Vietnam was often called a "teenager's war." The average age was 19.2 so, in the main, the War was fought by 17, 18, 19 and 20 year olds barely out of high school and often without the income, intelligence, inclination, or focus to attend college. For everyone, the draft loomed large in their futures, you could choose your branch of service or let the draft decide for you.
Fresh from sock hops and college freshman mixers, young men found themselves in a fight for their lives, from the Delta to the DMZ, on animal trails, numbered hills and in remote jungle outposts. Teenagers witnessed the unspeakable carnage of war while trying to understand the collision of emotions and insult to the senses that is combat. Thousands died there and many thousands more were wounded and maimed. So the hell of combat was replaced by the painful recovery in a military hospital. For Eilert and thousands of others it was Great Lakes Naval Hospital at Great Lakes, Illinois.
For Self and Country follows Eilert's many months of recovery along with the stories of the brave young men who surrounded him and sustained with friendship and humour. This is a story of family, young love, and the magnificent care administered by the Navy doctors, nurses and revered Corpsmen. Great Lakes was a place of great pain but also recovery, not just from the physical damage sustained but also the unseen emotional injuries soldiers endured but rarely talked about. Eilert recounts how most soldiers had no expectation of surviving Vietnam but found adapting back to civilian life an even harder challenge.
About the Author
Rick Eilert, born on 4 June 1947, enlisted in USMC in March 1967. In November 1967, Eilert sustained serious injuries and transported to Great Lakes Naval Hospital for recovery.
Rick Eilert, born on 4 June 1947, enlisted in the Marine Corps in March 1967. In November 1967, Eilert sustained serious injuries and was transported to Great Lakes Naval Hospital for treatment and rehabilitation. After retiring from the Marine Corps, Eilert married his wife, Cheryl, and went to work for Union Oil Company. He left Union Oil in 1981 to join the Vietnam Veterans Leadership Program, President Reagan's bipartisan initiative to improve the lives of Vietnam Veterans. In 1995, after years of surgeries due to the wounds Eilert sustained in combat, he retired, but still spends time advocating for veterans.