Carry Me Home [NOOK Book]


In this powerful and poignant epic, Del Vecchio transports the soldiers of the Vietnam experience to their final battlefield—the home front.  High Meadow Farm, in the fertile hill country of central Pennsylvania, would be their salvation. In Vietnam they had fought side by side, brothers in arms. Now in the face of personal tragedy and bureaucratic deception, they would create a more enduring allegiance, an alliance of the spirit and the soil. Carry Me Home is the remarkable story of their struggle to find ...
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Carry Me Home

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In this powerful and poignant epic, Del Vecchio transports the soldiers of the Vietnam experience to their final battlefield—the home front.  High Meadow Farm, in the fertile hill country of central Pennsylvania, would be their salvation. In Vietnam they had fought side by side, brothers in arms. Now in the face of personal tragedy and bureaucratic deception, they would create a more enduring allegiance, an alliance of the spirit and the soil. Carry Me Home is the remarkable story of their struggle to find each other and themselves, a saga spanning fifteen years—fifteen years lost in a wilderness called America. In its scope, breadth, and brilliance, Carry Me Home is much more than a novel about Vietnam and Vietnam veterans. It is a testament to history and hope, to hometowns and homecomings, to love and lost, to faith and family. It is a novel about two decades in our collective lives and the cleansing of our spirit—and inspiring and unforgettable novel about American itself.

The author of the arresting Vietnam novel The 13th Valley captures anew the lives of soldiers who find themselves behind enemy lines--within their own country. In 1969, faced with a withering barrage of personal tragedy and bureaucratic deception, three veterans stumble home to a nation changed. Carry Me Home is a story that bears witness to the ultimate battle--the war to reclaim the American dream.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Carry Me Home completes a trilogy begun by The 13th Valley, and deals, much like James Jones’ Some Came Running, with veterans trying to adapt to civilian life. . . . in the end they gain a frightening power from Del Vecchio’s accretion of utterly authentic detail. And Wapinski, at least, comes to a hard-earned redemption through the example of one fine old man and a beautiful, communitarian idea.” —Booklist
“Arresting, searing and shattering . . . the most eloquent novel ever to examine the American Vietnam veteran and his return home to a nation that had failed him.” —International Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this immensely detailed and nearly humorless final installment of his trilogy about America's war in Southeast Asia (The 13th Valley; For the Sake of All Living Things), Del Vecchio focuses on veterans who returned home in the late '60s only to find themselves viewed largely as lepers. Back from his second tour in Vietnam, Marine Sgt. Tony Pisano, 20, bears a leg wound, is assigned to burial detail, marries student nurse Linda, tries out college and faces widespread hatred. Tony's story, central to the novel, melds with that of his doomed buddies, who are now rootless ``expatriates'' in their own country. More grounded is the also returned Capt. Robert Wapinski, whose Pennsylvania farm becomes a haven for many vets fighting public castigation, post-traumatic stress disorder and the effects of Agent Orange. Del Vecchio shows these vets' fury at the V.A. (which combats recognition of their various addictions, insanities, damaged genes, etc.) at the whinings of the``Me'' generation, and at the media, which the vets accuse of misrepresentation, and for which they hold a mock trial at Wapinski's farm. In one telling moment, Tony, recovering from one of many breakdowns, is told by his indignant wife, ``Your daughters' daughters will live with your psychosis long after you and I are gone.'' At every turn, Del Vecchio sacrifices pace for infinite detail, but the overall purpose of his powerful proletarian art demands such detail to underscore his characters' pain and, for a few, uplifting recovery. (Jan.)
John Mort
In "The 13th Valley" (1982), which has become almost a cult classic, Del Vecchio battered away at the reader with cruel, gritty, deeply sympathetic portraits of black and white soldiers in Vietnam. "Carry Me Home" completes a trilogy (the second novel, "For the Sake of All Living Things" [1990], dealt with Cambodians and the Khmer Rouge) begun by "The 13th Valley", and deals, much like James Jones' "Some Came Running", with veterans trying to adapt to civilian life. Robert Wapinski and Tony Pisano, both from a Pennsylvania mill town, are done in by their demon memories of combat. Wapinski, jilted by his fiancee, catches another woman on the rebound and follows her to California where he makes money selling real estate but poisons his soul; Pisano falls into a deep spiral of drug abuse and then, as he begins to pull himself together, becomes physically sick from the effects of Agent Orange. (The scenes in veterans' hospitals, in which Del Vecchio takes the wholesale administration of psychotropic drugs to task, are so sad and bitter that they are difficult to read at one sitting.) Also in California, and crossing paths with Wapinski, is Tyrone Blackwell, a black veteran who is drawn into various quasilegal housing schemes. Del Vecchio's method with all three is to trace the history of their relationships with mostly patient, sometimes unadmirable, but always recognizable women. These volatile relationships become, ironically, rather tedious, but in the end they gain a frightening power from Del Vecchio's accretion of utterly authentic detail. And Wapinski, at least, comes to a hard-earned redemption through the example of one fine old man and a beautiful, communitarian idea.
Harry W. Hayes
"Arresting, fury and chattering...the most eloquent novel ever to examine the American Vietnam veteran and his return home to a nation that had failed them." -- International Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781480401907
  • Publisher: Warriors, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/26/2013
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 720
  • Sales rank: 855,584
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

