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When I Turned Nineteen: A Vietnam War Memoir

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It's the year 1969. I was serving in the U.S. Army with my brothers of First Platoon Company A 3/1 11th Bde Americal (23rd Infantry) Division. We were average American sons, fathers, husbands, or brothers who'd enlisted or been drafted from all over the United States and who'd all come from different backgrounds. We came together and formed a brotherhood that will last through time.

I share my experiences about weeks of boredom and minutes to hours of terror and surviving the heat, carrying a 60-pound rucksack, monsoons, a forest fire, a typhoon, building a firebase, fear, death and fighting the enemy while mentally, physically, and morally exhausted.

257 pages, Kindle Edition

Published December 9, 2016

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About the author

Glyn Haynie

12 books25 followers
Glyn Haynie served for twenty years in the U.S. Army, retiring March 1, 1989. During his career, he served as an infantry squad leader, an infantry platoon sergeant, and later as a drill instructor, a first sergeant, and an instructor at the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy (USASMA). He was awarded the Silver Star, the Purple Heart, the Army Commendation Medal, the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm, the Vietnam Service Medal, and the Combat Infantry Badge while serving in Vietnam.

After retirement, he completed his BS degree in Computer Information Systems and an MA in Computer Resources and Information Systems. He worked as a software engineer/project manager for eight years and then taught for Park University as a full-time instructor and as an adjunct instructor for 13 years.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 31 reviews
Profile Image for Michael .
543 reviews4 followers
May 2, 2022
"As soon as I stepped out of the plane onto the steps, the Vietnam smells, heat, and landscape at once made me aware that danger was everywhere; my senses went into high alert, with every muscle tense.
This feeling was with you every day, every hour, every minute, and every second in the field. It was exhausting."(p.178)

Welcome to the Vietnam War in 1969. This book is pretty much a "raw report" of the year Glyn Haynie spent in Vietnam as a young, 19-year-old kid, where the average age of those that served was just a little past 23 years old. The book covers the day-to-day struggle faced by so many of our young people to complete their tours and make it home alive. There is some action but not overly detailed, just the right amount. Lots of interaction, how the soldiers bonded into family and shared their joys and hardships while walking individual paths. No denying that parts of the book were very difficult to read but you know, as a reader, you’re getting a true picture of what it was like to be on the ground fighting in this war. The death and destruction were mind numbing. Mr. Haynie's book is worth the read. It is very informative and places you in Vietnam with every description. I highly recommend this book for everyone who wants to find out about the hardships and heartbreak our troops faced while serving in a combat unit during the Vietnam War.
36 reviews2 followers
November 7, 2017
I found this to be a very good read. Although I did not serve in Vietnam, I did serve in Korea in 67-68.
It brought back many memories of basic and AIT, tracing for Vietnam. During the time I was there, we were harassed on relay sites by the North Korean, except we were not permitted to return fire. We had people sent to Korea after being wounded in Vietnam, who Putin 1049s to return. My brother served three tours in Nam.
Profile Image for Paul Jeffrey.
10 reviews
May 9, 2020
The story of the authors year in Vietnam, it takes you along his journey and the brotherhood he formed with his brothers in arms.
Profile Image for Brian Joynt.
Author 2 books10 followers
May 10, 2019
Good narrative story about a young Soldier's time and service with the U.S. Army in 1969 Vietnam. You can easily track the author's transition from FNG (fucking new guy) to jaded noncommissioned officer, which made me reflect on my own, similar journey in the U.S. Army, albeit several years later. Overall, a great memoir about a horrible time. I appreciate the author remembering and authoring the story for us to experience; we need more Veterans telling their stories.
Profile Image for John Turner.
166 reviews10 followers
October 3, 2019
I've read many books about the Vietnam war, some strictly fantasy and factionalized, others gritty real and factual. I've read books by soldiers, sailors, pilots and POWs, Marines and Army grunts, officers and enlisted, warriors of every stripe and color; even two books written by the enemy, an NVA political officer and a VC veteran with 12 years of service. I would say, in my humble opinion, that the truest, most honest and realistic book I have read is Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War by Karl Marlantes who, at age 23 in 1968, was a Marine Lieutenant and platoon leader in the jungles of Vietnam. In Matterhorn, he wrote of his experiences: the leeches, snakes and rats; the sucking mud and jungle rot, malaria; the villagers, the friendlies and children, the spies and subversives; the VC and the NVA, illusive one moment, breathing down your neck the next. The sorrow and the tragedy, the loss of friends. Marlantes got it right and told his story with flair and colorful skill.

