Vietnam Voices

Authors Mills to discuss book about Indiana soldier’s journey

Pfc. Richard ‘Dick’ Wolfe died in action in January 1968

(May 2018) – What can be learned from the experience of one U.S. soldier who did not return alive from the Vietnam War? That was the unfortunate fate of Pfc. Richard “Dick” Wolfe on Jan. 6, 1968, when his platoon suddenly became engaged in a firefight at the battle of Xom Bung.

Authors Randy and Roxanne Mills Book Signing

• 1-3 p.m. Saturday, May 26, at Village Lights Bookstore, 110 E. Main St. in Madison, Ind.
• Information:
(812) 265-1800

Wolfe was drafted into the war from Princeton, Ind., where he grew up. Like other young men at that time, being drafted was an eminent threat, with few ways to escape certain and swift passage to the battlefields of Vietnam.
Authors Randy and Roxanne Mills portray Wolfe’s journey from Midwestern youth to battlefield soldier in their latest book titled, “Summer Wind – A Soldier’s Road from Indiana to Vietnam.” The book was released in November 2017 by Blue River Press.
The Mills like to write about ordinary people who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances, and they note that combat is a prime example. Wolfe and his buddies faced   sweltering heat, no showers, sleeping in holes with tarps and sandbags, scarce rations, insects, constant rain, frustration and exhaustion. Plus, there seemed to be no gains or wins, fighting an enemy skilled at hiding from them.
They coped by banding together as brothers but longed for home. In a letter to his mother, Wolfe wrote, “We have a new motto – ‘Forgotten by the world.’ This is true,” he added. Thankfully, reading and rereading letters from home by candlelight in the evenings gave the soldiers hope and strength to face another day.

Photo provided

Pfc. Richard Wolfe is pictured with his machine gun in Vietnam in the late 1960s.

Wolfe wrote scores of letters to family and friends from July 1967 to early January 1968. The letters tell of miserable conditions in the field, longing for home, concerns for a wife and newborn son, financial worries and hopes for buying a new car and making a down payment on a house when he returned. More alarming as time passed came his descriptions of battles that greatly worsened as the war deepened.
By weaving together those letters that Wolfe wrote with the treasured letters from home that he kept by his side, the Mills present voices from 50 years ago that want to tell Wolfe’s story to all who would hear. 
The authors are scheduled to discuss their recent publication at a book signing on from 1-3 p.m. Saturday, May 26, at Village Lights Bookstore, 110 E. Main St. in Madison, Ind. Bookstore owner Nathan Montoya says that the Mills will offer their presentation at 1 p.m. and again at 2 p.m. in the store’s upstairs reading room. He is very hopeful that many veterans will come to the event, including members of the American Legion and V.F.W.
The story came to Randy Mills through a nontraditional college student who had been Wolfe’s best friend in the service. He asked Mills if he would write a story about Wolfe and offered letters that Wolfe had written in the field.

Interviews with family, friends, other servicemen, recorded air-to-ground communications and military records also supplement the story of his induction, deployment and courageous service for which he was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star for valor and other awards. It was difficult to reconstruct the battle where Wolfe died. The last few hours of his life and death were reported differently by witnesses, including six different official explanations of how he died. This made the writing challenging, yet rewarding when finding commonalities among the stories.
Randy Mills says that stories of the common person are often missed or dismissed by historians because they usually look at the big picture. But the voices of ordinary people teach perseverance through the unimaginable. Mills said he believes it is “important to depict the stress of battle on the soldiers as well as on the folks at home because that’s another forgotten story – the lasting effects of war which we forget every time. Those who serve don’t forget.”

Photo provided

Pfc. Richard “Dick” Wolfe is pictured in 1967 during his tour of duty in Vietnam. He died on Jan. 6, 1968.

Wolfe’s life represents the lives of other Vietnam vets and the heroes who didn’t make it home.  His closest friend died in battle just when he was eligible to return from overseas. The band of brothers in combat developed lifelong bonds. Even today, those who survived stay united in spirit regardless of any differences. 
The book appeals to other veterans because it’s their story and relates to the challenges that veterans struggle with today. They may not be ready to talk about their experiences, but reading about similar people helps them talk and begin the healing process by simply being heard.
The story is important today. Wolfe wanted others to know that war is not a wonderful thing. As said to Randy Mills by disabled Vietnam combat marine Gary May, “War should only be taken on if truly necessary and, if it is, take care of the soldiers and thank them.”
The Mills live in Oakland City, Ind., and are professors at Oakland City University. They said it was an honor and sacred privilege to write the book. It has contributed to the history of the Vietnam War by emphasizing family, community and friendship.
Wolfe’s life, the lives of other soldiers who did not return, and those of their families and friends were changed in a “forgotten” war. The Mills have created a book that voices the war through the life of a young, Midwestern man who lived and died the experience.

• Learn more about the authors at www.randrmillsauthors.com.

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