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No Where Man
By John Zutz (reviewer)
No Where Man
by Steve Piotrowski
Full disclosure: I’ve known the author since the mid-80s when we worked with many others to establish the Wisconsin Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which has morphed into The Highground Veterans Memorial Park.
The lyrics of No Where Man written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney on the first page give the reader a clue to the contents. The clues are passages printed in bold type: "Knows not where he's going to, can you see me at all, till somebody else lends you a hand, making all his nowhere plans for nobody."
The first half of the book describes the duality he experienced during the final month or two in country. The connections with his buddies and the hopes and dreams of getting home juxtaposed with the constant fear, as well as the pettiness of the Army.
He writes about his trip home and the beginnings of his feelings of separation. Those feelings grew when he got to his parent's house in small town Wisconsin.
His first weeks at home were everything he talked to squad mates and dreamed about in the field. Bought a hot car with his Army savings—wrecked it immediately. Got pissing drunk with old friends—more than once. Got laid a couple times by a couple different girls. What more could a trooper want? Knows not where he's going to.
But he was still dissatisfied. It seemed that nobody cared. Nobody wanted to know what happened. Others thought they knew all about the war because they watched it on TV. Nobody was interested in what he had to say. Can you see me at all? He wasn't fitting in.
He jumped at loud noises. He was on guard constantly. He patrolled the house at night. He dreamed about the buddies he left behind. He had frequent flashbacks. He drank more in search of oblivion. Till somebody else lends you a hand.
At the end of the book he's run out of town by an irate husband. He tries to convince himself that it's time to make his own decisions, to be his own boss, to move on. Making all his nowhere plans for nobody.
Because I know Steve, I was expecting more. He left home feeling disassociated. I expected at least a little exploration of how he overcame that. Saving it for the next book? I think what was there was well done. I think it will help non-vets understand the boredom and the adrenaline rush that is war, and what Nam vets went through. It might even convince some kids to avoid the recruiter.
But it won't educate others about the process of returning mentally. And that's too bad.
John Zutz is a Milwaukee VVAW member.