Suicide Charlie: A Vietnam War Story

Suicide Charlie: A Vietnam War Story

Suicide Charlie: A Vietnam War Story

Suicide Charlie: A Vietnam War Story


Russell's story is more than a soldier's memoir because it speaks to the universal experience of soldiering. He also shares the struggles of his father, a WWII veteran who eventually took his own life, and his many comrades-in-arms. Russell wrote and produced an award-winning PBS-TV program entitled Fathers and Sons: Two Generations of American Combat Veterans.


The dark comes. It is the greatest enemy.

Dark is the haunting ground of terror. It presses into our skin until we, it, everything, is black.

It is a black that lives, moves, a creature of shadow and sound. The veterans speak of the night as if it were a sentient being, a huge ocean beast that swallows us whole at sunset, then spews us back out at dawn. From our raft of a base camp we poke and prod the belly of night, sending out small groups of men to penetrate the darkness, scouts who study it with instruments: starlight scopes and infrared receivers.

They stare into the darkness through the hollow eyes of mystics seeking revelation. They startle it with parachute flares that reflect the ribs of the sky in a brilliant flash of white phosphorous. Spent, the dangling flares splutter earthward, tiny dying suns that flicker and fail, creating last images as spasmodic and distorted as a madman's laughter.

The boom-boom girls back at the barter point clutched at their breasts and wailed like mourners at a mass funeral as we loaded onto choppers and lifted skyward. The clever boys in ragged shorts and sandals packed their bicycles with canned soda and beer and pedaled furiously, as if racing the choppers to our next destination.

Deep in enemy territory, the choppers hugged the ground so tightly that they had to jump over tree lines. I felt as though I were lost inside an Escher painting, not knowing what was up, what was down, where the sky ended and the earth began. We jerked through space with our . . .

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