In The Legacy (CreateSpace, 254 pp., $49.95, paper) Daniel B. Durbin presents us with a comprehensive journey from his Sunfish, Kentucky, home to his role as Platoon Leader in I Corps in Vietnam in 1969. My own U.S. Army basic and advanced training would have been more meaningful and tolerable had I been able to read this book prior to my enlistment. This interesting memoir could be cataloged at least three ways: as a personal journal, a Vietnam War history, or a self-help guidebook for a U.S. Army recruit.
So much information is included from the Internet and from Durbin’s on-site accounts and letters home that this volume would have benefited from more-detailed chapter headings and a complete index with a bibliography. Nevertheless, I highly recommend the book to veterans and civilians. The fact that everyone’s war experience is his own is borne out well in this work.
This serious study even has some humorous moments. “Though it was early June when I arrived at Fort Benning, the temperature was well into the nineties with oppressive humidity, ” Durbin writes. “You only had to smile to sweat.”
A few months later Platoon Leader Durbin recalled that “the constant sweat and trudging through the jungle and rice paddies had worked its magic on my 171 pound arrival weight ‘in-country.’ I was now down to 150 again. More time in the field saw my weight fall away to 112 pounds.”
Durbin’s letters home are significant for what is left unsaid as much as for what is said. In his book Durbin fills in what was left out of his letters home. That includes his first close-up combat and calling in air strikes by radio to jet fighters and helicopters and to the battleship New Jersey .
On one occasion Durbin saved his own platoon by countermanding an officer’s call for artillery support that would have brought the ordnance on top of his soldiers and himself. Recalling the air support that saved many lives, he thanks the air crews “for a job well done. We may not have survived Vietnam without you.”
Included in this volume are the author’s observations on the Vietnam War. “Freedom is not free, it is priceless, ” he writes. “The cost is measured in the number of lives lost, lives changed of the soldiers sent to defend our freedom. War veterans paid that price. A debt of gratitude is owed to them by every American that enjoys the freedom they preserved. Yes, even Vietnam veterans fought to preserve America’s freedom.”
Daniel Durbin also includes a “Final Letters” section for his son and grandchildren.