November 1, 2014  

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Soldiers Featured in Professor’s Vietnam War Book Speaking on Campus Sept. 10

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Dr. Andrew Wiest

Instead of the author discussing the roles of the central characters in his new book, a University of Southern Mississippi history professor will let them do the talking.

Dr. Andrew Wiest’s The Boys of ’67: Charlie Company’s War in Vietnamis based on interviews with 60-plus members of Charlie Company and their families and is a compelling account of the reality of war as witnessed by a company of draftees.

On Monday, Sept 10 at 6 p.m. in the Polymer Science Auditorium (PSRC 101) on the Southern Miss Hattiesburg campus, the public is invited to attend an evening with select members of Charlie Company and the wife of one the brave men it lost in battle.

“I could have talked for hours about Charlie Company, but I figured why hear from me when you can hear from Charlie Company itself?,” Wiest said of the program format. “Hearing about the Vietnam War and its aftermath from these wonderful people – the people who lived it – will be a real opportunity for the audience to get a glimpse into the true reality of war.”

On hand to speak and take questions will be John Young and Bill Reynolds, both of whom saw service as squad leaders in Charlie Company, fighting through some of the toughest battles of the war.  Joining them will be Jack Benedick, who was the lieutenant who served as platoon leader for 2nd Platoon in Charlie Company.  He lost the lower parts of both legs to a land mine explosion, but remained in the military before taking on a career as a champion downhill skier.

Also sharing her story will be Jacque Bomann, who was the young wife of Don Peterson and had just given birth to the couple’s young son, Jimmy, before Don shipped out. Peterson was killed in action on May 15, 1967. 

The presentations and questions and answers will be followed by a book launch, hosted by London and New York-based Osprey Press, and signing of The Boys of ’67. After the signing a reception will be held at the Keg and Barrel on Hardy Street in Hattiesburg beginning at 7:30 p.m., where the book will also be available for purchase and signing.

The genesis of the book dates back 14 years, when Wiest took his Vietnam War history class to meet with a group of veterans at the Veterans Administration Health Care Center on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. On that day Wiest first met John Young, who had served as a squad leader with the Mobile Riverine Force in the Mekong Delta of South Vietnam in 1967. 

After hearing Young’s story – one of triumph, heartache, and redemption - Wiest realized he had to write a book about Young’s unit, Charlie Company, 4th of the 47th Infantry.  In the years it took to research and write the book, Young became a familiar face on the Southern Miss campus, helping Wiest teach his popular class on the Vietnam War and even accompanying Southern Miss students back to the battlefields of Vietnam.

During the writing of Boys, Wiest held the position of Charles W. Moorman Distinguished Alumni Professor in the Humanities at Southern Miss. Traditionally the Moorman Professor hosts a public forum to discuss their research at the end of their term.

Even before its official launch, Boys has already received critical acclaim, with Brigadier General H. R. McMaster speaking for many when he referred to the book as a “well researched and well told story of courage, comradeship, tribulation, and perseverance.”

For Wiest the reviews are gratifying, but he’s more concerned that the story of the brave men of Charlie Company is out there for the world to see. “Too often, the stories of the soldiers and their families are missing from war,” he said.

For more information, contact Wiest at andrew.wiest@usm.edu.