Valley of The Purple Hearts

The 101st Airborne West of Hue after The 1968 Tet Offensive

The story of an infantry squad in Vietnam.

When eighteen-year old Buck Marino first meets Rolley Zwyrkowski, he little realizes the young sergeant and their next year together in Vietnam will change his life forever. The months following the 1968 Tet Offensive and the battles of the 101st Airborne between Hue and Phu Bai, and westward into the A Shau Valley, provide the backdrop for a story about boys becoming men in a paradoxical war. And when he meets Army nurse Janie Jorgensen, Buck believes he has found the love of his life only to crash into the reality that the war has left his heart and soul lost in a futureless void.

BIB

Winner of the 2017 Best Indie Book Award for Mainstream Literary Fiction, Valley of The Purple Hearts follows the men of Second Squad through the shadowy jungles and mountains of I-Corps as they fight main force Viet Cong and NVA regulars. With constant enemy contact, booby-traps, sniper fire and all-out firefights, Buck and his buddies follow their squad leader, Rolley, who puts the lives of his men first. As Rolley faces the young and inept Lieutenant Mallon, Buck realizes his squad leader is becoming jaded and has lost his sense of humor. When the young sergeant sacrifices his safety for that of his men, Buck must step up to face Mallon in the heat of battle, and try to save his friend.

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Part Two: Wyoming and Montana Road Trip-Grizzly, Bison and Moose

Grizzly, Bison and Moose…IT’S NOT A PETTING ZOO PEOPLE!!

He is not a Grizzly, but this is how a Bison looked after a bunch of European tourists bailed out of their vehicle and ran to within 15 yards of him where they began taking selfies–I kid you not!! Janet and I were on the opposite side of the highway (The Bear Tooth Highway north of Yellowstone) photographing him with a telephoto lens. Occasional snowflakes were darting about (the real ones) when these snowflakes began posing for their photos.

A Very Agitated Tetonka

They seemed to think this giant beast was as docile as a cow and they remained otherwise oblivious to the signs of agitation he was exhibiting. Thankfully, before he could decide if he wanted to gore a few of them, they loaded up and left. This was how he appeared shortly afterward. Anyone who knows wildlife can look at this critter and tell he was definitely at the limit of his patience.

 

Then there was the big grizzly out in the Shoshone River Valley west of Cody, Wyoming. He was on the opposite side of the river, about a hundred yards off the highway, guarding the remains of an apparent kill. Several people had stopped to take photos, and everyone remained on the highway near their vehicles–at least until the crowd grew. Then, as you might have figured, the 3% crowd showed up. That’s the ones lacking common sense. Two women and a man left the roadside and walked down closer to the river with their cell phone cameras. They approached to within fifty yards of the big Griz as many of us on the highway could only mutter “Oh $h%t!”

Big Grizzly, Shoshone River Valley

As you can see from my photo, he became focused on them. Grizzlies don’t look it, but they are agile as cats and incredibly fast. He could have sprinted across the river and reached them in as little as three or four seconds. Thankfully, they got their photos and returned to the shoulder of the road without incident. A few minutes later the bear left his kill and came down to the river, about 80 yards away, where he got a drink of water.

Griz Getting a Drink From the Shoshone River

 

The three most aggressive animals in this part of the country (and the ones responsible for the majority of attacks on humans) are the Grizzly, the Moose, and the Bison. Because they have often become accustomed to the presence of humans they do not run away and often appear deceptively at ease, which leads tourists to believe they are docile and relatively harmless. Nothing could be farther from the truth, and any of the three can kill a human in seconds.

We caught this bull moose crossing a sage flat early one morning near Moose Junction (go figure) in the Grand Teton National Park. Thankfully, none of the 3% crowd were around.

Moose, Teton National Park

Again, my 400mm telephoto lens brings him in close, while Janet and I remain nearly a hundred yards away.

I will leave you with the shot below, as a means of explaining how we get these photographs. During our travels, we ran into more than a few tourists who said, “We’ve seen very few animals. Where are you seeing them?” A few questions usually reveal they have risen a little after sunrise, had a nice breakfast at the restaurant and arrived at the park sometime around mid-morning–the time when most critters are bedding down for the day. As the photo below reveals and I explained to the tourists, “It’s not a matter of ‘where,’ but a matter of ‘when.’ You must get up before dawn if you want to see more wildlife.”  By the way: My next blog will announce the publication of my next book: Rawlins, No Longer Young, a historical western. https://rickdestefanis.com/rawlins-historical-fiction-western-book/

Tetons Before Sunrise

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