Foot Soldier: Mark Rubinstein
The infantry of the army is the one branch where young men and women learn to fight in conditions that are dangerous entering terrains that are filled with booby traps, mines that could explode and hopefully are skillfully trained to engage, fight and defeat an enemy that often is faceless until too late. Finding themselves within the jungles of Vietnam this story, The Foot Soldier, after reading it and hearing the voice of one young man named Costa and meeting those within his Battalion you will never come out the same as you enter the jungles of Vietnam and find your way along with Costa and his fellow soldiers to hopefully live another day while fighting a war that many say should not have been fought. A foot soldier endures what those higher up do not and as we learn more about his duties, we also meet Sergeant Davis and Lieutenant Johnson, Gonzo and many others who will help him in his journey but in different ways. From the start you realize that the main objective is survival at any cost and the end result might be killing innocent people even when unsure. This branch of the army and these young men who were drafted find themselves enduring training that is highly stressful, physical and often at the end of their tours they are never the same.
Open the short novella and read the 46 pages and you too will experience what Costa and so many did as you enter the jungles, go on their missions and fight for your life and hopefully survive. The fear that is instilled in this young man from the start as he begins his journey into the jungle as the “Point” man whose job it is to seek out the enemy and hopefully see them before they see you, learns from the start that one man running his battalion will risk the lives of his men while the other is there to teach and protect before anyone gets killed. As what they call a “cherry,” or novice or newbie he has to adjust to the humidity and the hot climate. But, when faced with a Lieutenant that is quite unstable you start to understand what happens when someone who’s sadistic puts young men in harms way. So many young men are faced with living in conditions that cause their minds to go, their vision to be blurred and their feelings numbed. How do you throw these young men into such situations, even today, for seek out the enemy, have the survival and safety of an entire battalion as his responsibility and hopefully be able to respond before it’s too late?
Feel the heat, the sting of the mosquitoes, the leeches stuck to your body parts and the indignities they endured trying to find the enemy, stay alert and yet often wandering around the same terrain or similar terrain on endless walks that seem to take them around in circles as if the jungle is playing mind games with each soldier hoping to trick them into falling into its hidden traps.
But, nothing is more compelling as hearing the voices of the soldiers going into a village hoping to get supplies and then hearing their Lieutenant’s orders, forced to debased and humiliate the innocent people there and having to destroy much of what they have because this man is paranoid and hateful. What he does when they leave the village will not endear you to him nor will you care if anyone decided to take him out of his misery. The heat is unbearable at times, their fatigues so worn they practically fell apart and the only reason they pray for more rations and food is to stay alive. Water is scarce, watching their every footstep could bring new dangers and leaving their trademark in their wake dangerous.
When faced with a moral decision and having to decide whether to follow an officer’s order, Costa looks long and hard within his soul and deep in his heart for deciding the direction to take. A search and patrol where houses, people and belongings are destroyed, trashed and searched looking for evidence of anything linking the villagers to the VC and finding any guns or weapons turned into a mêlée that will haunt readers forever. Author Mark Rubinstein takes us into the ville, allows us to understand the fear within the adults and the children as one man has lost track of time, space and reality and would change the course and direction for Bravo Company. Costa, who decided to leave Buffalo and not become a draft dodger, begins to understand the true meaning of friendship, brotherhood, trust and understanding as men of all races, backgrounds and economic classes come together to fight a war that destroyed so many, brought many back, turned some into shells while some were never and still are not the same. A father that is a steel worker and a mother who works in a school cafeteria this young man enters a world filled with hate, deceit, fear as skillfully and graphically described by our author. “ The days were so uniform, I lost track of how long we were in the bush, feeling dislocated, upended in the timelessness of the jungle.” Imagine feeling so numb, so disjointed and so disoriented as they all wandered through the jungle thinking they were passing the same “foliage formations again and again, as though we were meandering in circles,” says Costa. Join him, Davis, Rinaldi, Harding and the rest and find out who lives, who gets caught in the crossfire and the final fate of those in Bravo Company.
Fran Lewis: Reviewer
46 pages that will change your perspective on this war and understand more about what our soldiers both men and women are enduring today in Iraq and Afghanistan. Let’s dedicate this to those who gave their lives for us in the military and let’s remember those who came home.