt he didn’t fit with his friends was heart-wrenching. At 19, he’d seen and done things other couldn’t imagine. He felt old, lost and alone. Now he needs to write another book about all the twists and turns his life has taken to bring him to where he is now.

If you’ve ever wondered why vets don’t talk about their service, this will help you understand.


BOOK: “No Where Man: One Soldier’s Journey Home from Vietnam”

AUTHOR: Stephen Piotrowski


PUBLISHED: March 22, 2020

PAGES: 450