Then I Came Home

Non-Fiction - Memoir
104 Pages
Reviewed on 02/02/2024
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite

Then I Came Home by Sam Gaylord recounts his challenging upbringing in poverty along the Ohio River, where he and his family lived in a shack without basic amenities. Working odd jobs, the author faced difficulties in school but demonstrated his family's resourcefulness in adapting to their circumstances. Motivated for a better life, he joined the Marines, undergoing rigorous training and eventually serving in Vietnam. This memoir details the emotional toll of combat during conflicts like the Battle of Hue, and an incredible mountain operation. Gaylord is forced to confront anti-war sentiment and his views on the dehumanizing impact of war, culminating in an explosive tragedy with a physically debilitating outcome. From here, Gaylord shares his recovery, battles with depression, and eventual transformation, all of which prove his own resilience, self-belief, and gratitude despite ongoing obstacles.

Then I Came Home by Sam Gaylord is a completely honest memoir that, even in its darkest and most difficult moments, is engaging. Gaylord writes in the first-person and much of the book is set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, where he offers a deeply personal insight into the emotional and physical toll of war. The writing style is simple and straightforward, and while not as polished as it has the potential to be, the rawness works well in this context. I believe that from a historical perspective the book will be embraced by those with an appreciation for heartfelt personal narratives of the era, as well as medical professionals. However, as a legacy work, I have no doubt this book will be a treasured piece of family history for generations of Gaylord's family to come. I found the book to be a moving representation of the enduring impact of war, both on the individual and the collective human experience. Recommended.

Karen Pirnot

This is a book with unrealized potential. As a memoir, the author takes the reader through a deprived childhood that he escapes when the author joins the Marines. His expectations are dramatically violated with a tour of duty in Viet Nam; the author comes home as a wounded veteran.

This book needs a bit more developing. However, the author's feelings of being let down by his country are apparent throughout the recollection of his experiences. The author experienced feelings that were not uncommon to other Viet Nam veterans; he seems to think his experience should not have happened to him or to anyone else.

On the plus side, the author does state in his bio that he is now working with other veterans and that appears to be positive channeling for the previous feelings of anger and betrayal. The author is to be commended for his service to his country.

Pikasho Deka

Sam Gaylord tells his story of joining the US Marine Corps and returning home as an injured veteran after his stint in Vietnam in Then I Came Home. Born into a poor Irish-Indian family, Sam grew up with his eight siblings, living in a shack in Bethlehem, Indiana. It wasn't long after his brother joined the US Navy that Sam enrolled in the Marine Corps boot camp in 1967. The following year, when he was nineteen, Sam found himself on his way to Vietnam and assigned to the 5th Marines Gulf Company, setting up base camp at Phu Bai. While fighting against the Vietcong, Sam lost not only close friends but was severely injured, which left him in a wheelchair. But after his return home, Sam found himself fighting another battle with depression and alcoholism.

Then I Came Home is a moving true story of a Vietnam War soldier that showcases why veterans tend to feel cheated by the very country and people for whom they sacrifice their limbs and sometimes even their lives. Author Sam Gaylord gives an unflinching account of his time in Vietnam and its ramifications for the rest of his life. While he was fighting on behalf of his country, people were protesting against returning soldiers, overlooking the enormous sacrifices they made in a war they didn't even want to be part of. There is something heartbreakingly relatable about Sam's life story that will resonate with people regardless of their backgrounds. I found this memoir thoroughly engrossing and feel it's a must-read for war veterans. Highly recommended.

Paul Zietsman

Then I Came Home is a memoir by Sam Gaylord about his life's hardship, perseverance, and hope. Sam grew up in southern Indiana and had an extremely tough childhood. There was never enough for him to eat and little time to do his school homework as he and his siblings had to help their parents set traps for animals, carry water, and help the family survive. Sam joined the Marines as soon as he graduated from high school. He hoped to serve his country and to get a bursary to study at college. However, he soon realized that being a Marine and fighting in Vietnam wasn't all that it was made out to be.
An eye-opener for me, Then I Came Home is not a regular memoir about the war in Vietnam. Sam Gaylord's story could have ended as a tragedy, but his hopefulness, fighting spirit, and belief in a higher power took him from being severely depressed to being a victor. Not only is this book an eye-opener about what courage and strength are, but at the same time the hard truth about America's treatment of soldiers, and more specifically war veterans, is exposed. Apart from being well-written and succinct, the war scenes and circumstances are extremely well depicted, and although these can be very shocking, they do whisk the reader away to a different world from the one at hand. A must-read for those with a thirst for the truth and those who are not averse to shock and horror, and appreciate inspiration.

Luwi Nyakansaila

Sam Gaylord grew up in a humble Irish Indian family close to Bethlehem, Indiana. Although they were hardworking, they struggled financially. In August 1967, he found himself with no place to go and made the difficult decision to join the United States Marine Corps. In his memoir, Then I Came Home, he shares his experiences in Vietnam, capturing his thoughts and feelings about the war, the Vietnamese people, and the political climate back home. During his time in Vietnam, Sam underwent significant mental and physical changes. He became frustrated and wished to desert, but an incident occurred that forced him back home and earned him a Purple Heart. Unfortunately, the war had taken a toll on his body and mind, leaving him with regrets about ever enlisting in the first place.

Then I Came Home is a heart-wrenching tale that explores Sam Gaylord's life-changing experience. For him, the war was an opportunity to fight for his country and to honor his father and uncles, who fought in World War II. His dedication and enthusiasm were apparent at the start of his journey, but by the end of his story, they had dwindled. Looking into the faces of the local Vietnamese people and realizing that the actual communist enemies were not in the war, but far up north, was heartbreaking. The book presents many lessons and emphasizes the importance of family and the will to keep living even when you feel there is nothing left to live for. It also raises awareness for retired veterans and highlights their stories and struggles. It is a must-read for anyone who enjoys reading first-hand accounts of war and its aftermath.

Jennie More

Then I Came Home by Sam Gaylord explores the experiences of war veterans during service and on their return home. The author describes his life with a childhood of extreme poverty and his attempt at escaping that life by joining the Marines. With an intense love for his country, joining the Marines gave him purpose. Once he starts serving in the Vietnam War, he comes to new revelations about war, America, family, and friendship. He learns how living purpose-driven can come in different forms. Gaylord’s story of resilience and courage sheds light on the dreadful mental and emotional experiences of soldiers in war and the strength they need to get through it. He gives a different perspective to the questionable hero image that America perpetuates about war veterans, showing how, if they choose, they can be heroes, but with their own stories.

Then I Came Home by Sam Gaylord is an honest and heartwarming memoir. Gaylord tells his story clearly by getting to the point quickly but still ensuring that each memory he shares brims with meaning and insight. Gaylor is authentic and unpretentious, displaying charisma vividly in his writing. And because of this, I could connect to his experience, thoughts, and emotions and empathize with his journey. The book is easy to read, and though it is his life story, he does it concisely, sharing only the most relevant experiences to complement the overarching goal of his memoir. I enjoyed reading this book; it was enlightening and inspirational.