Literary Scene: Vietnam, from one who served
Mike Konz still looks like he could shoulder his pack and wear his sergeant stripes.
The former semi-pro football player, a 68-year old Wyomissing, Berks County, resident and retired businessman with a penchant for literature and history, is author of "The Odyssey Years, A Novel View of the Vietnam Experience."
The former 82nd Airborne Division sergeant signs copies of his book, 2 - 4 p. m. Jan. 18, Moravian Book Shop, 428 Main St, Bethlehem. The book was self-published last July 2013 with the assistance of the Center for Christian Business Ethics Today.
Konz's autobiographic novel takes a look at the life of a modern warrior, specifically, a rifleman and squad leader, seen through the lens of a classic military story. The Greek hero of the Trojan War, Odysseus, is never far from his mind but Konz's war was in Vietnam not ancient Troy.
For Konz, the story was not over when he was discharged from the hospital at Valley Forge. He gives readers insight into the climate and character of life among citizens turned against the war from the time he gets off the bus in North Plainfield, N.J., as a civilian to his brief return to college life.
"The book gives a sense of the history of Vietnam and why we got involved," says Konz. "Three million went to Vietnam but only about 500,000 served in the combat arms."
The events and the characters in the book are based on real people and real events, according to Konz. He chose the format of the novel to tell his story because some 40 years later he's not certain of the sequence of events in every case.
"The Odyssey Years" is a 155-page book that covers a critical slice of the American-Vietnam experience: from the United States troop buildup in 1965 through the January 1968 Tet Offensive that, while a tactical defeat for the Communist forces, set the ground work for a strategic victory as American public opinion started forcing U.S. leaders to seek ways to withdraw from South Vietnam.
Konz's book lets the reader live through that period when many American college students and the public turned against U. S. involvement in what was starting to look like a pointless war.
Konz served in the Army from November 1965 through November 1968. He had two tours of duty in South Vietnam as a paratrooper infantryman. He was wounded with shrapnel in his shoulder, leg and knee on his last tour and awarded a Purple Heart.
He and his wife, Kay, have been married for 40 years and have four children, ranging in age from 28 to 34.