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Think Snow Paperback – June 23, 2014
About the Author
Ken Kinsler was born and raised in snowy Buffalo, New York. At the age of 26, his career as a sheet metal worker was interrupted by a draft notice from the US Army. Like thousands of other men, Ken found his life turned upside down and forever changed by an untimely and uninvited trip to Vietnam. The hardships he experienced and the friendships he formed during his tour of duty in a foreign war would forever change his life and his view of the world. His “return to normalcy” yielded a 38 year long marriage, two wonderful children and grandchildren. Like many of his comrades in the war, Ken harbored thoughts and feelings from 1968, but chose to keep them to himself. Later in life, Ken became a widower and an empty-nester. His enjoyment of retirement and his life in sunny Ormond Beach, Florida was trumped by the ever present thoughts of Vietnam. No amount of counseling, introspective thought or rationalization could quell the firefight that was still raging inside him, 40 years after the fact. His pent-up emotions ultimately became the fuel and fodder for writing and publishing his first book about his Vietnam experience. It is his hope that this book will be a “helping hand” that will land in the hands of soldiers who are about to deploy – or veterans who are grappling with the same demons that consumed him for over four decades.
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Vietnam War memoirs tell us that decades of learning about life were compacted into one year, or into one month, or one week, or one day of combat—maybe even a few hours.
Kenneth Kinsler learned his life's lesson in his first firefight. After the NVA killed his squad's point man and Kinsler dragged the bloody body out of the line of fire, Kinsler reached his decision time: kill anything that moved. His mind grew blind to everything except survival.
Kinsler needed the next forty years to understand that a man could live by a calmer philosophy, a learning process that he describes in Think Snow.
An unwilling 1967 draftee at the age of twenty-six, after finishing AIT, he sold his car and "gave everything else away." (Been there, done that—subliminal death wish.) Anyhow, Kinsler made it to Vietnam in time for the 1968 Tet Offensive.
His favorite topic, which he usually approaches head-on but sometimes meanders around, is the many aspects of killing. Discourses on death complement the topic. He views the subjects from the highly-personalized perspective of a foot soldier who is not in charge of anything other than saving himself. Concurrent with these discussions, he lauds the NVA's leadership at the expense of American officers, mainly by comparing battlefield training to West Point classroom training.
Occasionally, the book's narrative borders on schizophrenia. At one point, in the space of four pages, Kinsler talks about kicking in doors, an unwinnable war, tank support, Charles de Gaulle, the NVA's killing of civilians, finding a "good old fashioned liquor store," and a fellow soldier that was a virgin. On his first sexual encounter, the virgin caught something that had not yet been given a name and "They shipped him to the Philippines and [he] was not allowed to return home for the rest of his life." Two paragraphs later, Kinsler says, "A good joint made life easier to understand."
He stopped smoking dope immediately after failing to find his M16 while under attack.
The guy tells stories on himself and you have to admire him for it.
Passages in which his mentality reverts to that of a man under extreme stress are revelatory. In his therapy-like, stream-of-consciousness outbursts, fact and fiction (such as the virgin's fate) blur and show a mind in utter turmoil.
Then, out of nowhere, Kinsler relates a complex story like the chapter called "Captain Napoleon" and puts the entire world into perfect focus.
The shrink that helped Kinsler whip his PTSD deserves a medal.
Over the years of his recovery, Kinsler developed a wide-angle philosophy of life. He references quotations ranging from Socrates to Cool Hand Luke, including words from Cicero, Robert Frost, and Simon and Garfunkle, among others. His writing style is conversational, stretching the parameters of similes and metaphors. He speaks clearly enough on his own, so skip the Forward and Preface or read them last if you must.
Kinsler never exactly spells out where and for whom he soldiered. Along the way he mentions Pleiku and the 4th Infantry. He also talks about Hill 684, the city of Kontum, and spending much time in the northern part of II Corps near Cambodia.
Twenty pages of photographs end the book.
I'm not saying anything more about Think Snow because it is a roller-coaster ride that readers should experience for themselves. But the ride is worth the price of the ticket. Kinsler poured whatever remained of his post-Vietnam soul into his writing.
—Henry Zeybel, Lt. Col., USAF (Retired)