NAM, The Story of a Generation is a tale of times that defined a generation: the counter culture that grew out of it; commitment without conscience; love in impossible circumstances; the unimaginable horror of war; healing hope; and renewal. The Vietnam War is the common thread that binds together the lives and fortunes of the three main characters who are NAM, The Story of a Generation.
August 16, 1948, the day Babe Ruth died, sixteen-year old Le Van Dat, a young Vietnamese patriot, leaves to join Ho Chi Minh’s Vietminh. On the same day, Mark Cameron and JT Johnson are born into very different circumstances in the United States.
Le Van Dat is a nationalist and follower of Confucius. His consuming, idealistic drive to free his country of a thousand years of foreign occupation is fueled by a sense of personal honor and obligation to his ancestors. Though he disdains communism, Le Van Dat will rise to the rank of general in the People’s Army largely through his courage, inspiring leadership and the support of his superior officer and mentor, Tran Van Minh. Dat is intimately involved in the war’s biggest battles and carries the conflict from the novel’s first pages. His affair and infatuation with Nu Chi, a young South Vietnamese with connections to her own government, sparks a fundamental change in Dat that leads to a harrowing search and improbable resolution as the South crumbles in the spring of 1975.
Mark Cameron is a Montanan born into a rough neighborhood on the edge of town. He is a tough little guy who, as a young teen, finds his personality altered after a savage beating from a bully. Growing into manhood he becomes obsessed with avoiding conflict and adopts conniving ways of keeping himself out of trouble. Entering college, he is swept up by the early resistance to the Vietnam War, even though he had already joined the Naval Reserve as a high school senior. Mark enters active duty following his freshman year and meets JT Johnson at the Treasure Island Naval Station.
JT Johnson is the son of an ambitious entrepreneur who builds a golf course in Fullerton, California following World War II. JT is seen as the prodigy; the son who will live the father’s dream and become a golfing legend. Indeed, JT is a gifted athlete and excels as a youngster, winning prestigious amateur tournaments. Rich, privileged, and well-connected, Jay’s father tells the boy he will never have to serve in the military. But when JT flunks out of college, the head of the local Draft Board, a prominent antagonist of the family, arranges for JT’s draft induction. Jay’s father steers him to the Naval Reserve, thinking it the safest option. But JT is a man of action and talks Mark Cameron into volunteering with him for River Patrol Boat duty, the most hazardous river duty in Vietnam.
The death of close friends haunts Mark during his tour and for years following as he copes with his own physical and mental wounds in a society that does not want to hear his story or recognize his sacrifices. He is ultimately saved by the friendship of a Vietnam Veteran double-amputee and the love of a special woman.