Cat Lo is a story of young men who volunteer for Swift Boats in Vietnam and about war’s indelible lesson for those who survive: life is too precious to waste.
Thirty-six years after Vietnam, Virg Erwin sits with a disfigured marine convalescing from Iraq and asks, “Do you want to talk about it?” It is a question no one has ever asked Erwin. “It was hard to know who were civilians—who were bad guys,” the marine says as he describes being caught in a violent ambush.
Virgil Erwin enlisted in the Naval Reserve in 1963, received his Bachelors Degree from Western State College in Colorado and commissioned an ensign in 1966 after graduating from the Naval Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island. He served his first two years of active duty aboard a destroyer, the USS Berry (DD 858).
A man comes back into my life without invitation, without warning, without the merest hint I would ever hear his voice again.
“This is Roy Hoffmann,” he says over the phone. I feel shock, the kind of shock that takes away your breath, makes you stop everything you are doing and focus attention only on the immediate.
“Yes sir?” I respond, as if I’m still under his power to command. My body stiffens as if I am still on a Swift Boat in 1969, on a river, answering his call, ready for orders.
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