PACHYDERMS: One Soldier’s Experience of the Vietnam War

By Danny Buoy
Link to Pachyderms updated

This book was updated and edited and reads well. The story is truly a diamond

Review by Ron Camarda MWSA
January 26, 2012

Life after War

Pachyderms is a diamond in the rough. The book reads like a screenplay of a movie with substance…but better. The characters come alive, albeit complex, simple and surprisingly likeable, through the mind of a very gifted and clever author. St. Augustine’s Confessions came to my mind as I finished this book. Danny looks deeply into his own heart and soul and recognizes his own faulty judgments and foibles. The book is raw and demands that you feel, think about, experience and observe the fears, terror, boredom and blunt force of an illogical war. This is accomplished through the observations of a young new recruit who was overwhelmed by the inevitable deployment to an unpopular, seductive and perplexing Vietnam War. It was a war that blasted the body, mind and soul of the people who endured it.

If you dare to take the journey of this book, you will require a good dose of courage for the self-reflection. The author forced this Iraq combat veteran chaplain to re-evaluate some of my false assumptions of Vietnam Veterans and all combat veterans for that matter. Humbling.

To me, the book is more than real. It explores the depths of the heart and soul of young unsuspecting kids thrown into a caldron of invisible enemies, confusion, lust, virtue, immorality, poor leadership, superb leadership, terror, friendship, passion, fickleness, greed, death, red tape, the Army way, and love.

The story is compelling and resonates with life on many levels and dimensions. The book is connected and comes full circle in most cases. Some of the “unresolved” issues are just that, irresolvable. How could anyone understand suicide, returning soldiers treated like criminals, inept commanders receiving awards for causing so much misery, or a scared friend not saying goodbye?

The story, which more resembles a memoir, is complicated. Vietnam Veterans are complicated. This story really got under my skin. Any American History teacher or scholar would discover that Pachyderms is a hidden treasure, to use a Scriptural analogy. The story has the power that could assist healing in combat veterans.

Before I read about the deployment of PFC Cooby, the soldier narrating, I was so intolerant and skeptical of Vietnam vets in general. I was blind to the plight of the enlisted. When I read in shock about the R & R trysts of the soldiers to places like Hong Kong and Penang with the debauchery, lust and plain bad behavior, I was really angry with the soldiers. But I still really loved them unconditionally and I understood that they were not thinking with their brains, but only with their broken hearts. I forgave them and read on, as difficult as it was.

I am filled with gratitude for these men who suffered and were tormented by even their own family members upon return. There is much dissimilarity in the return of troops from the war in Vietnam compared to the recent wars. I am not sure I would have survived it. In war, “Charlie” (code for the silent and invisible enemy), can never hurt us other than physically. Only friends and loved ones can inflict the wounds of the heart and soul. And that is very clear to me, what all of us Americans did to our returning Vietnam Veterans. For some of them, death was a more humane or compassionate outcome compared to returning to a hostile America of the time. It just is. Vietnam Vets are not innocent nor without sins, but they do deserve to be forgiven for their own sins. They do not need to take the responsibility of those politicians and lousy leaders who sent them there without true support for the troops. My own sins are plethora. Who are we to judge?

Danny, like his Sergeant who went from feared boss to endearing friend, mentored me through this journey. Just as his former Sergeant corrected Danny Coobat, when he failed to mentor his replacement, in a very subtle way, Danny encourages those who dare to listen to his story.

‘The reader’ has never been in a bunker during incoming mortar, has never pulled a burned body from a Chinook, didn’t return from R & R only to find his buddies rotated, and has yet to be hailed by Rule number four. As far as I know, ‘the reader’ did not lose his first love Madilla, and only has one talent like you in July 1966. “Live and let live.”

At 17 years old, I entered into the overwhelming world of the military complex. Danny touches on many of those highs, middles and lows in navigating the torturous journey of becoming, not just a modern warrior…but also a decent and mature human being capable of honest and humbling self-criticism. He also shares with us the ability to love and to be loved.

The story is ordinary, gut wrenching, extremely thought provoking, and profound.

Thank you Sergeant Danny Coobat (and your friends both living and dead).
Welcome Home!

“Not good enough, Danny.” I wish I could embrace you, Sergeant Coobat, in a long hug,
engrossed in a feeling ‘brothers in war’ share. My eyes are too wet to confirm seeing a tear in yours, but my ears heard your voice crack when you said, “Good-bye Reader.”

6 thoughts on “PACHYDERMS: One Soldier’s Experience of the Vietnam War

  1. Ron Camarda

    I couldn’t dare to believe I could write, as an ‘author.’ After an uphill
    battle, to say the least, I became ‘published.’
    At first I was lured into thinking about fame and title, booksignings,
    possible return upon invested time. None of
    my wild expectations, or dreams, happened, and I was left to think. I hoped,
    no prayed, that one day, someone,
    who I did not know, somewhere, would get a copy of my book and review it. I
    expected the worst; what I received was the best.

    I would embrace you in a long hug, and believe me, your shoulders would be
    wet from my own tears. Thank you
    for giving me the privilege to say, “I’m an author,” regardless of who reads
    or doesn’t read about that ‘war.’

    Danny Kubat
    PACHYDERMS
    Danny Buoy

    • Father Ron

      I have read this review so many times, yet each time I do, an inner sense
      seems to be whispering into my mind. Could it be that you are the actual
      representation of the Holy Spirit, in flesh and blood, not GHOST-LIKE at
      all, over and over, repeating, again and again, “Live and let live?”

      I always believed I had a Guardian Angel. Now I know his name:

      RON MOSES CAMARDA.

      I have been blessed.

      Danny Buoy
      Danny Kubat

      • Beloved Danny,

        It is the Jesus in the Eucharist within me.

        Didn’t Cope say, “Live and let live.”?
        God bless Sgt Cope’s soul. He must be totally healed and in the arms of Jesus.

        What you did for me Danny is to help me, Ron, to look deeper and realize what gifts I have, and then to make sure I use them.
        I am merely an instrument of God’s peace. You are too!

        When I go to the Mid Winter Conference for the VFW in Florida next week, I have a better purpose. There are many Danny’s, Timmy’s, Frock’s and Cope’s and hurting vets out there. Jesus is the healer. Without the authority of Jesus, we are nothing.

        Remember that Moses was the meekest person in the world. I just rejoice that God uses me.

        Keep smiling Danny. I was called simply to witness to Edward’s tear…and Cooby’s tear…or tears.

        Love, joy, peace,
        Father Ron

  2. When combat veterans share their stories, the world becomes more livable, more worth it. The comments back and forth with Danny and me show how important it is for us to listen just a little bit better. Peace and love and joy. Ron

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