Reviewed by Chris Spencer
Touch Not This Wall: A Novel of the Vietnam War……..and After
Touch Not This Wall is a novel that is more than anything else about friendship and love. But not just any friendship or love, but a friendship and love between two Marines born from the fiery furnace of combat in Vietnam. I never served in combat but I have known enough combat vets to know that a friendship formed in war is in many ways closer than that of a man and his wife or a man and his child.
It is also a novel about loss, for only one of these men came home from their time in Hell. And the survivor felt this loss as deep as any can be felt. But his friend did not disappear from his life completely. He became like a guardian angel that he could talk to like he was still there. And as long as this man still held his dead friend in his heart, he was still there for him.
It is also a novel about the confusion, anger and chaos experienced by the survivor when he came back to The World. A place that he and his friend often talked about and made plans for their futures, but was nothing like the place they had left when they went to war and when he returned. But in the end their came a healing, a forgiveness, an understanding, a peace of mind.
Harley Melton, the author, served as a helicopter door gunner in Vietnam with HMM-164 in 1967 and HMM-265 in 1969. So I would say he knows first hand what he writes about.
I would recommend this book to anyone but especially to Vietnam combat vets, for I'm sure many of them have had the same experiences. It will be a very difficult book for you to read because of the emotions it will bring to the surface. It was difficult for me to read and I'm not a combat vet. But I think it would be a healing process for you to read this book. The author himself explains it better than I can.
He says, " So if you are like me and once had a friendship born of combat that you have not shared with your wife, your children, or your family and friends, do so and do it soon, while you still can. Gather your children, your family, friends and lovers about you and tell them what it was like to have this man as your friend. Tell them what it meant to you then, what it means to you and what it now means to them, to share through the telling your experiencing such a deep love for another man.
On some spring or early autumn evening call them together, and take them outside with you. And finally, when the darkness is deep enough to hide your tears, and the tree frogs and the cricket songs are loud enough to cover the duskiness in your voice, say to them, "Let me tell you a story. The story of a man I once knew and whose life with me I will never forget. A man who will forever be the one about whom I say, as the McClaren's Scottish grandmother was fond of repeating, "Tis well and glad I am, that I knew ye."