Loren W. Christensen
© Copyright 2017
When I graduated High School in June of 1974 I was reluctantly headed into an unpopular war – forced into the breech by the Draft. When the draft was discontinued, I considered myself one of the lucky one’s. I’d found myself aligned with many of my age group that didn’t understand the ‘conflict’ in Viet Nam, and disagreed with the government on more than a few things we didn’t understand.
After a few years of struggling with my feelings about how I felt about not wanting to go, and seeing the fate of others deliberately avoiding the draft, some by choosing to leave the country, times had changed and I had changed, matured perhaps.
I’ve always felt guilty about not doing my duty for my country, yet relived that I didn’t have to give my life for a war I didn’t believe in. But, how is an 18 year old supposed to understand things like war?
During all of the ensuing years, I’d come to some compromise that I managed to live with. I also know I’m not the only one – I know others are out there that also continue to deal with the feelings.
The Viet Nam war was our war. Everything about it has captured my attention for a lifetime. The movies, the images, the controversy, the politics, and shame, the inhumanity.
During my years as a Security Professional, I had may encounters with Viet Nam veterans, beginning in 2008. Because of the nature of my job, most encounters were not without challenges. I met many vets over nearly nine years of doing the job, and befriended a few. I learned not to ask questions, but to listen when they chose to speak.
During one visit, a vet with a history of frequency came in, greeted me and while he was being triaged, he’d excused himself from the small exam room to come back out to my desk, where he pulled a large knife out of the front of his pants. He placed it on the counter-top in front of me, and said “I’d like you to hold this for me please.”
Not your everyday verbal exchange, and yes, it caught me by surprise, but not one tinged with fear.
At some point, I’d asked him to explain it to me. I said, “you spent time in Viet Nam, correct?” He nodded. “You must have learned a lot about defending yourself while you were there, right?” Again, he nodded. “Why do you feel you need to carry something like this around with you?” “Brother, it’s not safe out there in the streets.”
We had quite a long and complex friendship over the years until he passed. I always felt comfortable around him, never threatened, even when he was clearly trying to be threatening to others. We had an understanding and respect for one another. I listened, even when he wasn’t speaking, and he tuned into that.
One year, I volunteered to stand watch on the ‘traveling wall’ that was in our area for a weekend. It was an experience that I felt compelled to do. I will never regret that decision.
Perhaps these are my penance, but I know they didn’t happen out of thin air. Some times we just have to accept that things happen for a reason, and accept the fact that we may never truly understand.
There’s the background, some of it in a nutshell.
I chose to buy a book that made me uneasy due to the nature of it’s content – or so I thought. My wife refuses to watch anything to do about Viet Nam, and war in general. I have a fascination with conflict, and have studied it for years – now apparent to me.
I have been a fan of the author for many years, all of my years of Security. He was one of my early finds when I chose to look for good educational material on how-to do the job. Loren filled the bill, with ease. His style was akin to an easy conversation with an old friend, if you will.
His advice was welcomed, and it was always about good choices that I could live with – it wasn’t about machismo, or ego, but strictly about getting a job done quickly, effectively, efficiently and without doing deliberate damage.
I have purchased nearly 2/3’s of his output to date, but have stayed away from anything not related to self-defense or control and constraint related training.
When he released this book, Policing Saigon, my interest was piqued, but yet I waited nearly two years to purchase it. Read the above introduction.
This morning, the day before Veteran’s Day, I have finished reading it cover to cover. I will say that it was challenging, especially after the 2/3’s point of the book, when my mood changed. The deeper I got into it, the more I found myself reflecting on my personal feelings. Near the end, it was just a series of waves that I rolled with, along with the author. Some of his writing caught me by surprise to be honest. Not in a bad way, but by exposing his own feelings and un-resolved issues.
This is not a book about war stories, although it is all of that, but from the perspective of a very young man who found himself doing his service all the while developing skills for his chosen career path as a Law Enforcement Official.
What Loren presents here is a very unique look into his personal experience. It’s not a hard read, or at least it wasn’t for me, and yet I had to push myself at places to continue and to finish up – all the while wondering what I was going to find, and or how I was going to write a review of this material.
It’s not a training manual, and yet you will learn some very interesting things. I learned a lot about the man I didn’t know, and a lot of that was through his very personal insights.
I have always respected Loren because of the amount of information that he put out there to keep others safe. In an age where paranoia within the ranks runs too high, there are a very few professionals that understand that information that has been hard-won is useless unless it’s shared with others that can make a difference. Loren is that guy, all day long.
A lot of this book is about personal perspective, mutual interests, and sharing an experience unlike anyone else’s. Loren succeeded. Sometimes we need to face those things that make us uncomfortable – they happened, and life goes on. What Loren shares within these pages are his personal recollections of a very difficult time in America for a whole generation of us that didn’t commit to that contract. I have mixed feelings about how I feel now that I have read his story, a lot of which I know we will never know. I can see through fresh eyes things that I never experienced, and yet know that we both had similar feelings about specific events.
For those of us that chose the profession of dealing with the violent, we get each other, and yet we never touch upon some of the personal weight we each bear. There’s a lot to explore there. This book is about Viet Nam, but it’s also relevant to LEO and Security professionals in many ways.
I sensed mutual feelings along the journey, and my respect for Loren is total. Not only does he write about a difficult period of history in a unique and personal way, but he laid out his soul along the way. They say to never look at your heroes too closely. This may be as close I will ever come to doing that.
This book is sure to conjure up something inside of you – it surely did in me, and while it’s always difficult to look at oneself in the mirror, sometimes one needs to do so to re-focus. Thank you Loren for yet another excellent read, and for baring some of your soul.