Same River, Different Water by Douglas Young | Books in Review

Douglas Young served as an infantry officer in Vietnam. He did two tours of duty, with Company B, 3rd  Battalion, 7th Infantry of the 199th Light Infantry Brigade, and with Company C, 2nd Battalion 5th Cavalry of the 1st Cavalry Division. His wife, Cindy was a U. S. Army nurse whom he met in Vietnam in 1969. She was working in the Neurosurgery Ward at the 24th  Evacuation Hospital at Long Binh.

Douglas Young’s new book,  Same River Different Water: A Veteran’s Journey from Vietnam to Viet Nam  (CreateSpace, 190 pp., $39.95, paper), is a large-format book, dominated by many full-page color photographs of high quality.

Same River Different War is well written and well designed. The recounting early in the book of the first meeting of CPT Young and 2nd LT Cynthia Mason is powerful and moving. It takes place in the Neurosurgery Ward, which is full of paralyzed and head trauma patients. The butcher’s bill of war is presented to the reader in an unforgettable way. The ward is called “The Vegetable Garden” for reasons I won’t go into.

The Youngs returned to Vietnam in February 2005 to spend a year and a half teaching English at the University of Hue. That is the predominant subject of the book, but the author skillfully weaves in information about his tours of duty in combat and how that experience affected him.

The book is divided into seven sections. The most powerful one is titled “Don’t They Hate Us?”  Young convinced this reader that the Vietnamese do not hate us. He offers many reasons why he thinks they do not, saying  straight out: “They most assuredly don’t hate us.”

Douglas Young was a keen observer while he lived and taught in Hue; he encountered no Vietnamese who showed hatred. Most Vietnamese, he points out, are too young to remember what they call the American War.

Then there is the fact that Vietnam fought a war with China after the American War.One Vietnamese admonished Young that we Americans think we are the center of the universe, but we are not, and that their war with the French and their wars with China made the twelve years of war with America seem much less significant.

Young discusses the effect of Agent Orange on Vietnam, noting that it is another reason the Vietnamese would have every reason to hate us. Another reason he gives is the high number of bombs we dropped on Vietnam.

Still, Young says that hatred was not something he encountered during his stay. When he returned to the United States and attended infantry reunions, this question was often asked of him, and he assured fellow veterans that he was treated well in Vietnam. Many veterans did not believe him.

Douglas and Cindy Young are exceptional Vietnam veterans who have done great things in Vietnam and who have made fine friends there. Douglas communicates that fact on every page of this beautiful and healing book.

—David Willson

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