Mini Reviews: Echo Company Series by Ellen Emerson White

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These were part of my "Trip to Vietnam" reading. It is a series from the 90's. It is very well researched but pretty one sided and I think that if it was written today more attention would be paid to nuance.  That being said the first four books are quite short and very fast reads. The Road Home is a much more complex book that I didn't speed through. This was a reread for me as I have read them several time before in middle and high school. 

Welcome to Vietnam by Zack Emerson/ Ellen Emerson White

Welcome to Vietnam
by Zack EmersonEllen Emerson White

Goodreads | Amazon
Series: (Echo Company #1)
Published: May 1, 1991
Rating: I am not cut out for the military
Times read: 7 maybe?

"But, he was responsible for other people now, not just himself. He didn’t know them, but — truth was, he had never been much of a one for teams. More than one coach had pointed this out to him over the years. ...Hell, he couldn’t even manage the ski team. Practices, and rules, and buses to catch all the time. Who needed it. So, here he was in the Army. The Army must be what teams were like in Hell. But, he still felt responsible. If he screwed up this time, they weren’t just going to lose some stupid game — someone was going to get hurt. Killed."

I think that I first read this book when I was about thirteen. It was in the turning display in the YA section of my library, and it was the first of a series. Nothing worse than starting a book and realizing that it is the fourth or fifth book.  Just no. The book really gets the fear and minutia of being a military grunt spot on as far as I can tell. It is, however, very one-sided. The Vietnamese cause nor the Vietnamese people are more than sarcastically acknowledged. Michael has NO idea who he is fighting or what he is fighting for so neither does the reader.  There are a couple of racial epithets, and once Michael even thinks one although he sort of catches himself. He is more hostile towards the army than the Vietnamese people, though. My favorite part of the book was his friendship with Snoopy, who is one of the most adorable characters ever, the vivid description of what it was like to be a soldier to in the Vietnam War, and Emerson sense of humor. I would not recommend this book on it's own. I paired it with Inside Out and Back Again and Listen Slowly both by Thanhha Lai. Middle School Tara learned two major lessons from this book:
1.) I never wanted to be any kind of a soldier.
2.) My country needs to not invade others.
I haven't changed my position on either point.

Hill 568 by Zack Emerson/ Ellen Emerson White

Hill 568
by Zack EmersonEllen Emerson White

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Series: (Echo Company #2)
Published: September 1st 1991
Rating: What the Hell were we even doing there?
Times read: 4

"So, he was either building character, or else he had fallen so deep into the group mentality that he was incapable of making any sort of decision for himself."

The second book of the series. Michael is asked to walk the point by his Sargent. If my calculations are correct, he maybe has been in Vietnam three weeks. There is little to no Vietnamese presence in this book.  This is interesting because the fighting significantly ratchets up here. One them explored was whether or not to get close to the people you are fighting with to save yourself the pain of their death. Is that even possible? Snoopy again steals the show If only it were only possible to hug fictional characters. The book is well researched and gives a crystal clear picture of a US grunts life in Vietnam.

"Tis the Season by Zack Emerson/ Ellen Emerson White

"Tis the Season
by Zack EmersonEllen Emerson White

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Series: (Echo Company #3)
Published: December 1, 1991
Rating: Plausible? Not really. Don't care.
Times read: 3

"Vietnam, and the usual trying to do the least wrong thing."

I relate to Rebecca more than is reasonable. I am not a nurse, an extrovert(ish), a party girl, nor do I make terrible snap decisions. And yet I recognized her.The research and accuracy of a Vietnam hospital are notable for such a short book and for how seamless they blend into the narrative. Rebecca encounters Vietnamese people, but because of the language barrier, she is still very much disconnected. She does question her own internalized racism but ultimately lacks the energy and motivation needed to change. Her man conflict is fairly unrealistic (or at least I am pretty sure that it is), but it reads as probable.

Stand Down by Zack Emerson/ Ellen Emerson White

Stand Down
by Zack EmersonEllen Emerson White

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Series: (Echo Company #5)
Published: March 1st 1992
Rating: I ship it
Times read: 4

“It was nice to know that no matter what he said, she would probably get it instantly” 

Yes, this is a well-researched sequel and feels very much like a time capsule. I am going to admit it: I am here for Rebecca and Michael. Can you form a connection with someone over a single conversation? When are you having the worst day of your life? When were you just shot? Will they write one another and figure out what the reader already know which is that they need to be a couple. And will they ever physically see one another? In between these questions, Michael is a jerk to a new guy to distract himself and because he is in a bad mood.  He notices it and stops himself from bullying and apologizes. Which we don't see enough of. "Hey, I was a jerk for no good reason. I'm sorry and I a going to do better." Way to adult there, Michael.

The Road Home by Zack Emerson/ Ellen Emerson White

The Road Home
by Zack EmersonEllen Emerson White

Goodreads | Amazon
Series: (Echo Company #5)
Published: 1995
Rating: I am stressed now
Times read: 4

“On Christmas morning, Rebecca lost her moral virginity, her sense of humor - and her two best friends. But, other than that, it was a hell of a holiday.”

This is a tough read. Rebecca has some dramatic PTSD. Not only is it untreated but it is exacerbated by the fact that she is still working in a war zone. She is hyperalert, apathetic, and exhausted. The support system of people she has around her crumbles and Rebecca is left to deal with the war on her own. She is almost completely broken down to basic instincts, duty, and alcoholism when the war ends for her. She is sent back to the world and has to figure out how to deal with the guilt, nightmares, and the people around her (Most of whom don't understand what she has gone through) to figure out who is has become and who she wants to be.