By SUSAN JENNINGS
For the Daily Record/Sunday News
For Retired Navy Chief Petty Officer Roger Lynch, news about the worsening situation in Afghanistan is a little like déjà vu. Forty-three years ago, he was landing in Vietnam just as that war was starting to deteriorate.
“It was very obvious to anyone who was involved in the time that we were not going to win the war. We were going to get out and the country was going to go back to the way it was before,” he said.
It felt like 58,000 men had been killed and another 100,000 wounded for no particular reason, he said. And he doesn’t want the U.S. to repeat that mistake in Afghanistan.
“I’ll stand by this until the day I die, we need to get the heck out of there,” he said. “Exactly the same thing is gonna happen.”
Last year, the Windsor Township resident published a novel about his time in Vietnam with the brown-water navy from 1969 to 1970.
“Brown Water, Bloody Rivers” is a frank and visceral tale of his 11 months patrolling the rivers and canals of South Vietnam.
Lynch started writing the book 17 years ago for his two sons, wanting to give them an account of his experiences overseas. That story quickly morphed into a work of historical fiction narrated by a character named Roger Lynch.
While a majority of the events depicted in the book actually happened, Lynch thought the book would become too sterile if it were simply a series of after-action reports. Instead, he thought he could create a stronger narrative and develop the main character more thoroughly by inserting him into scenarios that Lynch himself wasn’t necessarily involved in or that were part of his imagination.
Despite the fact that “Brown Water” is a work of fiction, those who’ve read it say it provides a very accurate account of the war. Retired Marine Corps Lt. Col. Guy Pete, an acquaintance of Lynch’s, even told him it should be required reading at the U.S. Naval Academy.
Unlike many books written about the Vietnam War “Brown Water, Bloody Rivers” isn’t self-serving, said Pete, who also served in Vietnam.
“I think Lynch’s book is more an attempt to describe the actual scene, the actual people, the actual thoughts running through people’s minds,” the Windsor Township resident said. “It wasn’t written to say ‘Look at me, I’m Roger Lynch.’”
Lynch spent many years picking away at the book, but was able to devote time to finishing it after he retired in 2000 from running a drainage business. Writing it has not only given his sons some clarity on the man he was upon returning home from the war, but also provided some closure for Lynch, who witnessed the loss of several comrades during his tour.
“I think I’m more at peace with myself after putting it on paper,” he said.
After graduating from William Penn Senior High School in 1955, Lynch left for Navy boot camp, following the footsteps of a cousin he admired. Within two weeks of training, he knew he wanted to make a career of it. He started out as a diver and eventually moved to submarines, retiring from the staff of Submarine Force Atlantic Fleet in 1973.
He received many accolades from his time in the service, including a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, the Navy Achievement Medal, the Navy/Marine Corps Combat Action Ribbon and the Admiral Claude V. Ricketts Award for Inspirational Leadership.
Yet even though he served his country honorably, he was angered and embarrassed when people spat on him after returning home from Vietnam. The incident is partly what led him to retire when he did and has stayed with him to this day as he watches servicemen and women returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
“That’s very important to (those who served in Vietnam) that these young men coming home and women coming home get a welcome rather than go through some of the things that we had to go through,” he said.
Lives in: Windsor Township
Family: Wife, Mary Ellen; sons Skipper and David; grandchildren Haley and Gracie
Occupation: Served in the Navy from 1954 to 1973; retired from Lynch & Associates, a drainage business, in 2000
Hobbies: Hunting, deep-sea fishing, writing, golf
On the shelf
- “Brown Water, Bloody Rivers” by Roger Lynch is available for $23.95 on amazon.com.
- “Assassins Within” will be available later this month on amazon.com. Lynch’s second novel is a thriller partially set in York.