Local author reflects on his Vietnam, writing experiences

Dec. 20, 2004, midnight | By Christopher Consolino | 19 years, 5 months ago

Currey shares his story with Blazers

Local author Richard Currey never thought that he would go from a carefree 18-year-old to a 21-year-old tossing his Vietnam War medals onto the steps of the Capitol. Now, decades later, he is speaking to Edamarie Mattei's fifth-period English class on Dec. 6, talking about both his novel "Fatal Light", a story about a young boy coming home from the Vietnam War, and his experiences as a writer in a discussion lead by the seniors' questions.

As the discussion begins to flow, Currey's life as a writer unfolds. In between the narratives he recounts on his experiences in Vietnam, Currey also takes the time to explain how he was set on becoming a writer since he attended middle school. "I wanted to be a writer ever since I was 12 or 13," says Currey. "I didn't know where it might take me."

The Vietnam War is a large part of Currey's life and his literature. Although he tried to avoid combat by joining the Navy, he was trained as a battle medic and soon found himself in one of the most controversial wars in United States history.

Caught up in the war

Currey explains that although the characters and plot are fiction, his experiences in Vietnam parallel those of the protagonist.

During his senior year at Springbrook High School, Currey received a draft letter shortly after turning 18 and soon realized that his life was taking an unexpected turn. "I was having a hell of a good time and didn't think [the Vietnam War] would enter my life," recounts Currey. "All of a sudden, I couldn't just go to college."

He was then sent to Vietnam as a Navy battle medic working with the Marine Corps. During his service, Currey recalls spending a great deal of time thinking about the merits of the war.

Vietnam changed the way Currey viewed the government. He then lost faith in the idea that the government knows when to declare war and when to deploy American troops. He did not, however, become a militant anti-war activist. "The foundation for going into this war was morally and politically bankrupt,” states Currey.

Back in the real world

Like the thousands of other soldiers returning home from Vietnam, Currey found that he had a hard time picking up his life again. As the class listens, eyes glued on Currey, the author conveys how difficult it was to re-enter the real world. "I got out in 1972. I lived on $900 military pension for a year," says Currey. "I wasn't doing anything except avoiding the next step in my life."

Then, after attending college, Currey began to pursue his passion for writing. His first book did not touch on the Vietnam War because of the subject's controversial nature during the 1970s. "[Vietnam] wasn't dinner-table conversation," Currey explains to the class.

But, he says, that soon changed. "Suddenly, it was not just a bunch of kids in San Francisco [protesting the war]," he says. "When we woke up to [the human cost of the war], we had 30,000 to 40,000 casualties."

Another war in today's world

As the students' questions transition to current issues, Currey gives his insight on today's world and the Iraq War. He explains to the class that even though they may not read the paper every day, this generation is much more informed. Currey says that compared to the Vietnam War generation, today's media is a valuable resource with regard to foreign conflicts. "I'd rather have the Internet and CNN than nothing," says Currey to the class as the bell rings and students begin to applaud.

Richard Currey's other works include "The Vietnam Stories" (1980), "The Wars of Heaven" (1990) and "Lost Highway" (1996). For more information on Richard Currey, visit his web site.

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Christopher Consolino. Christopher Consolino is a senior in Communication Arts Program. If Chris had free time, he would spend it practicing piano and taking pictures with his 15 year-old Minolta. He would also like to stress how much better wet process photography is than digital. Most of … More »

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