At age 19, John Stillman voluntarily enlisted in the U.S. Army and became a paratrooper with the 101st Airborne Infantry in Vietnam. He initially enjoyed the rush of his assignment and looked forward to freeing the South Vietnamese from the brutal Viet Cong.
However, once he found himself in the midst of battle, John’s sense of mission was shaken. The disillusion of seeing the cold-blooded killing of the enemy and the pitiless deaths of his fellow soldiers changed John forever. The threat of landmines, booby traps, and witnessing the defoliation of a jungle in a day after it was sprayed with Agent Orange made John wonder if life would ever return to normal.
In “Jumping from Helicopters” John Stillman tears away layer after layer of repressed feelings as he recounts his military time in Vietnam. His daughter Lori skillfully interviews him and records the events he endured and the emotions he internalized.
The book peels back 50 years of “stuffed” memories with painful details. It is a stirring memoir interwoven with John's journal entries and 35 photographs. Accurate and heartfelt, it gives the reader insight into what young soldiers experienced in “Nam” and why so many wrestle with post-traumatic stress disorder today. It also helps the reader understand why three veterans commit suicide each day.
As a college student in the ‘60s, I personally observed this war through the perspective provided by news reporters. I was appalled then by what our nation expected these servicemen to endure but was even more appalled as I read this excellent firsthand account of events on the front lines of that war.
“Jumping from Helicopters” is a straightforward and fast read (182 pages); it is hard to put down. It is obvious why John and Lori won the Benjamin Franklin Gold Winner Award from the Independent Book Publication Association. Turtle Creek is the publisher.