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Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles for Readers' Favorite
Kilo 3: The True Story of a Marine Rifleman’s Tour from the Intense Fighting in Vietnam to the Superficial Pageantry of Washington, DC by Richard W. Foster, Jr. is an intensely engaging true story of a teenager who dropped out of the eleventh grade of high school to be a Marine. You'll be with him during his time with the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea, then go with him into heavy battle in 1967 and '68 Vietnam, hoping to protect everyone from Communism. But what happened instead was disappointment and psychological fatigue from the fighting, which was grueling and took a toll in more ways than one. Later, his unit served the White House and other Washington locations. There was a big difference between the combat in Vietnam and his new DC duties. He somehow managed the baggage of combat he brought home with him and kept serving.
Foster brings readers up close and personal with the ground combat of Vietnam. In raw, powerful detail, he describes the horror of his experiences, yet there is a positive tone and message in all of it. He explains how he could have one foot in the carnage of Vietnam and one foot in the polar opposite world of Washington, DC. Some parts of this book must have been painful for the author to write, but the reading audience is more informed and enriched by it. What I like is the process of maturity the young Marines went through, from boys to men. The details of the training and ceremonies are enlightening. You don't realize what goes on with Marines until you read a book like this. I'm so glad stories like this exist, as they're a living history--stories you won't always get in a history book or documentary.
I was stunned by the strength and resilience it must have taken for fighters to have to "compartmentalize" their experiences to survive combat and then serve in a non-combat capacity. I also appreciated the personal stories about other parts of his life, like growing up, relationships, etc. The images add so much to the narrative, which is already visceral, with descriptions like a captain looking "exhausted, lifeless, and defeated. Dull eyes and sagging cheeks", and his last day of service walking out the door in jeans and a polo shirt. Thanks to Foster's autobiography, I now have a better understanding of what a Marine is, and why it's said they're cut from a different cloth. Foster had an inner strength that not everyone possesses. For a powerful true story of one Marine's life experiences, Kilo 3 by Richard W. Foster, Jr. should be at the top of your reading list.