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Book Review

Six Silent Men - Book 1 by Reynel Martinez

Six Silent Men

08 September 2005

Kregg Jorgenson

Because the 101st LRRP / Ranger unit from the Vietnam War is quite probably the most well documented special operations unit in the nations history, I have the suspicion that seconds before a long range patrol was inserted in to the jungles of South Vietnam the team leader charged his weapon and then gave everyone their final orders, "OKAY MEN, LISTEN UP AND LISTEN GOOD. THAT'S i BEFORE e EXCEPT AFTER c AND DON'T LET ME CATCH ANY OF YOU DANGLING YOUR PARTICIPLES!"
Six Silent Men – Book I from Ivy Books from yet another former Screaming Eagle LRRP / Ranger, and with it Reynel (Rey) Martinez now rightfully takes his place among the impressive and articulate group of combat veterans that includes; Kenn Miller, Gary Linderer, Larry Chambers, W.T. Grant and John Burford. New books from other unit personnel such as Ken Eklund, Allen 'Lurch' Cornett, and James 'Limey' Walker are expected soon, as are new releases from Miller and Linderer picking up where Martinez left off in this latest trilogy effort.

The 362 page book is a fast read, which means you won't stumble along with the story line or put it down quickly. Coming from such a hardcore, professional LRRP Ranger who served nineteen months in behind the lines operations, Martinez offers a surprisingly touching story that is more than a macho history but takes us in to the heads and hearts of some of those genuine heroes of the war in Vietnam so long overlooked by all except those who had the good fortune to serve with them.

From the formation of the 1st Brigade LRRPs in September 1965 as a Provisional Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol Detachment in Qui Nhon, until shortly after the 1967 TET Offensive when the unit moved south to Song Be, we are introduced to 1st Lieutenant Joel Stevenson, the unit's first commander who tells the LRRPs that 'fortune favors the bold', and then not only makes it their motto, but their legacy. Stevenson is backed by Master Sergeant Phillip Chassion, the unit's First Sergeant, who guided the new unit in to place then set about the task of bringing the guerrilla war back to the Viet Cong. Early on, too, we meet LRRP team leaders such as Staff Sergeant Larry Forrest, an African-American, who is so cool and competent under fire that he was dubbed “The Black Icicle”. With candor and insight Martinez describes how Forrest overcame prejudice early on in the civilian world, not to mention what the man occasionally encountered in the stateside Army nad how his remarkable soldiering skills got him selected to the LRRP Detachment in Vietnam and earned him a much deserved position as Team Leader, as well as the respect of those who served with him.

Here, it might be a good time to point out a number of civilian types tend to think that LRRP / Rangers and especially combat LRRP / Rangers all just fascist bullies and racists who needed a war to prove their manhood. The fact of the matter is those who were selected to serve with such elite units learned early on that the true measure of a man, any man, was defined by the character, determination and talent he brought to the team and the unit. The true friendship forged in combat crossed all social, ethnic, religious and economic levels and that membership to the elite brotherhood came at considerable risk and cost. Combat became the true equalizer. These people were hardly bullies, but rather the ones who stood up to the jerks in the schoolyards and said, “No, you won't!” Today, the spec ops unit carry on the same legacy only in a much more global schoolyard where bullies still abound. But I digress.

Thanks to Six Silent Men we also are fortunate enough to get to know a little something of First Sergeant Lloyd 'Top' Smith, who while in his mid-40s out-humped and out-patrolled the young studs to demonstrate the honest concern and well being for his men and the dangerous job he and the Army in Vietnam asked them to do. 'Top' Smith was highly regarded as a soldier and a man and this new book reflects that admiration.

Further on we meet real heroes like Dave 'Mad Dog' Dolby, Allen 'Lurch Cornett, Derby Jones and Lieutenant Dan McIsaac, who define the best any soldier can ever be with actions and deeds that will truly impress and amaze you. Let their names sink in for a bit because they are the genuine John Waynes and real life heroes who well deserve their time in the spotlight. Martinez lets them shine without pretence or posturing.

All throughout Six Silent Men there are so many others that Martinez describes who are worthy of merit and note and whose ordeals and trials come alive again in this good, very good book!

If you want a vehicle that will take you along on the patrols and forays of these people then Six Silent Men is that book. It is not smothered in bullshit or ego either. Instead, it is just, quite frankly, a reminder why you are or were proud to be in the military and why this nation is blessed by those who are willing to sacrifice everything to protect the principles and liberties so often taken for granted.

When I use words like “touching” and “candid” in describing Six Silent Men I mean that Martinez opened himself up so that you, the reader, can sense and feel the joy, pain, fear and frustration that real warriors always feel but so seldom write about. It's a rare glimpse in to the type of people and heroics that Hollywood strives to create but often falls short of because of bias or other agendas.

In his account Martinez shows us the gut wrenching intimacy and pain of how fellow LRRP David Dolby earned his Medal of Honor before coming to the unit, and why he wanted to remain in combat with such good people. From time to time Six Silent Men shows us the raucous side of the LRRPs, reminding us that they're all main true it needs to occasionally belch and snort and scratch itself as well!

This book is from the heart and it pulls no punches, so from the comfort of your easy chair you'll be able to walk along side of Martinez and the others and get your adrenalin pumping in the process at their expense. By the end of the book you'll learn to appreciate and respect the advice that his adopted brother gave Martinez early on when Rey was growing up in New Mexico.

Senon Chavez, who had served with Darby's Rangers in WWII and survived the bloody fighting at Cisterna where of the 767 Rangers who fought only six came back, offered the young boy this, “He told me if I wanted to be the best, I should keep company with the best, which is why I joined the LRRPs…”

With such a truly fine book as Six Silent Men the rest of us who write now know the company we need to keep.

Buy Six Silent Men.

This article was originally published in Behind The Lines magazine. VietnamGear.com has reproduced this article with the kind permission of Gary Linderer.

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