When I Turned Nineteen is written simply, effectively conveying Glyn Haynie's story, but without fanfare and fanciful language. His story starts with his decision to enlist in the Army, which leads to Basic Combat Training, AIT and, ultimately, assignment as a grunt in Vietnam in 1969. He tells the story of his Brothers, comrades-in-arms: fathers and sons, boyfriends, husbands, brothers. Veterans and FNGs. Average American boys who enlisted or were drafted from all over the country, just kids from the block who will form a brotherhood that will last forever.

He shares his experiences with humping a 60-pound rucksack, monsoons and typhoons, malaria and heat stroke, trench foot and jungle rot. Days and weeks of tedium and boredom, punctuate with mad minutes to hours of sheer terror. Haynie struggles with his friends wounded and dying, struggles to justify the war, the names of the KIA running through his head during the night. He tells a gritty and honest story. To write it, he plans and hosts a reunion that proves to be therapeutic for the survivors.

I served in Vietnam for 14 month in 1968-69 as an artillery Forward Observer. I was embedded with infantry units of the 9th Infantry Division in the jungles of the Mekong Delta, about 60 miles south of Saigon and to the Cambodian border. I walked in the bootprints of heros. These two men told dynamically different, but similar stories. I think they both got it right.
43 reviews2 followers
March 9, 2017
Excellent Portrayal of a Year in Vietnam

I really enjoyed this book. It brought back many memories of my year in Vietnam. I also was 19 when I was in Vietnam in 1967 & 1968 serving with Echo Battery, 2nd Battalion 11th Marine Regiment gun 7 155 mm howitzer. This book brought back memoirs of old friends and how we sore that we would never forget each other. Yet as the years passed by I can hardly remember their names anymore. It he author describes the heat and the monsoon s very well. It put me right back there. It reminded me of the terror of the 122 mm rocket attack on Phu Bai the night the TET Offensive started in 68. This is one of the best books I've read about the day to day life in Vietnam. Yes there really is a brotherhood with those that served in combat. A brotherhood that those that spent a year together can understand.
Profile Image for Matt McAvoy.
Author 7 books64 followers
March 24, 2019
Glyn Haynie is a superb author, with whom I am already acquainted, having read and reviewed the follow-up: “Finding My Platoon Brothers”. One thing which struck me when reading this book, compared to his reminiscences in the sequel, is that his humanity appears much deeper nowadays, than then at 19 – though perhaps this comes with age; perhaps reflection. I couldn’t help thinking that very quickly into his tour of duty (weeks, maybe) he appeared already to be desensitizing to the horrors he experience, and the cruelty inflicted upon – among others – the indigenous population of rural Vietnam – he describes such events almost with an indifferent, matter-of-fact tone. Whilst I am in no position, of course, to judge these men and boys, and truly admire the sacrifices made by each and every one of them, I wonder how much of this dehumanization was an intentional consequence of their war training and how much was a necessary psychological defence mechanism: denial of the reality by justifying it. Contrarily, Glyn recounts how the American soldiers very quickly found themselves pondering the legitimacy of their part in the war, questioning their own country’s military and foreign policy, and even admitting that their presence in Vietnam was most likely exacerbating, rather than helping the conflict situation – this, almost immediately, has a devastating effect on their morale. It seems that very little changes in this respect – you can go down to Whitehall (and, I am sure, Capitol Hill) on any given day and find large numbers of people protesting our military presence in some country or other. Conversationally, many of the objectors encountered are themselves former veterans of war. It is spirit-crushing to see the futility of the risk and sacrifice to these patriotic, brave young men.
Though Glyn’s account is as thorough a one as you will get about a soldier’s personal experience in the Vietnam war, it would be insightful to know more about these young men’s feelings regarding what they were going through, but I am also very aware that to expect Glyn to reflect on something so traumatic and possibly repressed would be insensitive and grossly thoughtless. Besides, as Glyn himself probably suspects, we don’t need to be told how the men were feeling, fighting so far from home: the fear and overwhelming awe is pretty obvious, and digging at it unnecessary. Suffice to say, Glyn’s words sum it up, simply: “I left an 18-year-old and came home… an old man in a kid’s body.”

Glyn has included some wonderful photographs, taken by the soldiers whilst there, and it is good that he has, giving his words an extra layer of poignancy; the smiles and laughter of the men going about their day in the middle of a war zone reminds us that serving in battle is a very real thing, and not just a creative genre we read about or see in movies; in a way, these photographs are as informative as Glyn’s writing. I would have perhaps preferred to see these photographs organized inline with the text, for smoother handle on context, rather than bundled together at the end of each chapter, but this is only nit-picking.

