Vietnam vet to appear at Book Train |

Vietnam vet to appear at Book Train

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Allen Orcutt, like many veterans of the Vietnam war, remains both troubled and inspired by his experiences as a helicopter pilot there for the U.S. Marines in 1968 and ’69.

And, at the age of 65, the New Castle resident is hard at work doing what he can about his feelings and about the illness and poverty that afflicts millions of Vietnamese families.

He is writing, and now has to his credit two books of verse, prose and other writings, one of which he will be autographing for fans at a book-signing this week in Glenwood Springs (see box below).

Orcutt’s first book, a collection of poetry and prose titled, “Before Moving On,” was published in 1973, only four years after he returned from the war and settled in Dallas, Texas to work as fundraiser for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The second, “No Rest Elsewhere – Vietnam Notes, 1968-2008” came out earlier this year and, again, is a collection of poems and essays, much of it about his year as a Marine but now including his thoughts and feelings in the years since the war,.

Among his recent incentives to write was a trip back to Vietnam where he witnessed the war’s legacy, good and bad.

“I got my eyes filled with all sorts of stuff,” he recalled of the trip, “most of which is a healthy recognition that we [veterans and Americans in general] need to move on,” meaning to stop obsessing over the war as well as to work to repair damages done by the war.

In addition, he has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a neurological degeneration that is linked with exposure to Agent Orange, a toxic defoliant used by the U.S. military in Vietnam that is believed to have sickened many thousands of U.S. soldiers and Vietnamese.

The slim volume – 85 pages – is divided into three sections: “In Country,” all about the war; “Home Front,” a textual kaleidoscope of hopefulness and despair, rediscovery and understanding; and “Long After,” a gathering of thoughts and expression of comfortable comprehension, including a couple of pieces penned by other men.

Some of the poems are lyrically impressionistic snapshots of everything from battle scenes to a comparison of the Iraq War with Vietnam [“such are the wars and lies that men repeat].”

Some are straightforward, descriptive and easy to grasp.

One prose piece describes his unexpected reunion with his first wife, 30 years after she became a peacenik while he was fighting the war and divorced him.

The book features a foreword by conservative commentator John K. Andrews – the two have been friends since well before the Vietnam war – and a smattering of black and white photos from the war years.

The book also is dedicated to the works of an organization known as the D.O.V.E. (Development of Vietnam Endeavors) Fund, a non-profit started by veterans, Rotarians and others in Ohio in 2000 to offer assistance and support to the Vietnamese.

Orcutt started working with the D.O.V.E. Fund in 2007, when he and other vets took a D.O.V.E.-sponsored trip (the vets paid their own way) to Vietnam that changed his life, awakening a desire to do what he can to better the lives of people he once showered with Agent Orange and armed troops.

One of the prose pieces in the book describes his encounter with a former Viet Cong soldier who witnessed a mid-air collision of helicopters that claimed the life of one of Orcutt’s friends.

Ultimately the former VC, whom Orcutt described as “an old man [then, with a chuckle], about my age,” invited Orcutt and his wife, Barbara, in for tea. In the course of the conversation, Orcutt apologized for the war, they shook hands and they parted on friendly terms.

“It was good,” Orcutt said simply. “That was a healing experience … it really meant a lot to me.”

These days, he is planning to use some of the proceeds from his book sales to fund D.O.V.E.’s activities, including the construction of school, hospitals and other facilities.

“The D.O.V.E. Fund is a tool that I’ve decided to use as much as I can,” he said.

All in all, he said of his past, present and future, “It’s a wild adventure.”

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