My Dying Breath is a story
about patriotism and brotherhood during the Vietnam War.
In the summer of 1969, President Nixon agreed
to begin the Vietnamization of the war. Before the withdrawal of U.S.
forces could begin, however, the Third Battalion, Ninth Marines - the
first American unit to set foot on Vietnam soil in 1965 - was thrust
into the cauldron one last time.
My Dying Breath is based on the events
surrounding the final major operation (Utah Mesa) conducted by the Third
Marine Division in the northern I Corps of South Vietnam.
My Dying Breath is primarily the tale of Tuck
Richard (REE-shard), a gravely wounded Marine, who looks back on the
journey that has whisked him and his friends from the Cajun country of
south Louisiana, hardened them through the rigors of training and flung
them into the jungles of 1969 Vietnam. Struggling to survive the
elements and a wily enemy, Tuck, Donnie-Boy Hebert (AY-bear) and Johnny
Robert (ROH-bear) drive unwittingly toward a tragic showdown with the
infamous Col. Pham Van Bui. This NVA super-patriot, however, must
survive his own enemies from within - his teen-aged nephew, Pham Thuc
Trai, who seeks revenge, and a veteran Eurasian, Louie, who is trying to
escape the futility of war.
The novel's primary viewpoint springs from the
main character, na´ve Tuck, and his relationship with his life-long
friend, the seemingly indestructible Donnie-Boy. Their Cajun friend, the
huge and unflappable Johnny, and an Alabama black man, Danny Jackson,
strike a special bond that underscores the interracial bonding that war
can forge. Together, these four men form the nucleus of the story.
Tuck's story also involves a romantic
relationship with Anna Carlisle. Through letters to his parents and
Anna, Tuck reveals his transition from boy to Marine to hardened soldier
and back to forlorn youth.
The tale of Pham Thuc Trai portrays a conflicted
Vietnamese teen seeking answers and closure to the horrible events in
his life. Who is responsible for the slaughter of his family? The NVA
and his uncle? Or, the Americans? For help, he turns to Louie, the
50-year-old Eurasian, who also has a hidden reason to lash out.
My Dying Breath does not focus on drug
scandals, politics or the other darker elements that too often
overshadow the patriotism and heroism of the American fighting man in
Vietnam. It includes a powerful religious undercurrent, which lends to
the name of the novel - the final line of a prayer to St. Joseph the
Protector "... and ask Him to return the kiss when I draw my dying