The war in Vietnam was the war of my generation. In 1969, I turned 18. I’ve been told it was the year of the heaviest draft for Vietnam. All of us were draft classification 1A if we were able-bodied. The 2S student deferment was canceled. So, even though I enrolled in college in the fall of 1969, I was still 1A. The Selective Service Administration conducted a lottery based on our birthdays. If I remember correctly, my birthday was number 287 out of 365. I did not get drafted. Others went. I stayed in college and eventually graduated with a degree in architecture.
A lot of the guys that came back had issues. That’s understandable. War is hell. Add to that the drugs that rampaged through the ranks and the “welcome” they received returning home and it’s little wonder that they were messed up. One of them from my hometown was a tunnel rat. He was more than messed up. He paid for his service to our country with his sanity. To this day, he is institutionalized.
So, a big reason for the tunnel rat theme was to have the opportunity to say a word of appreciation to the guys in my generation who went to Vietnam and fought so I didn’t have to. Most of them didn’t ask to be sent to Vietnam, they were drafted and had to go whether they wanted to or not. Most of us, I think, were very patriotic. We probably would have volunteered if we thought our country needed us. But we also had very little trust in the government. We called it “big brother”. Given the breathtaking incompetence they and our military leadership displayed in the conduct of the war in Vietnam, I would say our mistrust was justified. They lost that war, not the soldiers. But, the soldiers paid the price.
Later on, when I began to be interested in writing, I had something similar to this story in the back of my mind. Eventually, my writing improved and I began to think about it more seriously. In 2013, my oldest son and I made a trip to Israel. We visited the places mentioned in the book and this story began to gel. It would still be three years before I wrote it, but the overall plot was solid in my mind before I began writing. The hero of the story would be a soldier from Vietnam. He would be one of the toughest of the tough. As the older Israeli detective in the story said, “The emir damn sure picked on the wrong guy.”