John M. Del Vecchio is the author of four books, including two bestsellers with approximately 1.4 million copies sold, as well as hundreds of articles. He graduated from Lafayette College in 1969, was drafted and sent to Vietnam in 1970, where he served as a combat correspondent in the 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile). In 1971, he was awarded a Bronze Star Medal for heroism in ground combat.
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Read an Excerpt

Carry Me Home

By John M. Del Vecchio


Copyright © 1995 John M. Del Vecchio
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4804-0190-7



Robert Janos Wapinski would never remember the details of his own homecoming. In a week they would be foggy, in a year they would be out of his mind, out of the recallable memory banks as completely as if the circuits to those banks had been cut and atrophy had caused the storage area to disintegrate.

What he would remember was a few sentences a man he'd come to believe never existed spoke to him on his second-to-last flight in the uniform of his country. And he would remember his mother, cold and hard, his mother who had given him away at age two when his father left, then taken him back, reluctantly, at eight when his paternal grandmother died and his grandfather had been in such grief that he'd let the boy go. He would remember Stacy—could never forget Stacy—and what she had done. And he would remember fleeing back to Grandpa Wapinski.

But the details. They were lost, forever, for when a man returns from war his mind and soul lag behind his physical being and do not catch up for weeks or months or years.

Mill Creek Falls, Pennsylvania, Saturday, 14 June 1969—In the soft gray predawn Robert Wapinski quietly walked into his hometown. He stopped. He looked back at the old steel truss bridge, looked down into Loyalsock Creek, looked across to Route 154. He had walked the thirteen miles from Eagles Mere. His feet were sore, his legs tired, yet he was restless, anxious. He had two miles to go, across town, before he was home.

Wapinski reached into the pocket of his jacket, pulled out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. He'd shipped his heavy belongings and carried only a small AWOL bag that contained his orders and records, toiletries and clean socks. Before him the warehouses and machine shops were dark. In the graying sky, silhouettes of workers' houses could be seen emerging on the hills above Small Mill. As he walked Wapinski caressed the lighter. With one hand he snapped the top back, flicked the wheel in the lee of the upheld AWOL bag, lit a smoke, closed the lid, ran his thumb nail over the engraving.

The smoke tasted good. "Captain, I think we're making a mistake," a voice ran in his mind. "Lighten up, Thompson," he answered back. "We've done our job." "I think we should go back, Sir. We belong to that world. It's all going to be bullshit. Just like R and R." "Things are going to be great!" Wapinski had said. "Captain," he heard Thompson answer him, "it's gotten into my blood. Into yours, too."