The outstanding observation when reading this book is the unquestionable quality and professionalism of the men in his platoon, and their undying mutual respect. Their trust in their superiors and each other is evident, as is their ability to work as a disciplined unit. They were always willing to help each other, and no request was too much for a team who shared everything without being asked twice (or even once, usually). Amidst the unpleasantness of the Vietnam war, this is a shining light, and a heartwarming positive, which would change Glyn and stay with him forever. If anything good was to come from a soldier’s time in Vietnam, in defiance of the bad press and retrospective propaganda about the Americans over there, it is this. The collective modesty is exemplified by Glyn’s unselfish writing – he allows his platoon brothers to take the reins frequently, in writing this book. Almost entirely, the reality of pain and suffering is left to be described by the soldiers who lived it, recounting their own experiences – rather than attempting to emphasize the impact of these segments with adjectives and superlatives, he allows his brothers to do all the talking, in letters and quotes. There is a lot of talk of hate in this book, yet at the same time the aggression is acknowledged to be anonymous and impersonal on both sides, as outlined in Lt. Baxter’s letters home. The soldiers’ letters home are the book’s standout element, in fact, and Glyn was absolutely right to include them.

The variety of content Glyn employees throughout this book makes it interesting and thoroughly engaging to read. “When I Turned Nineteen” is vivid and detailed; it is also heartbreaking. No incident, no encounter is missed out, whether recollections of firefights or just the mundane and routine, and all this adds to the feeling of being right there with them. The day-to-day is every bit as engaging as Glyn’s vivid depictions of action, of which he seemed to see a fair amount. For those who have served, this book may help them make sense of their struggle, for those who haven’t, I suspect this is as insightful and comprehensive a Vietnam journal as they will ever read. Brilliant, as ever, by Haynie.
Profile Image for Dan Leissner.
Author 8 books
February 8, 2021
“I left as an 18-year old and came home a 35-year old. An old man in a kid’s body.”
At 19 I was a freshman at a cosy university. Glyn Haynie was “walking point”, humping across the paddy fields, hills, and jungles of Vietnam. Looking out for trip wires and punji traps, dodging ambushes and laying ambushes. Caught up in savage fire fights, seeing his comrades mangled and dying all around him. And hoping that he’d live to see 20.
Other accounts of the Vietnam War may be more intellectual, more poetic, and the prose more polished. This is the unvarnished voice of the common foot soldier. The “Grunt”. And it is more compelling for it. Other books about the War read like older and wiser men looking back. Haynie’s voice is that of a 19-year-old. It’s in the moment; it reads like letters he might have written home (although there are surely things that he would have never told his parents about). Including some unedited letters sent home by his buddies is a masterstroke. You learn about the simple but all-important – and so poignant – things in a soldier’s life. Like a steady supply of Kool-Aid sent from home. The book subscribes so powerfully to the old adage that war is long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror. Surviving on the kind of black humour that only a soldier can appreciate (how many of us can claim to have had leeches on their testicles?).
The author also includes unflinching accounts by his wounded pals of their evacuation from the battlefield and subsequent treatment in military hospitals. There can be few moments so profoundly moving as one soldier’s joy and excitement when the tubes are removed, and he is able to urinate again unaided for the first time and regain his dignity.
The text is augmented by fifty-plus images that put faces to the names. Those young faces. Some who never lived to grow old.
The book is especially interesting as it is set in 1969-70. Other classic memoirs of the War are set years earlier, when those arriving in Vietnam still had high ideals to lose. By 1969, U.S. soldiers in Vietnam had few illusions left. President Nixon was talking about “Peace with honour”, there was talk of troop withdrawals and many a soldier’s thoughts were no longer about victory but survival. And yet they still had to fight.
I’m struck down with awe when I read this book. And contrition. While I hold to my conviction that it was the wrong war, I no longer believe that it was fought by a gang of drug-crazed psychotics. But young men like I was: “Average American sons, fathers, husbands, or brothers”. What would I have done?

Profile Image for Adam.
271 reviews4 followers
November 3, 2017
I am exceptionally lucky to have won this book from the Goodreads free book giveaway contest. I really liked and appreciated this book. Thank you Glyn for allowing us to see into your experiences during the Vietnam War. My father was a Marine, who could not talk about his I Corp experiences. He was there 63-64. I think that's the reason I try and read so many first-hand accounts of others Vietnam Veterans; so I can try to understand him better.

