'All Out There': Army Vet Writes Memoir Reflecting on Vietnam

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about the Vietnam War Thursday, February 15, in Lambertville, Mich.THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH

LAMBERTVILLE, Mich. -- Detroit native Bob Seger released his song "2 + 2 = ?" in January, 1968, a few months after Warren Hunt received a draft board letter ordering him to report for active duty in the U.S. armed forces at age 19.

You will find lyrics from that song cited in the first chapter of Mr. Hunt's self-published 123-page book Reflections on the Vietnam War: A 50-Year Journey ($12.95).

"I'm no prophet I'm no rebel/I'm just asking you why/I just want a simple answer/Why it is I've got to die/I'm the simple minded kind/2 + 2 is on my mind," the song goes.

Without a choice, Mr. Hunt was forced to pack his bags and say good-bye to his family. The United States didn't end the draft until 1973.

"Your life becomes insignificant," the 70-year-old veteran recently recalled during an interview with The Blade at the kitchen table of his Lambertville home. "To be drafted then was thought by many to be equivalent to a death sentence. Just imagine your life being interrupted; I want to get married, I want to go to college, I want to get an apprenticeship, I love my job. Sorry, forget it. You have to go over there and fight. And it wasn't really clear why. That was the biggest problem with it; as the song says, 'I'm just asking you why?'"

Mr. Hunt wrote the book between 2014 and 2017, recalling his time as a radio operator with the U.S. First Infantry Division from 1968 to 1969, and how it affected his life as he struggled to understand the meaning of the war in subsequent years.

The impetus for the book was a 1998 email from his goddaughter looking for insight into the war for a high school history project.

Although he initially kept his answers brief, he found himself thinking more about Vietnam and decided to start writing about his experiences after he retired in 2013 from teaching German at Bedford High School.

Part of his reflection includes experiences after he returned home, such as the Kent State shootings and the Easter Offensive of 1972, getting married in 1974, going to Washington for the dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 1982, joining the Ohio Army National Guard with the rank of Sergeant First Class, and becoming a high school teacher.

"It was emotionally powerful, and I had not wanted to deal with it because it was so emotionally powerful," he said. "I was just a confused young man like everyone else. I was a little immature. I just couldn't get my mind around what was happening, what this all meant. There were these experiences I was having that were really brutally emotional, and that's what I hadn't been dealing with and that's what writing the book enabled me to deal with."

"Reflections on the Vietnam War: A 50-Year Journey" can be purchased at amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million.

Mr. Hunt's initial intent was to use his reflections on the Vietnam War as a therapeutic technique. That effort became the foundation of a first-hand account of how Vietnam defined him and his generation.

"All of these experiences I had before, during, and after the war became for me ... a coherent story I can behold and I can share that with others," he said. "I just wanted to make sense out of it. That was the lifting of the burden.

"It doesn't hurt any less to think of the friends I lost or the weird things that happened to me, but it's no longer something that remains unanswered or not dealt with. It's all out there."

Contact Geoff Burns at gburns@theblade.com or 419-724-6054.

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