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Fire in the Hole: A Mortarman in Vietnam Paperback – January 29, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Orange served with the Marines in Vietnam (1969-70). After his discharge, Orange witnessed the events precedent to the shootings at Kent State University and participated in the peace movement until the Wars end in 1975. Currently, he is a senior planner with the Minneapolis Planning Department. He and his wife, Cynthia, live in St. Paul. Their daughter, Jessica, is a graduate student at Mills College in Oakland.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 244 pages
  • Publisher: iUniverse (January 29, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0595160034
  • ISBN-13: 978-0595160037
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,683,084 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Who am I--in a page? More than the mere sum of my experiences? You are probably reading this because of an interest in my book, "Fire in the Hole: A Mortarman in Vietnam," so I'll start there. My book is not a typical war story. While I do describe in detail the carnage and insanity of war, it's more a story of transformation of character--my character--as I came of age in the 60s. Vietnam was my rite of passage as I morphed in a few short years from Catholic seminarian to Marine to sailor in the Merchant Marines to college student to anti-war protestor. After surviving a year of combat and the loss of fellow Marines, I came home in 1970 to another battlefield-Kent State University, where the Ohio National Guard gunned down my classmates. The next year, I was in front of the US Capitol when fellow veterans, led by now-Senator John Kerry, protested against the war they fought by throwing their medals over the Capitol fence. I joined them on the spot.

My book is a deep reflection on my journey of tumult and tears. This is what my friend, the late Senator Paul Wellstone wrote about my book: "Orange has written a powerful book. . . . He has crafted a morally sensitive story that begs for discussion and demands that we remember those whom we sent to fight the Vietnam War--a war that continues to define the next generation."

In 1973, I married the love of my life, Cynthia, the woman I had met at the top of the Empire State Building five years earlier, and we raised our daughter, Jessica, with great love. My education involved earning a B.A. at Kent State and an M.A. in city planning at Minnesota State University, Mankato, but my most important classrooms were my thirty odd jobs that included auto assembly lines, railroad and home construction, roofing in the French Quarter, and driving school buses. Finally, I got my dream job as a city planner for the City of Minneapolis. Thirty-one years later, I retired from that fulfilling career to form my own consulting company with a focus on environmental planning, and to strive for the most honorable of all jobs--teacher. I now teach classes on the Vietnam War and sustainable city planning.

I'm still sufficiently fit to enjoy biking, cross-country skiing, yoga, and hiking. Fantasies of learning to paint and being in a rock band entice me still. Only problem is my voice can sound like a shaken box of rocks with an equally limited range, my guitar and keyboard skills are stuck at the apprentice stage, and my brain lacks the RAM to simultaneously play the instrument and remember the music. This would limit my ability to gyrate on stage, as would my arthritis.

Cynthia and I are embraced and loved by our incredibly supportive community of family and friends. We collaborate on each other's involvements, especially writing projects (visit her "Author's Profile" and read about her most recent, award-winning book, "Shock Wave: A Practical Guide to Living with a loved One's PTSD," http://www.amazon.com/Cynthia-Orange/e/B001HD106C/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1271520099&sr=1-2-ent).

Thirty-three years after Vietnam, I finally mustered the courage to face the demons that lurked inside me all those years and get the help I needed. I completed nine months of therapy for my case of combat-related PTSD. As part of my ongoing recovery (there is no cure), I stay very involved with Veterans for Peace and befriend fellow vets with PTSD.

This is the most fulfilling period of our lives together, due primarily to being grandparents for Oskar and Quinlan, our identical twin grandsons who were born in 2006. They are joy personified.

So who are you--in a page? Try it.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Dennis E. Orange on April 10, 2001
Format: Paperback
My brother has finally made his peace, his absolution about a time in his life where his horrid memories remained locked tighter than a mummy's tomb. The tomb has been opened as Orange takes readers from Marine Boot Camp to the jungles of VietNam on a journey so explicitly unravelled you'd think you were with him every anxiouss step of the way.
Orange's account is vidid, clear and noncondescending--a profile of a young man experiencing his rights of passage through a hellacioius war that nobody wanted to be in and everybody wanted to be out of.
From passing the poop at Parris Island, South Carolina to passing the mortars at Que Son Mountain, Orange shares his tears and fears, love and losts and whole lot in between his journey that started as a middle class wanna-be priest from the suburbs to a mortar man in Nam.
It's a cover-to-cover, one-sit read----and that's not because he's my borther. He did a damn good job!
Dennis E. Orange, Brother, Denny at Kent State University, BA, Journalism, 1972
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By "bbb@pro-ns.net" on June 27, 2001
Format: Paperback
A lot continues to be written about the pros and cons of America;s most confusing overseas conflict. As Myra McPhearson pointed out in her seminal `Long Time Passing', none of us were untouched. Particularly for those of us who enetered our adulthood during those times this is painfully true. Mike Orange's book touched me to the core and helped me peel away another layer of pain from that time. Courage to `tell it like it was' with no varnish, an individual's soul searching viewpoint and the honesty of a personal spiritual quest is rare in literature about such experiences. Mike spares no one, especially himself, yet levies no charges. His conclusions are about his own life and as the reader, I'm allowed to bring the insights to my own moral cases. For those of us who are the `aging warriors' from that time, Mike has shared a gift from a soldier's heart. I'm grateful to him for his honesty, his courage and for the insight he lends to partiotism. I was fortunate to have him sign my copy of his book at a reading. He wrote simply, `Thank you for your service to our country'. That was the first time I have heard that since I came home from the Army in 1969.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By John Wells on August 18, 2001
Format: Paperback
J. Michael Orange takes us back in time. It is a trip meticulously detailed, yet filled with raw emotion and wonder.
Orange brought me back to Madison, Wisconsin, 1969, my sophomore year in college. I had just gotten notice of my 1A Draft Status. And so for a time I faced what Michael Orange faced. The difference, thanks to the lottery and a high draft number, was that I did not have to choose as Orange did.
But this 19-year old kid made a pre-emptive choice by volunteering for the Marines and a stint in the war. It was behavior that ran in the family. We witness the young mortarman's strange mixture of repulsion and exhilaration as he discovers the terrors of war. He is at once detached and trapped in wonder. At times, you feel like a John Malkovich junkie, taken into a mind fighting wars on many fronts at once. War with his girl's parents and with his own. War with his priest. And, most of all, war with himself. Joining the Vietnam War at its peak was Orange's greatest battlefield manuever, but he got more than he bargained for.
Just staying alive is the real mission and Orange found this stark fact didn't change when he came home. What struck me most was an encounter in a junior high class Michael spoke to 15 years after returning home. What happens in that classroom tells a lasting story of a war those who lived it can never seem to forget. And, thanks to Michael Orange, we all can begin to understand why.
J. Michael Orange has made a work of stunning honesty. This book is well worth the read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Vince on April 24, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is a compelling memoir. Orange shares deeply personal experiences at war in Vietnam, at Kent State, and at home as a veteran, friend, and father. In the process, we come to see the familiar in his often painful journey. Orange's shift from deeply Catholic and patriotic beliefs to disillusionment and ultimately joy and faith in life reflects the experiences many of us went through (or still struggle with), in one way or another. I think this book will appeal to vets, their friends, spouses and children, who will learn much about themselves and the dramatic changes in American culture wrought during the 60s and 70s--as they relive one man's experiences, they'll view their own in a new light. A good read for students of American culture. The chapters move quickly, each one as a standalone story, building to a satisfying conclusion that enriches our appreciation of the impact of Viet Nam on our lives.
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