Vietnam Vet Writer Wins Award for Life's Work

Tim O'Brien, a Vietnam veteran and author of some of the most famous works of fiction on the war, was presented a lifetime achievement award for his writings. O'Brien's books include "Going After Cacciato" and "The Things They Carried."

Author Tim O'Brien, who wrote some of the most powerful and moving stories to come out of the Vietnam War, has been chosen to receive a lifetime achievement award for his work.

O'Brien, an Army infantryman with 3rd Platoon, Company A, 5th Battalion, 23rd Infantry during the war, has been awarded the 2012 Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award. The international honor originally was named the Dayton Peace Prize Lifetime Achievment Award, but was renamed for Holbrook, the career U.S. diplomat who died last year.

O'Brien's "The Things They Carried" is a haunting collection of stories about soldiers in Vietnam and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. "Going After Cacciato," O'Brien's 1978 novel about a soldier who decides to walk away from the war -- all the way to Paris -- won the National Book Award. "If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home" has been called the single greatest work to come out of the Vietnam War.

The prize "promotes the cause of peace by helping people understand the ugly realities of war on a deep, personal level, which is exactly what I strive to do in my work," O'Brien said in a prepared statement. "Over what has been a long career, this award means more to me than any other -- by far."

O'Brien, 65, was born in Austin, Minn., grew up in Worthington, Minn., and graduated with honors from Macalester College in St. Paul. He now lives and teaches in Texas. He set several of his books in Minnesota -- "Northern Lights," and "In the Lake of the Woods" -- but always the specter of Vietnam and war was deeply present.

The Dayton prize was launched in 2006. It was renamed for Holbrooke for his role in brokering the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords that ended the war in Bosnia.

The award is meant to recognize the power of literature in promoting peace and global understanding.

Previous winners include Barbara Kingsolver, Studs Terkel and Elie Wiesel. O'Brien will be presented the award and a $10,000 honorarium on Ohio on Nov. 11 in Dayton, Ohio.

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