I enjoyed reading about the humanity, the camaraderie, the brotherhood. The moments of laughing, having a few drinks, and getting a chance to relax, even if only for a moment. I can't even begin to imagine what that heat and humidity must have felt like, carrying your gear, climbing up hills. Going into a tunnel. The courage that takes...Sir, you are what many kids dream of being.

I also thank you for including the not so good parts, like the idiot officers that don't like to listen or think they know more because they had college. They are more dangerous than people can imagine, and in your case, charging up ahead to get a kill or see a dead enemy soldier. Jesus Christ. Throwing a grenade in a tunnel? Nothing like letting the enemy know precisely where you are. That reminded me of some of the officers I had to deal with in Afghanistan. Maybe it's true; some things never change.

Sir, I can't thank you enough for sharing your story. The pictures, for me, helped put faces to the names and gave me a better glimpse into them as well. I thank you for your service, your sacrifices, and I am sorry for those that did not come home, especially your brothers. I wish you the very best and I hope more people read your story because it is excellent. Both gritty and serene, a great peek into the life and experiences of a soldier during Vietnam.

All my best to you Sir,

Profile Image for Bill Colburn.
2 reviews
July 4, 2017
This book brought back a lot of memories of my own Vietnam service with the combat engineers during 1970-71. However I was fortunate to be one of those REMFs author Haynie refers to, and never had to hump the boonies like he did. Even luckier that I can count on one hand the number of times our base took any mortar rounds. Still we lost several men when their chopper was shot down as they were inspecting one of our construction sites. Consequently I never had to see my buddies dead or wounded like this author had to do. I also appreciated the epilogue about his army reunions after the war and the obits of his buddies who had passed in the years following their return home. Bittersweet, but it added another dimension to how the author made his buddies come alive in this book.

If you're interested in a matter-of-fact, day to day rundown of what a soldier's life was actually like over there, Haynie's book is a good place to start.
December 9, 2020
My cousin, Terry Woolums, served with Glyn Haynie, the author, and is mentioned in the book. Terry spent eleven months in the field as a 19 year old draftee. Even though he was small, he was the M-60 machine gunner for three months (I have his service records). I have read other books about Vietnam but as someone else stated, it seems like you are right there alongside the author. My cousin was troubled by his Vietnam experience and died too early from Agent Orange. I took care of him for several years and he talked of his Vietnam experience all the time but it wasn't until I read this book that I understood what he had gone through. This book educates those of us who did not go over there how frequent the casualties and death were and how they lived in filth and the hardships they endured for an ungrateful nation. This is the best book written from a soldier's perspective of the Vietnam War.
1 review
December 15, 2021
Glyn's personal story "When I Turned Nineteen " is well written and clear to the point were I could invision his time in Southeast Asia. His story before Vietnam, while in America aids the reader in understanding just how young he was. And the level of his maturity like so many of his combat mates. He allows us to spend a few hours in his shoes as he shares so many proud moments, fun moments & the ridiculous. Glyn doesn't hold back so the reader can fully appreciate how rotten and unfair this war was for those who didn't serve. In the end, Glyn brings his story around to close with truth, righteousness and vindication for him and his First Platoon members and forever remembering those the didn't come home. Nicely done Glyn !
1 review
June 30, 2019
I served in the 198th Brigade during the same time Glyn Haynie was in the 11th Brigade. I was a First LT Platoon Leader until I was promoted to Captain. I think he expressed the life of a Grunt better than I have ever heard it expressed in a book. As he said most of the time my platoon was less than 20 men and while on the bunker line Pot became more of a problem. The news of war protests back in the states also effected morale. Even with these problems most men looked out for each and did their best. Very good book and I am glad Glyn stayed in the Army. I can't wait to read the next book.

Profile Image for John Podlaski.
Author 7 books60 followers
November 20, 2022
I did enjoy reading Glyn Haynie's book, When I Turned Nineteen, and could relate to many of the events he experienced. Two criticisms I have is that the letters seemed to disrupt the flow of the story and in most instances duplicate what has already been said. The second is that the sun does not set into the South China Sea from the shores of Vietnam. The author stated this a few times in one chapter when he relaxed on his deck and enjoyed watching the sunset.

