By John Ketwig (reviewer)
Renunciation: My Pilgrimage from Catholic Military Chaplain, Vietnam Hawk, and Medal of Honor Recipient to Civilian Warrior for Peace
by Charles J. Liteky
(self-published posthumously, all proceeds go to the Charles J. Liteky and Judith Balch Liteky Trust, San Francisco, CA, 2017)
Charlie Liteky was inspired to write his life's story by Judy, his loving wife. Unfortunately, neither of them lived to see that story in book form, sitting proudly on a bookstore shelf. Close friends saw to it that this hugely important book would be published as a memorial to both Charlie and Judy. It is that, and much more.
To anyone who knew them, the Litekys were inspiring folk. For those who might not be familiar, he was a Catholic chaplain in Vietnam, and when he went out with a patrol one day, they were ambushed. Despite being wounded twice, Charlie crawled out under heavy fire and dragged twenty wounded men to safety, plus performed final rites for many more. For that action, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. After returning from Vietnam, he left the military, and then he left the priesthood. He was thinking, evaluating his core beliefs about life, service to others, conscience, and the nature of patriotism. He met Judy, a former nun, and they were married. Working in southern California, they began to hear stories from refugees who had escaped Central America, and Charlie became concerned that our country was creating another Vietnam-style conflict in Nicaragua and El Salvador. He went to see for himself, and was horrified by what he found. In 1986, he wrote a letter to President Reagan explaining his views, and left the letter and his Medal of Honor at the base of the Vietnam memorial. No other recipient of the Medal of Honor had ever returned it, and today, Charlie's medal and letter are on display in the Smithsonian Institution Museum of American History. Soon after giving up his medal, Charlie took part in the Veterans Fast for Life on the steps of the Capitol. He became an activist, speaking out and putting his body on the line against the death and destruction our government's policies were raining down upon so many areas of the world. He was imprisoned, but never silenced. "Renunciation" is Charlie's story, in his own words. It is an inspiring tale of one man's conversion from a militarist to a peacemaker. He describes the great moral dilemma of leaving the priesthood, the huge joy he found in Judy, the love of his life, and many anti-war friends and colleagues. "Renunciation" is a travelogue of one simple man's life, the landscapes and intersections he encountered along the way, and the tremendous mental and spiritual transitions he experienced as his intrinsic morality bumped up against our country's cruel and pointless militarism. Renunciation is a very special witness by a very special and important man.
A highly-recommended read.
John Ketwig is a lifetime member of VVAW, and the author of ."..and a hard rain fell: A G.I.'s True Story of the War in Vietnam."