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Making Payments: An American Indian, the Vietnam War, Laos, and the Hmong
by John Oventile

Published: 2017-09-11
Paperback : 355 pages
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During the Vietnam War, in one of the thousands of unrecorded small unit engagements, the “fog of war” temporarily obscured reality and a uniquely prepared man was thrust back into the history of his ancestors. But this wasn’t science fiction; this was a journey of harsh reality, pain, ...
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Introduction

During the Vietnam War, in one of the thousands of unrecorded small unit engagements, the “fog of war” temporarily obscured reality and a uniquely prepared man was thrust back into the history of his ancestors. But this wasn’t science fiction; this was a journey of harsh reality, pain, hunger, danger, and death. George Downwind, an American Indian, an Ojibwa, grew up in the isolation of a twentieth-century reservation. But instead of succumbing to the alcoholism and hopelessness around him, his outlook was shaped by the myths and legends of an earlier time. From countless stories told by old men around campfires, he thought he knew what life had been like for his people in the time before the white man. In his imagination he lived this life, passed the tests of manhood and tasted battle. When the end came he experienced the depression of watching his people be defeated and disintegrate as a culture. To the west of the battlefields in Vietnam during the 1960’s and early ‘70’s, across the border in the neutral country of Laos, another war raged. This war was seldom mentioned in the news and when it was, it was referred to as the “Secret War.” Few people heard of it and fewer still knew who was doing the fighting. It was the Hmong, a minority ethnic group who had survived for a thousand years in their mountain sanctuaries through slash and burn agriculture, and a resolute adherence to their culture. They valued freedom, family, and wanted nothing more than to be left alone. They were a primitive people without a written language living in a primitive land. And, just as with the American Indian tribes, each of the Hmong clans had their own approach to survival. Some fought, some forged alliances, and other just tried to say out of the way. Grievously injured in the chaos of battle in Vietnam in the early days of that war, George Downwind, a private in the U.S. Army, was rescued from certain death and nursed back to heath by one of these clans. During his time with them he experienced the full brutality of the life they lived—the same life that had been the fate of his ancestors. When it came time for him to leave Laos and the Hmong, he had a debt to repay. He owed his life to the Hmong and vowed to make the payments.

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