After you have read all the books and seen all the movies about the Vietnam War and think you know it all about each battle and major player, read this book. Warrior, Wayfarer by Robert P. Miller provides us with a unique viewpoint of this much tread upon upheaval in time.
I have to admit, historical combat fiction is not typically my cup of joe when it comes to a nice read. When I read books that have fighting, particularly realistic fighting, my eyes tend to gloss over and I simply skim over those parts to get to the dialogue, the conflict, and the settings. So I was pleasantly surprised by the time I finished Warrior – I had read the entire book. Perhaps that is because there is little of the hand-to-hand, blood, guts and gore in this book. If you are looking for that, you will need to look elsewhere.
Warrior, Wayfarer follows our hero, Press Patrick on his journey from snot-nose college student to combat engineer and officer in the United States Army. We amble along with him as he falls into new loves, debates philosophy with fellow soldiers, pulls pranks on whomever he can and helps build roads and bridges in Vietnam during the final stages of the war. Press (slightly odd, yet somehow fitting name to choose for our hero) explores religion, spirituality, jealous women, and sadistic upper ranking officers. However, mostly he builds roads and is bored. Playing cards and drinking beer seem to be two of the few outlets available to Press.
The niche occupation explored by Miller in this book gives us a seldom seen side to the Vietnam War. While road building is somewhat interesting and played a huge role in this military conflict and all conflicts before it, in the end many readers will feel that they missed out on the party after reading this book. It reminded me of going on a road trip to see the Grand Canyon, reaching the destination, perhaps getting out once to read a historical marker, looking at the great crevasse from the car window, but never getting out to fully reach the rim and experience the canyon’s full awesomeness and magnitude. I knew there was this larger, looming event taking place, but I was always on the outside. The truth of Warrior, I imagine, is that Miller has represented what many of the military did experience and feel during the entire conflict, but we as a society glamorize and obsess about the horrors and atrocities because human nature is drawn to the terrible. As Miller says in his foreword, “The overwhelming majority of servicemen in the war were support troops performing necessary jobs in sealed-off base camps. War for them was far more boring than terrible.”
Miller presents us with a nice solid read, though, technically and grammatically polished. If you are interested in seeing an alternate look into the war from an alternate perspective, this is the book for you. 8 out of 10 Liams.
You can find more about Robert. P. Miller Here