Although these poems can be looked at as a military war story, there are no battles or heroes or military campaigns. Rather, these poems will show life in a small army base in Korea during a very anxious and confusing time, always with the constant possibility of a full scale war.
That year was filled with news items about the two Koreas with the capture of the USS Pueblo by the North Koreans, her crew paraded through the news media, accused of being spies, then the killing of Robert Kennedy, and the killing of Martin Luther King. Also during that period, a team of 12 North Korean assassins got to within a few blocks of the South Korean presidential palace before being stopped.
It was my intention in writing these poems that the reader could come away with a better understanding of what life was like in 1968 at an army base in South Korea. It was also my intention in writing these poems that I would purge the phantoms that have been dwelling inside me since living "One Year There".
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Reviewed by Ray Simmons for Readers' Favorite I’m not an expert on poetry though I can appreciate it as much as the next guy. I picked One Year There: One Soldier's Year in South Korea During 1968 to read because I spent time in South Korea and I wanted to see how Robert Denis Holewinski’s tour in 1968 compared to mine in 1984. There were many things different, but I was struck by how many things were the same or very similar. The year 1968 was a turbulent one for American politics and I was struck by the different perspectives that black and white soldiers took on the assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. Also in that year, a group of North Korean infiltrators made it to the South Korean capital and nearly killed South Korean President Park Chung Hee. This was the stuff of legend by the time I arrived in Korea and President Park’s daughter is the President of South Korea today. History aside, I found One Year There to be powerful. It evoked memories of a time and place long gone to me, but never forgotten. It evoked memories of friends that remain closer to me than my blood brother. I’m no poet. Neither am I an expert on poetry, but it seems to me that this is what poetry is supposed to do; evoke strong feelings, trigger those memories of times when we felt more alive than others. I encourage everyone to read this book, but especially those who served in Korea or know someone who did. I think you will learn a lot about what they went through.
This poetic-style memoir is a powerful rendition of a man's experience with war, but not your typical front line soldier. This story isn't about battle. Instead, the reader is lead through a nerve-wracking journey of military orders, headlines, and the seemingly interminable waiting of men in the background of the fight. From the repeating line "will not be coming back alive," introduced in Chapter 1, I was tainted with the feeling of foreboding felt by the narrator. The work is endowed with powerful imagery such as "...small shelters/ set among frozen rice paddies/ built of whatever material was available..." and "...where we are new extra without names..." There are few wasted words in the work. As poems, each chapter can stand on its own, telling a complete story about people encountered and single events throughout the year. Together, they become a compelling work of literature. 5 Stars for a well-written study of a soldier's life. Anyone interested in military stories enjoy reading this. *I received a copy of this work in exchange for an honest review.