What began as a simple collection of local veteran Steve Bookout's memories of the Vietnam War will finally come full circle over the course of the next month with the publishing of his book, "The Boys from Jasper County: tales from the 'Nam."
"Initially, I started doing this with some of my own adventures for my descendants," Bookout said. "This was two years ago, and I got to thinking, there's other guys that have stories to tell. I had just talked to Dennis Black, our representative, and he had just come out with a book about Iowans in the Civil War and since I was working on this, I appreciated what he did because he had to go through all these records and it must have just taken forever."
Black's work inspired Bookout to expand his collection to include the firsthand accounts of other local Vietnam veterans in addition to his own.
"I thought, if us guys write these stories down now, we're here to give first-person information," he said. "I thought this would be unique because there are people that write books about Vietnam, but not with first-person details."
Bookout is a member of the Jasper County Viet Nam Era Veterans, the group from which many of his first submissions came.
"A number of the different guys in the Jasper County Viet Nam Era Veterans came to me with stories, and the way they them up — that's how they're appearing in the book," he said. "We had photos and photos and photos, and after awhile I had people come forward that I'd known for 50 years and I didn't know they were vets."
The project eventually blossomed into a compilation of "firsthand stories in (veterans') own language" recounting every aspect of the Vietnam War along with photos submitted by local veterans from all corners of Jasper County and each branch of the service.
"We closed out on 150 pages with 35 vets represented in the book," he added. "Right now, we might even have 100 photos in here, and there's even two poems."
One of the two poems, entitled "The Man" was penned by a local veteran's daughter following his passing just three years ago.
"It's amazing what all these people did," Bookout said. "I was across the pond two times myself, and I can't believe some of these jobs people were doing. I've never heard of the units these people were in — they were the unsung heroes and it's amazing the diversity of their experiences."
To reserve a copy of "The Boys from Jasper County: tales from the 'Nam," contact Bookout at (641) 792-2941. Copies of the book cost $10, and payment is required at the time of reservation. Orders will be accepted through mid-April and books will be available toward the end of the month.