For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, 'It might have been'.John Greenleaf Whittier
After many years, tenured professor Connor Mouton has managed to emotionally recover from never having known his father, a casualty of the Vietnam War. From personal experience and as a student of history, Connor knew first hand the cost of war, the consequence of political mismanagement, media bias, public opinion, and the influence of communist aligned revolutionary groups vying to tear the country apart.
On the outskirts of Iberia Parish, near Delcambre, Louisiana, Alex Mouton's returned personal effects substitute for his body in a whitewashed, above-ground tomb. Connor visits the graveyard regularly but he feels his father's empty tomb does not hold his spirit as does the Vietnam Veteran's memorial.
Connor wasn't able to visit the memorial until the end of his first year in college. Driving east with two friends, a new friend and his boyhood chum Davy, Connor reflects on the era’s turbulence. Despite Connor's father being the only name on the wall the three are familiar with, each feels an intense need to road trip to D.C. and pay respect to Connor's dad and the 58,000 other American's there.
They also learn more about each other's families. Matt, they find, is the son of a Vietnam era helicopter pilot who was an intended target for the 70's terror group, "The Weather Underground," (WUO).
Matt's father being a target is news to him after he asks his father about the Weathermen when he calls home to Alaska to let them know he'd arrived safe in D.C. Matt learns about the WUO plot to bomb a soldiers dance at Fort Dix which his parents happened to have attended. The plot failed when Terry Robbins and Dianna Oughton, both Weathermen in the New York Collective, fondly referred to as "The Fork" in reverence for the tools the Manson murderers used to slay their victims, mis-wired the nail-studded anti-personnel bomb they were building and blew themselves up, along with Ted Gold. Two survivors escaped from the 11th St. Brownstone, across to Susan Wager's home, ex-wife of Henry Fonda.
Stunned, Matt returns to the hotel bar where Connor and Davy are having a drink. He orders a fresh beer, mentions the dance his parents attended and says, "You know, I wasn't born yet," as he lifts his bottle to the sky in a cynical toast to the Weathermen deaths.
The novel takes the reader into the world and mind of America hating radicals, and into the hearts of those who lost loved ones in the war, and to Alex's Cajun country when he was younger, working in Patoutville’s sugarcane fields.
After college, Alex joins the ranks of Naval Aviation and moves to the Pacific Northwest before going to Vietnam, and an untimely death at the hands of North Vietnamese Communists in the Hanoi Hilton. When Connor grows up, he learns from a former P.O.W., who vainly tried to keep his father alive, the details of his father's death in August, 1972.
After earning an MA in history, Connor returns to the Northwest to teach at Western Washington University, in Bellingham. He quickly learns to keep his belief system in check in order keep his job. When they learn he is not quite in step with the faculty's politics, the university administration moves to stifle his teaching methods.
Saddened by news of his best friends death in Iraq, and angry over his mounting troubles with the university, and the administration's enthusiastic support for vehement campus antiwar activism, he fears history is being repeated. He recalls the painful truth behind those culpable for his father's death and decides to act when the university administration plans an antiwar rally headlining a famous guest speaker–Jane Fonda.
The author is working hard to complete this project but with limited resources while deployed to Afghanistan, research has been tedious. This book is creative historical fiction and is Lucas' first novel.
So people don't forget the sacrifices servicemen make so that others wont have to--especially today with an all volunteer military. So people think twice before taking the freedom insured by those who stand tall when asked. A war right, or wrong, despite one's beliefs, doesn't excuse cowardice.
Jane Fonda, an easily identifiable icon of the turbulent 60's and 70's, is practically a metaphor in this book, there were organized groups in the U.S. eager to bring and end to our system of government and ship non-conformist American's to be either reeducated, or eradicated. They called themselves "revolutionaries" and Fonda hitched her fame onto their notoriety. They worshiped Castro, Guevara, Manson, and Lenin. They sided with jailed murderers and cop killers. They justified violence to meet their cause--they were terrorists.
And many in America are unaware of how sinister these groups and individuals were, the antithesis to the moral fabric of the United States. They endeavored to see the U.S. fail in Vietnam and they succeeded. Hanoi supported Pol Pot's genocide in Cambodia and Vietnamese reeducation camps were the result of their success.
They are back in the news. Backed by communist influenced groups like International Answer and United for Peace and Justice, Fonda and her ilk are planning to blight the Vietnam Veteran's memorial in March, 2007.
Losing my father to Vietnam was the basic motivation behind the this book. There are thousands like me, children of Vietnam Veteran's whose families were disrupted by the war. I can't help but ask, was Vietnam worth it? Was it worth spending over 58,000 American lives to turn our backs on South Vietnam in 1975 and lose the peace? Does the average American comprehend the sacrifices we all make in service to our country or understand the affect their lapsing support has on our spirit?
Fonda and her ilk helped add names to The Wall. Today, they covet a similar outcome in Iraq, preferring an unconditional withdrawal ignorant the consequence of failure. If we allow them to incessantly belabor us, to take our will to win, to not see things through to the end, then now there are plenty of those like me, touched by the war in Iraq who will ponder the same question I had about Vietnam when I stood at The Wall, my reflection dim and broken by the white letters in black granite. Why?