All in all, the story is more of an overview and does not go into detail where it might have been warranted. I'd recommend it to anyone wanting a glympse of what it was like for an infantryman during the Vietnam War.
29 reviews
May 27, 2022
Honest, heartbreaking and inspiring

This is a fairly new genre for me. I was a 1966 high school graduate. Many of my family members and former classmates served in Vietnam. Some did not survive to return home. This book clarifies a lot of things I often wondered about. The Vietnam vets I know or have known don't want to talk about their experiences there. I accept that. This book explains much. I hope writing this book has helped Mr. Haynie find a measure of peace. To all the platoon members, "You have my heartfelt appreciation for your service."
Profile Image for Amy.
54 reviews
April 21, 2018
I recently finished Mr. Haynie's memoir and was moved by his story. A young man sent overseas for the first time witnesses brutality and war, losing his innocence in the process. I highlighted lots of passages because I appreciated the detail he gave. It made it that much more real for me.

Thank you, Mr. Haynie, for writing this memoir, and thank you for doing your duty to our country. God bless you.
71 reviews1 follower
January 29, 2020
Good book

Good story about Glyn , his buddy and all his platoon members. Told in a truly realistic manner. They all paid the price of doing the best they could in a war that was not of their choosing. Some. Paid the ultimate price and their families lost loved ones. Read this story and you will get a better idea of what they endured. W.e can t thank them enough.
27 reviews
November 10, 2019
A shining star

Well Glyn, that is what you are. Goes to show what a great attitude will accomplish! Great book and I highly recommend it. Wish I could have known you in the war...and in life
35 reviews
February 15, 2020

I’ve read many memoirs on Vietnam experiences this being one of the best. The authors descriptions were enough to allow the reader to experience the horrors of war without the gory details. I honor all who served in that war and thank them for their service.
3 reviews
May 18, 2022
Grunt in Vietnam

This was a very interesting and truthful story of what a 19 year old actually went thru as an infantry soldier in the he'll of serving in Vietnam. I was there in USAF flying as a load master on C-130:s so and stories like this interest me.
1 review
January 21, 2020
Very good book !

Well written book I enjoyed reading it. Mr Haynie was able to tell the the story of the young men (Boys) who brought in Vietnam. Thank you !

16 reviews1 follower
February 11, 2017
Frank, funny & tragic

When I graduated from high school in 1966 I told my mom & dad I was going to join the army & go to Vietnam. My parents were horrified but remained calm. "Why don't you join the National Guard and go for 6 months active duty? If you like it, you can switch over to regular army. If not, you can come back & go to college and do your 6 years reserve duty here at home." After 6 months I couldn't wait to go home and go to college. This book vividly illustrates what I missed out on. I didn't listen to my parents advice often because at age 18 I knew everything and was invincible, but I thanked my dad on his deathbed for steering me away from Vietnam. Thank you, Mr Haynie, for your fascinating account of your Vietnam war experience. I respect & thank you for the service you and your comrades gave to our country. I wish our leaders had gotten us out of there long before they did and you never had to go, but you did a great job writing this book.
1 review2 followers
February 19, 2017
To understand you had to be there

I was in Viet Nam the same time frame as the author. I was a Marine, with Alpha 1/26 in I Corp.
The last few paragraphs and the final line just hit home.
Profile Image for A.
354 reviews43 followers
April 30, 2021
This was my introduction to the experiences of Vietnam war soldiers, and I thought that Haynie's memoir was very illuminating and helped me understand a ground's eye view of what went on during the war. We can hear what our governments say about the wars they fight, but that information will be essentially propaganda to either 1. save face or 2. increase geopolitical perception of that country. Getting a soldier's view of the war - and a soldier who can write well, too - is a great way to learn about Vietnam and what our troops faced when they went into the foreign jungles of Southeast Asia.
9 reviews
January 23, 2017
Excellent book

Very good book. I felt as if I were along side the author in Vietnam. A good perspective on the reality of the war and the politics which unfortunately drove it. I finished the book, very appreciative of the challenges of soldiering in Vietnam.
Bruce Long
Profile Image for Monica.
58 reviews1 follower
January 26, 2017
First, Thank you for serving our country. And thank you for writing a novel that help me better connect with a war that my father was a part of.
Profile Image for Henry Brummel.
16 reviews1 follower
April 6, 2017
Great Book

Glyn is an accomplished writer, who tells his Viet Nam story clearly and concisely. He researched the facts and events. The book is seamless and has an ending. Well done Glyn. Thank you for your service. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Janet.
41 reviews14 followers
April 7, 2017
So many lives gone in the Vietnam conflict. Each life had the same depth and meaning that my life has, that all our lives have. It is overwhelming to think about the deaths of all those hopes, dreams, and loved ones. Glyn Haynie lovingly crafted his memoir as a tribute to the souls that intertwined with his in 1969, when they laid down their lives, so far from home.
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