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When I Was a Young Man: A Memoir by Bob Kerrey


Rating: (Highly Recommended)


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Former Nebraska governor and senator Bob Kerrey discloses key events of his formative years in a memoir titled When I Was a Young Man. The security and comfort of life in the heartland changes after Kerrey trains as a Navy SEAL and finds himself in Vietnam, learning how the country he loved betrayed him and others. One of Kerrey’s actions during that war might be construed as a war crime, and his recollection of what happened appears in this book. Kerrey lost a leg in the war, and came home embittered. He received a Medal of Honor he thought he didn’t deserve from a President, Richard Nixon, who he came to despise, especially because Kerrey trusted Nixon and voted for him. When I Was a Young Man tells a story of pain and struggle with seriousness and clarity. Here’s a short excerpt about letters to his parents:

“Both letters were full of lies. My injury was worse. I didn’t have any war stories worth telling. My fifty-plus days in Vietnam seemed to me to be at best a waste of time. I didn’t hate to be leaving the platoon, and I was happy to be going home even in the condition I was in. I had convinced myself that my injury was retribution, punishment, rather than a combat wound from heroic duty. My spirit was in darkness. Like Jonah, the whale had swallowed me; unlike him, I believed I would spend eternity inside the belly of the beast.”

When I Was a Young Man is the best memoir I’ve read in a long time. When you read this book, you’ll understand why and how a patriotic, loyal Republican, became a Democrat, and how a war changed the attitudes of a generation about their government and its policies.

Steve Hopkins, June 12, 2002


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The recommendation rating for this book appeared in the July 2002 issue of Executive Times


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