Wapinski walked east, up River Front Road, past the aging brick warehouses and machine shops. Lights from a new rooftop billboard cast overlapping shadows on to the pavement and into the dingy alleys. He hesitated, looked up, moved toward the Loyalsock to view the sign. Four powerful mercury vapor bulbs blazed over it:

Invest in MILL CREEK INDUSTRIAL PARK a Downtown Redevelopment Project —Ernest Hartley, Mayor

Wapinski slowed, tensed, peered deeply into the last alley. Shadows were ebbing in the growing dawn but the alley was black, dense, impenetrable. His eyes snapped forward, he spun, looked back, searched the deserted building, the empty road, the gorge of the creek. No one. He walked on, crossed the lane-and-one-half wood bridge over Mill Creek that divided Small Mill from River Front Park and downtown. He walked quietly, caressing the lighter like an amulet, fingering the engraving. Things are going to be great, he thought. I'm not going to let it be otherwise.

The trees in the park were heavy with foliage, the gravel paths clean, raked smooth, the grass thick, lush, high. Wapinski crossed a path, headed north toward the Episcopal church. On an earthen mound in a circular clearing at the center of the park stood a granite obelisk. As a youth he had played on it, walked around it hundreds, maybe thousands, of times, but he had never read it. He walked to the monument's base, read, in the gray light, the first plaque: "ERECTED BY THE PEOPLE OF MILL CREEK FALLS AND HECKLEY COUNTY—1883—IN HONOR OF ALL WHO FOUGHT IN SERVICE OF THEIR COUNTRY." Eighteen eighty-three, he thought. Eighteen years after the end of the war. Took em long enough. "Eternal Vigilance Is The Price Of Liberty. BULL RUNN WILDERNESS."

Crowley, James 1 Cav June 14, '64
Hartley, Elijah....

Wapinski stopped. He counted but did not read beyond the first few names—twenty-eight. The first date struck him. One hundred and five years ago to the day. He swallowed, ran his hand through his hair, looked about. Patches of mist lay between the gravestones in the cemetery beside the church. A slight breeze brought the smell of clover and onion grass to his nose. Below the Killed list was a second, DIED OF WOUNDS. There were fourteen names. Wapinski moved to the north plaque.

On fame's eternal camping ground,
Their silent tents are spread,
And Glory guards with sacred round,
The bivouac of the dead.

REBELLION 1861–1865 AS

The fourth plaque was yet another ROLL OF HONOR—TO THOSE WHO DIED IN POW CAMPS. Wapinski counted forty-one names. Forty-one?! he thought. Forty-one, twenty-nine, fourteen. Eighty-four. God! Eighty-four dead from just Heckley County! I wouldn't have thought there were enough people in Heckley then ...

There was one additional plaque, a small one placed at the base of the obelisk. DURING WW II THE CANNONBALLS AND CANNON WERE REMOVED AND SCRAPPED FOR THE STEEL. A shiver ran up Wapinski's arms, up his neck. He did not know why.

He left the park, crossed Mill Creek Road north of the church, walked east a block on Second Street, then north on Ann Drive to Third Street. This was downtown Mill Creek Falls. Wapinski looked into the store windows. It was lighter now. Nothing stirred. No one was about. As he walked he ran the fingers of one hand along a large store window. The glass felt smooth, clean, not washed clean but unmolested, unworried clean. He could not explain that either. Again he stopped. It was light enough to see his own reflection in the pane.

At five eleven he felt neither big nor small. He felt thin. He'd lost thirty pounds in Viet Nam. His blond hair was military short and sun bleached. He thought it made him look younger than he felt. He smiled. "Hey, fucker," he whispered to his reflection, "you made it. You made it back."

It had been a long night, a long day and night, long two weeks, long year. Now the confusion of emotions and images, the tiredness and adrenaline rush, overwhelmed him, made him retreat into himself, numbed him, yet simultaneously he was alert, anxious. Among all the confusing emotions there was a drive, a motivation that had superceded all conflicting thoughts, that overrode all turmoil. It was a simple drive, not intellectual, not physical. It was the drive to get home.

