VVA life member Don Mercer graduated from USAF pilot training in 1970. He flew the Cessna O-2A flying out of Bien Hoa Air Base as a Forward Air Controller during his 1970-71 tour of duty in Vietnam. His call sign was Rustic 41 in flying combat missions supporting the Rustic Operation over Cambodia.
In the foreword to Flight: A Collection of Verse (Xlibris, 208 pp., $31.99, hardcover; $21.99 paper) we are told that the verses in this book were “inspired by the events and emotions of the year Don spent in Vietnam serving both his country as well as the Cambodian nation.”
The largest and most important section of the book is entitled “The War in Southeast Asia.” It contains thirty-two poems in rhymed verse in the manner of Robert Service. This section contains poems with titles such as: “Arrival, ” “The Good Men, ‘ “My Peashooter, ” “A Water Buffalo Has the Last Laugh, ” “Arc Light, ” “Shot Down, ” “Nui Ba Dien, ” “Body Count, ” and “Hanoi Jane.”
A reader can infer from the titles that the author covers many of the same subjects that seem to obsess many other Vietnam veterans who write books. I expected to find a poem on Jane Fonda ranting that she was a traitor. I was not disappointed.
In the verses “The Vet, ” “What Price Paid, ” “Midnight on the Mekong, ” and “In My Face” we encounter some of the other often-voiced concerns of returning veterans, particularly the airport interaction with an push antiwar protester. In this encounter a “peacenik” calls a returning Vietnam veteran a babykiller and offers him a flower, which is rejected with the threat of leaving the peacenik with a stump if he did not withdraw the insulting flower.
In “Who Should Fight” Mercer kicks both LBJ for his undeserved Silver Star during World War II and John Wayne for being a “reel” hero rather than a real hero.
There are lighthearted verses about Alaska in this collection, along with the Vietnam War poems. My favorite was a short poem about how Mercer loves dogs but does not have time for cats.
There are also a lot of verses dealing with Mercer’s love of flying. They are among the best in the collection. I’d buy this fine-looking and well-designed and edited book for them alone.
The author’s website is www.rustic41creations.com