Soldier’s Reverie: Vietnam

During service, my path crossed with Charles Stokes’ a few times. We were Senior ROTC instructors. He was at Seton Hall and I was at Gannon University, a small Catholic school located in downtown Erie, Pennsylvania. On one such occasion, we were attending a wilderness instructor’s course around Seneca Rock, West Virginia. We were organized into teams and Charles was my team leader. For several days we were spelunking and rock climbing and on the final day humping to the top of Spruce Knob, West Virginia’s highest point. It was clear that Charles was an old hand a much of what we were doing, except for possibly when we were in a cave several miles underground.

On our final day, we stopped for our break. I was thankful because I was carrying a sack of oranges in my ruck. Except for my oranges, the other food items spread around the team were gone. Now these were not your typical oranges, they more closely resembled basketballs. As I hauled them out (Charles may not recall) Charles asked me where I got the rucksack I was using. Turns out it was probably familiar to him as it was loaned to me by a Special Forces Master Sergeant I worked with at Gannon. Our paths crossed once more at ROTC summer camp at Fort Bragg.

In the fall of 1997, I was invited to be one of the first enlisted Soldiers to attend the Sustaining Base Leadership and Management Program of the Army Management Staff College. I soon learned one of the three professors assigned to my group was Charles Stokes. Charles was a professor, but at his core still a noncommissioned officer guiding, leading and mentoring.

Charles is the real deal. Let me tell you about him. He is a Special Forces Soldier who spent 7 years in Southeast Asia. He served on classified assignments in Vietnam, Thailand, and Laos. He is a graduate of the United States Institute for Military Assistance, Operations and Intelligence Course; US/Foreign Weapons Course; Static Line Jumpmaster Course; and Honor Graduate of the US Army Ranger School. He is also a graduate of the US State Department Laotian Language School. He taught Senior ROTC at Seton Hall University and served as the Senior Operations, Security, and Intelligence NCO for the Military District of Washington, DC, before retiring from the Army. As a civilian Charles taught Leadership, Management, and Decision Making at the Army Management Staff College.

Not long ago, I was privileged to read Charles’ book manuscript, Soldier’s Reverie: Vietnam. I’m going to share with you a brief review of a gripping story. On this Veteran’s Day weekend, I encourage you to pick up a copy and read the long-awaited story of Vietnam Veterans.

Soldier’s Reverie: Vietnam
A book review by J. D Pendry, Command Sergeant Major, U. S. Army, (Retired)

Charles Stokes, in his excellent book Soldier’s Reverie: Vietnam, masterfully tells the story Veterans of the Vietnam era have longed to have told. From the unique perspective of one who lived it, a career Special Operations Soldier and Vietnam combat Veteran tells the story of the Vietnam era Soldier.

Soldiers of the time will readily identify with the characters. The Garrison Soldiers, McNamara’s 100,000, black marketeers, Mamasans, business girls, recon Soldiers, the too often caught in the middle Vietnamese Villagers, and the Viet Cong. As their lives evolve and stories intertwine, war touches all of them from the middle school dropout become Recon Team Tail Gunner and from goose herder become lethal Viet Cong tracker.

Charles takes you on multiple journeys. Each one a story of its own. Each one intertwined with another. Whether it’s being conned by smooth ladies of the night or isolated and fighting for your life, he paints a vivid portrait and drops you right in the middle of it. You will feel the sweltering tropical heat and experience the chill of the monsoon rains. No doubt some will re-experience anxiety, relive the brotherhood of warriors in intense combat, feel the heartache of losing a brother, recall the brief reprieve of R&R, and feel the letdown of a too often unwelcome return home.

You will thoroughly enjoy this story. If you are a Vietnam Veteran it’s your story from your typical socio-economic background to the grind. You’ll catch yourself going back to your time. You’ll re-read. My prediction is someday you may see this story, your story, unfold as a major motion picture.