There is an unusual story of how this book came to be, and how it probably wouldn’t have happened without the love, support and encouragement of my daughter, Nicole Pugh. After her father, the author of this book (and my husband) died from lung cancer, she showed me I had good things to do with my life and promises to keep instead of continuing to grieve and fear the future without him. She suggested that we pack up our bags and move to the northern California coast, so we could both breathe fresh air, be surrounded by the beauty in nature and find some peace and happiness again. I knew I wouldn’t really heal unless I kept a promise, the one I made to my husband before he passed away. Though he wasn’t able to tell me in words because of a stroke he suffered three years earlier, he let me know with his eyes that he entrusted me to finish his Vietnam War memoir and make sure that it would get published.
After a couple years I was finally able to open his book and face it and learn it well. My main goal was to finish it in a way that would be true to his style of writing and his message without falling apart with sadness myself. It took quite a bit of reading and research to prepare for this task and I also had to rely on my own memories of my husband the thirty-four years we were together. I cut and pasted as much as I could find of his poems, notes and other writings, adding some facts I’d researched to explain the military phrases and terms he used. I also tried to flesh out some of the characters who were a very important part of his narrative. Then I inserted all of this into the pages he had already written. I was able to contact his ex-wife who knew him well at the time when he was only 21 years old and stationed in South Vietnam and who sent me most of the photos that are in book. It took me four years, but I finally managed to get his book completed and self-published in the fall of 2017. I didn’t have any money left for advertising, so I entered it in a couple of book contests for independent authors, where it would go on to receive three top awards in nationally recognized book contests. In the remarks made by the judges of these contests, what stood out was how effectively Johnny’s book conveyed the raw emotions experienced by soldiers in a combat zone.
One of the very best books I read about the Vietnam War is: The Cat from Hue, by John Lawrence, a TV journalist who covered the war for many years and knew South Vietnam well. One of the angles he was always searching for, but never really found, was the war as “felt” and “sensed” by the soldiers getting shot and blown-up out in the bush, the American infantrymen being used mainly as “bait” to flush-out the VC from their tunnels so they could be finished off by the U.S. military’s big gun, helicopter gunships or F4 fighter jets and their evil loads of fragmentation bombs and napalm. I think Lawrence wanted to know what their thoughts and feelings were as they faced violent death or traumatic injury by sniper fire or a landmine explosion on nearly a daily basis. It is my belief that Johnny’s book definitely fits that bill. It also has an important anti-war message and it ought to be read by anyone who wants to know what the Vietnam War combat soldiers experienced emotionally as well as physically.
Not only that, nearly everyone who has read his book has had very favorable reviews of it, with comments such as: “Once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down.” “It was intense, like the movie ‘Platoon’ on steroids, but a lot deeper.” “I dug the whole book, and I don’t even like books about war.” “The Spanish dialog was great and gave the book a unique Latino flavor that you don’t find in many books.” I hope you will read and enjoy his book. And please, if you do like it, post a short review of it from whatever online bookstore you purchased it from.