Home. Not to Stacy, not to family, though they were very much a part of it, but simply home. Simply to stand on the porch, in the kitchen, in the bedroom of the house that he called home. He arched his back, flexed his neck and shoulders. Offers of regular commissions, reenlistment bonuses, the wonderful look and lure of a stewardess who he fantasized might be interested if he pursued, nothing overrode the force that had propelled him toward Mill Creek Falls. There was joy in the drive, pride in what he was, what he was bringing home. And there was paranoia and sadness. Home. He would go home and figure it all out from there. Perhaps establish a new home, perhaps with Stacy, from the base, the foundation, of what had been his home ever since he was eight.

Wapinski twisted his neck, stretched it left then right. Again he checked his reflection. The image was too faint to see details. "Good job, Wap," he whispered to the glass. The tiredness seemed to vanish, to be replaced by a momentary flash of energy exploding in his chest, from his heart. He wanted to run. His plodding changed to a quick, light step. In Viet Nam he felt he had had a responsibility to his grandfather, his mother and Stacy, owed them his return. He had seriously considered re-upping, staying in Viet Nam. Now he was certain he'd made the right choice.

On Third Street he passed Old Pete's Barbershop. The sign was down, the window hazed over with glass cleaner on the inside. Through scratches in the haze he could see the place was empty. No mirrors, no barber's chairs. Even the old linoleum had been removed. The only thing that remained was a cardboard poster that said BARBER SHOP: ASK FOR WILDROOT. He did not stop, did not wonder what had happened to old Pete who had cut his hair ever since he could remember.

Half a block up, across Boyd Drive, there was a new 7-Eleven. Lights were burning in the parking lot and inside. He approached cautiously. Two doors before the store a tabby cat, crouched on the sidewalk, startled and leapt away. Wapinski startled in response, immediately brought his attention back to the store. He stopped. The store was not yet open. There were no cars in the lot, no one to be seen through the storefront. Wapinski turned, looked over his shoulder. No one. He lightly slapped his hand to his right hip. Nothing there. He stood very still. Two blocks from his mother's house, from home, he backed up. Quickly he walked south on Boyd Drive to Second Street where Morris' Mill Creek Grocery was still dark, then east to Callars Drive and north back to Third. He glanced west toward the 7-Eleven, half a block away. Jessie Taynor, a big, heavy, mentally impaired girl who Mill Creekers thought of as their village idiot, was shaking the glass doors, banging on the jambs.

Wapinski shook his head. He turned east, looked up Third Street to where it T'd into Crooked Road. Across the intersection, behind a low hedge and two small Japanese maples, was his mother's house. It wasn't yet six o'clock.

At six, the morning of 31 May 1969, Captain Robert J. Wapinski slid down against a wall on the floor of an out-processing building at Cam Ranh Bay. He sat amongst six enlisted men. His year was over. He had arrived the night before and filled out the standard forms. Now he sat and waited for the processing to be completed. Replacement Station clerks smiled awkwardly, cynically. Another grunt officer in the wrong place, he suspected them of thinking. Wapinski couldn't give a shit. He did not care about medals, either. They had given him two Silver Stars, one for a minor operation outside of Cu Chi early in his tour and one for Dong Ap Bia, plus a Bronze Star for Go Dau Ha, an Air Medal, a CIB—that he cared about, the Combat Infantryman's Badge—and an assortment of what sailors call geedunks, candy.

He was tired. He had begun his out-processing on the 26th, six days after the final assault on Dong Ap Bia. Much has been said about American soldiers being pulled from jungle battles, flown to America, discharged, and returned home within thirty-six hours. There probably exist a few for whom these events happened so quickly; for most the process of clearing company, battalion, division, and finally country lasted days. Moreover, few—except the battle-wounded who were evacuated from country and the KIAs—were in battle their last moments in the field.

Wapinski cleared company and battalion. He visited the casualties in the field hospital from his last battle. He dragged out clearing division until the 30th, wanting to avoid waiting at Cam Ranh, wanting to spend his last energy in Viet Nam consoling and supporting the wounded men he'd fought beside. Dragging out out-processing increased the weariness still on him from the A Shau Valley operation.

Captains weren't supposed to have to wait with enlisted men but he had been with two of these six men during the past month. They were not his men. He had not commanded them, although at times he had commanded other boonie rats, grunts, but he knew two of the men and he did not want to sit alone, nor did he want to drink with the desk officers with whom he had come to the replacement center.

