Vietnam Vets Get a Guide to 'Survival'

Associated Press

Author Craig Kubey thinks it's a tragedy that his book needed to be written.

The book is "The Viet Vet Survival Guide: How to Cut Through the Bureaucracy and Get What You Need and Are Entitled To." The Ballantine Books paperback has gone through several printings and has sold about 150,000 copies, Kubey said.

"I hope that no children growing up in the United States today will need a book like this," said Kubey, who co-wrote the book with David F. Addlestone, Richard E. O'Dell, Keith D. Snyder and Barton F. Stichman.

All but Kubey are veterans; he did the writing, they provided the expertise.

Experience Needed

"I decided that clearly the area was far too complex to be mastered by someone without previous veterans' affairs experience," he said.

"What we came up with is a guidebook for Vietnam-era veterans and their families, and even for veterans from other eras, going back to World War II and earlier. It details what you're entitled to and how to get it.

"It's a realistic, easy-to-read consumer guide to cutting through the bureaucracy to get often desperately needed medical, psychological and financial assistance.

"My co-authors provided 99% of the information and I restructured it and revised it so it was shorter and easier to read and more colorful."

A sample of chapter headings gives a taste of what the book offers: "Basic Survival Information," "The Veterans Administration," "Psychological Readjustment," "Agent Orange."

Prenatal Care to Burial

Kubey says the book covers everything from prenatal care to burial benefits and will help the deserving veteran prevail against VA employees who "may be either callous or ignorant."

Kubey says his anti-war feelings began stirring as a college student in the late 1960s and were strengthened by his work on the book.

"As a Berkeley student, I was against the war, not just for self-interest, but because I felt it was a waste of the life and limb of young American men," he said. "I've never been as opposed to the Vietnam War, though, as I am now that I've seen the tremendous toll it has taken on the lives of the 3 million Vietnam veterans.

"I've seen from writing the book just how costly war can be to the individual. It's not glory; it's amputation and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). It's not fun and it's not glamorous. It involves the risk of death itself, or severe, irreversible physical and psychological ailments."

Kubey notes that the average age of America's warriors in World War II was 26, while in Vietnam it was 19.

Vulnerable to Shock

"These people were very vulnerable to the shock of war," Kubey said. "They went over not knowing who they were and came back not knowing who they were. On top of that, they frequently had to deal with hostility when they returned, an experience no World War II veteran had to go through."

Kubey, who holds a law degree from the University of California, Davis, and has written other books, says the "Survival Guide" caused him more pain than he imagined.

"Writing this book was an agonizing and unpleasant experience," he said. "It's more fun to write about video games than amputations, but I'm glad we did the book and I'd do it again if I had to."

"You have to realize that for most Americans the Vietnam War was over in April of 1975, but for a very large percentage of Vietnam veterans, the war is not over and it will never be over."

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World