Wapinski had no war souvenirs that needed clearing. He had already gotten his hair cut. He did not want to talk but he wanted to listen to grunts talk. The big PX, the city atmosphere, the people milling around chattering so loudly—it was almost frightening. Why? He could not get the question out of his mind nor could he bring it into focus. Out of all the men leaving or coming or working here, he thought, these six know what it's been about. There were two or three other small groups, squads, sitting against walls, amongst two hundred or three hundred men. But, he thought, then that makes sense in a war in which eight of ten are support troops.

The more the clerks laughed, the more people milled around, the more speeches he heard from "commanders" telling them how important their job had been, how well they had served, how proud he was and they should be; the more he sat against that wall with those six, an informal patrol, perimeter, keeping others away, always one awake. For two days they sat, he would think later, without communicating. If one rose to defecate, two rose to walk his slack. If they talked, he did not remember, would never remember. They may have chatted the hours away, but he did not think so.

And then onto the buses, to the plane, segregated by rank. What happened to those six he would never know. He did not see them in Japan during the short stopover. Nor did he see them at Seattle/Tacoma or Ft. Lewis.

As the Freedom Bird touched down on 3 June small cheers sounded about the cabin. Some thought they had landed at Anchorage, expected a refueling delay before the last leg to Ft. Lewis. When the pilot announced his "Welcome home. The temperature here in Tacoma ..." the cabin erupted with applause. But the celebration was short. Everyone was tired from the flight and Seattle/Tacoma was anticlimactic. It wasn't leaving the war zone; it wasn't yet home. Further dampening spirits were two cold-turkey soldiers who had tried to make the flight without their fix. Men around them had attempted to take care of them, hold them, keep the authorities from detecting them. At first the two were restless, then buzzing, agitated, irritable, finally convulsive. A medic and doctor shot them up with sedatives. They were the first off the plane, strapped down to stretchers, carried out under MP escort.

Officers deplaned next. It was midmorning. Several small groups had gathered to greet a few of the returnees, though most men had not known exactly when they would return, had not sent word to relatives. Much of the terminal was restricted. Wapinski and a small group of officers followed a guide through the terminal toward customs and the never ending in/out processing procedures. He was dressed in a summer khaki uniform that he'd received at Cam Ranh Bay. His pant legs were bloused over jump boots, on his cap there was an airborne patch, a Screaming Eagle patch on his shoulder, a substantial patchwork of ribbons on his chest. As the returnees walked through the terminal they passed enlisted men with bare uniforms—soldiers possibly just having finished basic training. The EM stared at the returning officers singling out Wapinski. Wapinski smiled inwardly as one of them said, "Geez, look at that. And he's a captain, too." And another said, "That's a Silver Star isn't it?" And a third, "Look at his eyes, Man! I wouldn't mess with him fer nothin."

Seattle/Tacoma, buses, Ft. Lewis. For ten days Captain Robert Janos Wapinski struggled with military bureaucrats. They offered him a regular commission, they paid him, they processed form after form, and they examined him.

"Captain," an apathetic technician told him, "your ear tests indicate a loss of hearing in both ears to very low frequency sound and in your right ear a diminished capacity to hear midfrequency tones at relatively high volume."

"So what's that mean?" Wapinski asked.

"Sir"—the enlisted man stared him in the eyes, shook his head, shrugged—"it means if you sign these papers sayin it's okay, you're outa here. You're outa the Green Machine tonight. If you don't sign, we keep you here for a few weeks. Run some tests. Shit like that."

"A few weeks, Specialist?" Wapinski asked. He did not like the boy's attitude.

"Yes Sir. Then they put you before a review panel and offer you a disability. For this, maybe ten percent."


Excerpted from Carry Me Home by John M. Del Vecchio. Copyright © 1995 John M. Del Vecchio. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 26, 2007

    An Amazing read

    Quite simply, one of the finest books I have ever read. If you wish to read a defining story of the entire Vietnam experience this is the book.

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